Monday, February 28, 2005

I Quit

I picked up Confessions of a Pagan Nun by Kate Horsley off my bedside pile. It had been there near the top for several months and I thought it was about time I got to it. I'd seen the book mentioned here and there and had high hopes for it. My hopes were dashed. The book begins with a "translator's note" by Horsley, explaining to the reader that the book about to be read is her translation of a manuscript that was found in the ruins of an abbey in Ireland. The book was written by a nun, Gwynneve, who was raised in a time just when Christianity was making inroads into the country. She knows how to read and write because she was taught by a Druid. The book was supposedly written by Gwynneve in secret. After the translator's note and the first chapter I wasn't so hopeful about the book anymore. But I kept on, thinking it would just take a chapter or two to get into it. I gave the book until page 50 before I couldn't take it anymore. In the first few pages Gwynneve mentions that her mother died when she was a girl. Then a little further on she mentions it again. Then again. Finally around page 50, her mother dies. I also found Gwynneve's self effacing asides about being a poor sinner and not knowing any better irritating. And to top it all off, I thought the writing itself to be rather stilted. I believe it was meant to be that way so it would seem more authentic and ancient, but it just didn't work for me. I could also see where the plot was going a mile away. To confirm it, after I decided to give up on the book, I turned to the end and read the last five pages. Yup. I was right. I had wanted to give up around page 30 but kept on because I hate giving up on a book. But at page 50 when it was clear the book and I were not going to make friends, I had to call it quits. And amazingly, for the first time ever, I didn't feel bad about it. I remember reading an article or an interview once where someone gave a formula for when to stop reading a book that wasn't going well: subtract your age from 100 and read until that page before deciding to quit. No, I'm not 50, so I didn't follow it exactly, but I think it is good advice. What helped me stop without feeling guilty was the thought that I have too many other books I want to read and there was no sense in wasting my reading time on a book that I wasn't enjoying. What a relief when I put it down.