Time to Say Goodbye?

David Mitchell once wrote “A half-read book is a half-finished love affair.”

When do you break up with a book?  When is it OK to gently let the book down, protesting that you, clearly, are to blame, and walk away?

I fear that my break up with Sunnyside by Glen David Gold is imminent.

Gold’s 650 (on my Nook) page opus started out so promising.  Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp appears to people all over the country at the same time on the same day.  Leland Wheeler is a young man unhappy with his life tending a lighthouse.  Hugo Black, an intellectual from Detroit, enlists in WWI.

On the surface, Sunnyside has everything I require in a great read:

  • More than 400 pages? Check!
  • Historical fiction set in the beginning of the 20th century?  Check!
  • Lots of characters with interesting back stories?  Check!
  • Fictionalized real people?  Check!

But Sunnyside just isn’t doing it for me.  Some of the story lines are very interesting.  I’m loving the Chaplin sections.  I’m even vaguely  interested in Leland (Lee, at this point), and his rescued puppies (who doesn’t love puppies?!).  I’m hating the Hugo sections.  Have you read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay?  Hugo in Russia=Josef in Antarctica.  Gold spends too much time outlining military actions for me.  Rebecca’s character?  What’s her deal?  Plus, and maybe most importantly, I haven’t had the urge to underline a single passage.  Not one.  I love old Hollywood, and I should be loving this book, but I’m just not.

Plus, as always, there is the draw of other books.  After a dismal workshop on bullying, a friend re-recommended Columbine by Dave Cullen.  Ryan is reading The Blind Assassin, a book I’d love to sink my teeth into again.  Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall has me intrigued.  Jonathan Safran Foer’s brother has a book that comes out next week (have I mentioned JSF is my literary boyfriend?  Because he is.).  Plus, I’m excited about reading The Paris Wife which came out today, although I’ll probably wait until I’m on my way to Paris (!) in a few weeks (!!) to start that one.

So why am I still involved with Sunnyside?  Why did I spend two hours in the airport this weekend reading it?  Well, for one, it was recommended by someone whose taste I trust.  For another, I’m already on page 400.  If we break up now, I’ll always wonder what might have been.

So I’ll stick with Sunnyside, even though we’ve lost our chemistry.  Hopefully the ending is amazing, and I’ll be eating my words next week.

When do you abandon a book?  Or, are you one of those “I finish every book I start?” people?  How do you know when it’s time to let go?

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6 Comments

Filed under Books

6 responses to “Time to Say Goodbye?

  1. For one thing, I disagree with the analogy: “A half-read book is a half-finished love affair.” Books come with a clearly-delineated ending (sometimes it even says, “The End”), but love affairs don’t. (There’s a great speech by Juliette Lewis’ character in Strange Days about this.)

    Also, what might be a half-finished love affair to one partner might be a shambling long-dead zombie to the other.

    That being said, I generally finish books when I start them, but I have no problem putting them aside and then starting over later. Sometimes it’s not the right time, as we talked about before. Several Pynchon novels have taken me two or three starts to get all the way through. I’ve still not made it through Against the Day, but I will try again when I feel like it.

    On the other hand, if it’s junk I’ll toss it without a qualm. Life is too short, and there are too many good books.

    • Thank you for reminding me about starting again! There always seems to be something so final about “abandoning” (the teacher word) a book, but you’re right–Sunnyside and I just might not be ready for each other yet!

  2. Actually, have you read Against the Day? I just realized that it has at least three of the four qualities you cite in your post, and maybe all four. 🙂

  3. Hi. I found you via She Writes. I am one of those people who feels like I have to finish every book I start. However, I don’t hesitate to put the book down and take a break for a few days, or weeks, or months. For example, I took me two months to finish “The Year of the Flood” by Margaret Atwood. I was so interested in the story after reading “Oryx and Crake” but TYotF was not as interesting. I finally finished, but it was a struggle. The same goes for Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time.” I have not been able to finish that book yet but have picked it up every month. It is probably time for me to say goodbye to that but for some reason, I am determined to finish.

    • Aaah, I’m so disappointed you didn’t like The Year of the Flood! I loved Oryx and Crake, and was going to put that one on my list. I’ve heard good things about the Jordan, but it doesn’t seem like my kind of book. Good luck with it!

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