My mother said to me, “I’ve just realised that now I’m in my 80s, if I’m not enjoying a book I don’t have to finish it. No teacher or parent is going to tell me off.”
This came as a great release to me too. All my life I’d felt guilty if I haven’t finished a book I’d started. I think it was my parents who instilled that in me!
After my mother had this realisation, the mobile library would park outside her house in rural Herefordshire and on each visit would unload a large batch of novels. Some would just be tasted, and put aside. Others would be read in full. On my visits I would admire the size of those two piles.
This parental permission not to finish a book has coincided with the realisation that as I have, ahem, not so many decades left there are only so many more books I’ll get to read. So why waste that time persisting with something you’re not enjoying (especially if you don’t feel that it’s nevertheless doing you good in some way)?
There is one novel I’ve had on my conscience for not finishing, but I won’t say what it is as it’s one of those most esteemed by one of my writing group. Suffice it to say that I never got to see the final score when the gods had ended their sport …. Sorry, Sarah.
Do you feel guilty if you leave a book unfinished? What book did you never get to the end of?