Just don’t want to finish this book!

Before I start, the answer to yesterday’s blog about how much I spent on a ‘small’ shop in Waitrose was £64 – which I felt bad about to start with, until the guesses where closer to £100. Now I feel quite restrained and pleased with myself!.

Today, we have another post from my regular guest blogger on a subject I’m sure a lot of us can understand….

I wonder if you’ve ever started to read a book and then not wanted to finish it; perhaps you did finish just because you started it and didn’t want to be beaten by it or perhaps you didn’t and just put it back on the shelf, passed it on, threw it away or whatever.

There are some books which you begin reading and you lose interest in. Sometimes it’s the story line: you don’t think it’s that good or believable. Sometimes it’s the characters: he/she/it just wouldn’t or possibly even couldn’t do that in your view. Maybe the characters themselves are a little “thin” or superficial so you don’t feel as if you can empathise or even marvel at things they do. Maybe the plot of the whole thing just doesn’t work or some of its parts don’t hang together very well. I’m sure you’ve been there. I’m also sure, like me, one of those books you’ve put down was praised beyond belief by another reader or even critic who has reviewed it. You sit there thinking “Is it me? Have I missed something?” I’m sure you’ve got a few of those T-shirts – I know I have. You’ve only got to look at some (of course not all) of the various prize winners of the many different awards to know it’s true. Literature has a way of dividing opinion just like music, art (and sculpture) and other cultural areas. It’s very personal. It’s your experience. Normally no-one else shares it with you. When you read a book you’re in your own little world for a time; you don’t usually read the same book with someone else there and even if you did it wouldn’t be at the same speed. It’s a solitary experience although you can be in a crowd while it is happening: on the Tube/Subway, on the bus, in a car (not driving of course), on the beach or even in a library. If anyone speaks to you it’s like they’ve interrupted your mind’s interaction with the book. It’s like they’ve “butted in” when you didn’t ask them to. Your imagination runs wherever you want to go with it for a while and you want to enjoy the “dream” and not have people “waking you up” as it were. Been there? You know, you look up and give them the “Do you realise you’ve just spoilt my reading experience” glazed look or a more serious “keep away” snarl. You may try to be friendly through your gritted teeth. You might even try a half smile when they ask “Good book?” and you reply “Yes I’m just at a really exciting point here” hoping they’ll take the hint and leave you alone. Perhaps a Reading – Do Not Disturb T-Shirt could be a winner; (now where are those phone numbers for GAP, Calvin Klein & Tommy Hilfiger?) You can speak to me when I’ve put my book down, when it is closed with its bookmark sticking out of the page I’m up to; you don’t fold over the top corner of the page, do you? Of course you don’t, one just do that sort of thing!
But there are some books which you begin reading and you don’t want to finish because they’re SO good. You want the experience of reading that novel or biography or straight factual book to go on so you can enjoy it for longer. You’re in that imaginary world of where the text on the page has taken you, even captured you. Perhaps it’s generating emotions of love or dislike of a particular character; perhaps a mystery is unfolding and you’re enjoying all the twists and turns and trying to work out the “whodunit?” yourself; perhaps a relationship is formed and you don’t want it to end but you can see the signs. All of these things can make us want to prolong the experience of reading that particular book although you know it really does have to end.

Knowing there’s a sequel or even a number of sequels because it’s going to be a series may make you get through the book more quickly as you want to find out how things progress.

So why do I not want to finish the book I’m reading right now? If you’re wondering which book – it’s called The Land Of Painted Caves by Jean Auel. It’s part of a series called Earth’s Children. Let me give you the series list with each book’s first published date (it is relevant):

1. Sep 1980 – The Clan Of Cave Bear (also film)
2. Sep 1982 – The Valley Of Horses
3. Sep 1985 – The Mammoth Hunters
4. Nov 1990 – The Plains Of Passage
5. Apr 2002 – The Shelters Of Stone
6. Mar 2011 – The Land Of Painted Caves

Overall 31 years from book 1 to book 6! As you can see there’s quite a variation in the length of time between each of the novels; the longest gap was from book 4 to 5 – 12 years! I came to the series in the late 1980s beginning with the book & film.
Book 1 got me hooked and I’ve read the rest over the years since then. Each paperback is a kind of “brick-sized” thickness; the last one is 782 pages so a good size to keep me busy. The action is in a pre-historic world of Southern Europe involving tribal groups of Cro-Magnon & Neanderthal origins. I’ve watched characters grow together, sometimes grow apart, go on long journeys, make friends and lose friends; I’ve seen them age & have children; I’ve seen some move up the social scale and some down; I’ve seen them discover things about their world and about each other – some likeable, some not. It’s a bit like everyday life today set in this early world. You may not agree with some parts of the story in terms of personal belief but this is their world and it’s what they believed in their world at that time.

By about page 200 I was thinking – this is the last book (so far as the, now 76 year old, author has herself said) and this imaginary world which I’ve been a visitor to for just over 20 years will come to an end. These familiar characters will stop – frozen in time at the end of this book. I don’t know what they might do in the future because there is no future for them – they will cease to develop any further whilst I, on the other hand, will not. Time for me will continue (without my imaginary friends from the book) as it will for everyone but I just don’t want to leave these folks behind. I suppose, in a way, they will stay with me in my mind, because I know about them, because I’ve visited their world, but there will be no more stories about their lives. So what did I do? I picked up another book and read that for a while. Soon however I wanted to find out what was going to happen in that world of Earth’s Children’s so back I went to The Land Of Painted Caves. I read some more and got to page 300 & then 400. Then, guess what? I put the book down again and picked up another one, different to the book I read after 200 pages. And I read that for a while, hoping to keep The Land Of Painted Caves alive for a bit longer. I only got another 100 pages or so before putting it down again and going off with another book. It’s tough as, inevitably, I was drawn back once again to TLOPC. As of today I have reached page 629 so just about 150 pages left. Even if I restrict myself to 10 pages a day I’ve only got 2 weeks left. I know it’s got end but I just don’t want it to be now. Maybe I’ll pick another of those books up and spend some time with them. Eventually, I know and you do too, that TLOPC’s Jondalar, Ayla, Jonayla and their “Cave” & the other “Caves” and “Hearths” of their world will draw me back. You see the big difference with this book, which wasn’t true for the other five, is that I know there will be no more. If the author had just said nothing I would quite happily have read through to the end and just waited for the next one – maybe 2, 3, 5 or however many years.

I’m curious though. Is it just me or have any other readers found a book or series of books so fascinating they just didn’t want them to end? Have you actually stopped and then gone back later?

I feel I’m on the fringes of addiction here but not sure what the cure is. Where’s my nearest literature re-hab centre? I wonder whether I’ll meet some of you there; I’m “virtually” certain I will.

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13 responses to this post.

  1. I get like this every time I read a John Steinbeck book. Thankfully they’re all quite long so I can live in the world of the books for a few weeks at least. I also get quite sad when I reach the last of the Chronicles of Narnia. Which I read every Christmas.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Alex Jones on July 25, 2012 at 09:05

    The book I have started reading tends to be slow going at the start before I get into it. I only read a few pages each night before I am asleep, but I will speed up when it finally grabs my passion.

    Reply

  3. I was gutted when I finished The Fountainhead. I wanted it to go on forever.

    Reply

    • I’ve never heard of that book. Who’s it by etc?

      Reply

      • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand…I first read the cover and didn’t think it would interest me at all, but I had heard about it from several people, so I started it just to be up on my pop culture.

        Then I couldn’t put it down.

        I read it in bed, at my desk, at red lights, on my lunch…every spare moment. It is divided into sections that focus on different characters, and when I thought that I was getting to a section that probably wouldn’t interest me because I didn’t really care for the character, it would prove me WRONG.

        It consumed my life for almost a week. When I put it down, I wanted more. But I also thought that my brain needed a break and I should probably find an old Sweet Valley High book to read…;P

        I highly recommend it. And also Atlas Shrugged, by the same author.

      • Hmm. Sounds interesting. I’ve never even heard of the writer or either of the books you mention. I’ll have a look around for them on my Kindle in a mo actually.

  4. I’m almost the opposite when it comes to books that are so good that I never want them to end. I want to finish it as quickly as possible. but then I go back and read them over and over. I could never put down a book I was in love with and read something else. but sometimes after I finish a wonderful book, I feel almost empty because I know the next one won’t be as good so I postpone picking up another one.

    Reply

    • Yeh, tell me about it. You’re still processing your thoughts about the last book and aren’t ready to move on yet, like starting a new relationship….!

      Reply

  5. I always re-read books sometimes just after I’ve finished them I get that you don’t want to end and it’s such a joy if it becomes a series and you get your friends (characters) back.

    Reply

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