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I feel guilty if I don’t finish a book I’ve started to read. It nags at me somewhat that I’ve never got round to reading the rest of ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’. Maybe I inherited this from my parents. But, when she was in her 80s, my mother said to me, “I’ve realised that at my age if I’m not enjoying a book, I don’t have to read it. There are plenty of others.” And indeed there were – the mobile library came outside her house each fortnight and gave her another stack of Maeve Binchy or Joanna Trollope etc. (A service that I believe has, sadly, now been cut from her area.) Is there a difference between closing an unfancied book for ever then starting a more promising one, and changing channels on the TV? Or should I do my duty and go back to ‘Tess’?

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