It's hard to imagine you could spend a really good evening discussing your 'Impossible Book' having forced yourself to face your own nemesis and pick up a book you have struggled with for years, but as always The Endsleigh salonistas came good and had all flogged through and even, in some cases succeeded in conquering their betes noire...bete noires?...betes noires?...a book that is particularly disliked or that is to be avoided.
What a surprising selection too, some books which many had loved in the past but others had loathed.
Thankfully success first off for the reader of Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which got us off to a good start because the book had plenty of support from devotees in the room.
Failure for The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, and interestingly at the defining page sixty nine, too much early despair at poor Maggie's lot, discouraged ...might try again but will probably start half way through the book.
Success thanks to a degree of reader perseverance for Philip Pullman's The Subtle Knife and much debate about how many of us had whizzed through Northern Lights and then come unstuck with the differing pace of the second in the trilogy. Yes, slower, repetitive and less continuity but vital to the trilogy was the verdict of the successful trilogians in the room (don't shoot me, Pullmanites out there, I am but the messenger).
Quite a conquest next because our resident 'Loather of All Things Henry' had actually almost finished (and assured us she would) The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James and much helpful advice about How to Read Henry ensued. Little and often seems to be the verdict and eventually you really don't notice that the 'little and often' piece you've just read had no full stop in sight.
Hats off to our newest member who is now not our newest member because we had another newer one, who had tackled The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Green in an effort to become a Quantum Physicist in the space of four weeks. By this time I'm really impressed with all this gritted teeth and dogged determination flying round the room. It's another few pages at a time book that has been surprisingly understandable and revealing. We expect her to have split the atom by next month, she was about halfway there.
Next, well we were holding our breath, would The Time Traveller's Wife's most vehement critic have succeeded ?
To her and our utter amazement and I think cheers and a little round of applause, the answer was 'Yes!'
In fact to her chagrin she had struggled to find fault with it, tried hard to be hyper-critical and trash it, but just couldn't.
Pride was swallowed in great big gulps...'there there' we said 'more tea?'
The key apparently is to dive in and just go with the flow. Like my failure with The Secret History by Donna Tartt on an excruciatingly hot holiday in Barcelona (left it behind in a hotel on Las Ramblas) about seven years before I finally bought another copy, read it and loved it, The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger had also been a swelteringly hot holiday reading failure much better suited to a wet and windy Sunday afternoon in Devon.
The Kite Runner was next and Khaled Hosseini got a very great bit thumbs down from its reader, so big I don't have space to recount the vexed criticism and puckered brow, there seemed to be little support for the book in the room either. I too was a Kite Runner failure many years ago so could sympathise with yet another well-placed 'there there' and 'more tea?'
The reader of Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach reported success of a sort, having passed the point of surrender first time round, the book hooked and kept her reading from about a third through, much debate about what you should eat with fried tulip.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon from our newest new member and there was a definite ambivalence surrounding the book despite its best seller list fame. We wondered whether the next book from Zafon, due out soon, will generate the same interest and my copy has just arrived so we'll see...it would of course help if I'd read the first one if I want to compare and contrast wouldn't it?
My own offering was Fugitive Pieces by Ann Michaels and I will write more fully about it soon.
I had called a halt about twenty pages from the end...well actually I'd sat down to finish it that afternoon and fallen asleep instead, which I suspect was my own way of avoiding any further harrowing detail at a time when I seemed to have enough real-life stuff to deal with.
I had failed with this book on numerous occasions and I think this time I may have succeeded. For me it was in no way a book to read cover to cover like a novel, I read it as the 'Pieces' dictated and over a period of several weeks and it worked, so much to reflect on and I'm not sure I gave a good account of exactly what those reflections are because it still hasn't really sunk in fully, so I will go back to it and then come back here with my thoughts when they finally surface.
Next month it is with some relief and a sense of uplifting joy after this month that we are doing 'Letters' and really looking forward to it.