On Perseverance

I’m one of those people who hates not finishing a book. Or anything actually (witness the four-year long fight with a thesis which has recently ended), I view the determination to always finish what I started as one of my best qualities but is it always such a good thing?

I’ve just finished reading Wicked by Gregory Maguire which according to my Spreadsheet took me 199 days to get through (a tiny part of me was annoyed that if I’d taken just one more day it would have been a lovely round 200) but did I get anything out of it? No, not really, that’s why it took me 199 days to finish. Having seen and not really enjoyed the stage show I wasn’t expecting much from the book but it was even worse than I anticipated – 406 pages of interesting premise overshadowed by dreary political machinations among almost universally unlikeable characters and with little direction in terms of plot. Yet I couldn’t stop reading. The book would sit, untouched, on my bedside table for large stretches at a time but I’d keep coming back now and then to chip away at the remaining page count until finally I was done.

I think I kept expecting better things, I kept thinking ‘once we’re past all the political stuff there’ll be some action’. ‘Once Dorothy arrives, it’ll all kick off’. ‘SOMETHING HAS TO HAPPEN SOMETIME RIGHT??’ And I have to admit that towards the end the pace did pick up a little bit and there were sections where I was actually interested in the goings-on it’s just that they were relatively few and far between.

So did finishing it give me a sense of achievement? Was I glad that I saw it through to the end? Not really. I suppose I felt a small sense of success but looking back now I can’t see what would have been so bad about quitting along the way. I know other readers feel like this; allowing yourself to stop reading something you don’t enjoy was on lots of new year’s resolution lists  so I can’t help but wonder why we do it to ourselves.

Maybe it’s so that we get that sense of ‘closure’ that comes from completing an arduous task or maybe it’s so that we can feel justified in our opinion that that is a bad book. I think that part of the problem for me is a ‘what if’ sensation. As in ‘what if I stop reading but the next chapter is really good?’ kind of thing. That and I love being able to have a good moan!

Anyone else out there got any thoughts? Do you stop reading if you don’t enjoy a book or do you force your way through? Why? Are there any books that have got too much for you and you’ve had to give up?

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6 responses to “On Perseverance

  1. I’ve come across a lot of people who didn’t like this book, which worries me because I also own it and was hoping I would like it! I’m a big fan of the Wizard of Oz…wasn’t a big fan of the Wicked stage show but I did love the political elements and thought it was really clever – which is why I’m always confused when people say the politics is the reason they didn’t like the book. I’m guessing it’s not as well conveyed or is too over the top???

    I’m exactly like you, I find it so hard to stop reading books if I’m not enjoying them, I even struggle to stop reading series I’m not enjoying! It’s a problem that I’m trying to fix. At university it can be hard to find reading time (and I’m sure it will only get worse post uni) and that makes me want to be more strict with myself. 🙂

    • Ah well maybe if you’re already going into it being fully aware of the political aspects you’ll be alright? To be honest I had forgotten quite a lot about the stage show so all the politics took me by surprise! I found it to be quite dry and a tad over the top but there were some very clever parts and when the story was actually being plotty and not politicky it was quite good.

      I’ve actually found it much easier post-uni to have time to read. I think I read a total of two books while I was studying because there’s always something more important to be doing (be that studying or partying 😉 ) whereas after you graduate you can finish work at 5 and then have nothing else to do with your time. It’s awesome 🙂

      It’s not just books, I have the same problem with TV shows and all sorts of things I don’t enjoy, I guess I just like that feeling o completeness that you get at the end of something!

  2. Sorry wordpress just had a meltdown and decided it only liked one letter of my comment! What I was going to say was: Same. I hate being beaten by a book! But I agree totally with Wicked, I loved the stage show (mostly because I am a musical theatre whore and will love anything if it is on a stage and has music in it) but I hated the book with the passion of a thousand sons, which was super disappointing for me because one of the reasons I liked the stage show was because of the wealth of characters and seeing Oz in a different way. Anyway, I too need to learn when to give up on a book I’m not enjoying. Maybe we should start a support group.

    • Haha the wonder of technology eh?!

      I think my problem with the show was that I spent the whole time waiting for the one song I knew (I’ll let you guess which one 😉 )so the whole time that no ones was singing that song I was disappointed. I’m quite keen to see it again now that I know more about the show, the book, the Oz that Macguire created and see if I enjoy it more. But nothing will convince me to re-read the book!!

      A support group is an excellent idea although I probably need someone to physically remove the book from my life so that I can’t pick it up again!

  3. Wow we really did have a similar opinion on powering through with books we don’t love! X

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