Today I was looking through my Goodreads “currently reading” list and realised that I have around 10 books on that list! I am chronic in starting a book only to take a break from it for a while, a LONg while it seems, and then have to pretty much start from the beginning because I’ve forgotten what it was about! I am also chronic in reading/re-reading books in a series in an effort to pad my Reading Challenge (Deltora and Series of Unfortunate Events, I’m talking to you!) for the year, which now sits at 78/85 books, but having all those unfinished books on my list does get to me at times.
I don’t know quite what it is that makes me put books down after starting them. Obviously being busy at work has had an impact – I rarely want to read at home after my brain is wired all day – but other than that I am curious as to why. The books that are on my “currently reading” list are a range of classic and non-fiction books, some of them library books that I started but never got around to finishing. I know that with books like Kavalier and Clay and All Quiet on the Western Front the reputation of them being “classics” can feel daunting at times. I know that I have Anna Karenina, The Iliad and Heart Of Darkness among many others sitting on my bookshelf for years, waiting for the right time for me to read them. Whether that time is when I’ve had my fill of puff, chick-lit/mystery books or when I’m in the school holidays ready to be challenged OR simply when I have the motivation to want to tackle one of these mighty works.
Last term however, I spotted Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell in the school library and decided that it would be a good “white whale” for me this year (side note – also have never read Moby Dick but freely throw around the white whale metaphor..?). I started reading it at the end of term two (I think), so right after I had finished my reports and had all the freedom in the world (or so I told myself). My reading stalled last term and I ended up inviting friends over to watch the movie and have a real Southern Night with Mint Juleps and Peach Cobbler (great success!) in hopes that it would motivate me to read the book before watching the movie again!
Sadly that was not the case, and though I watched the movie having only gotten up to the Siege of Atlanta in the novel, I have managed to slowly continue reading it (in drips and drabs). This term I have set myself a goal of reading a few pages while eating my breakfast most mornings, and(as of this morning) I am now up to Scarlett’s return to Tara after Atlanta is run rampant with Yankees (chapter 24). I am hoping that because I have now finished my reports for the year and have little else to do, I can get myself stuck back into this great novel.
I am actually loving it so far though. There were always going to be differences between the book and the movie but the ones I have found so far have not bothered me in the slightest. I have a tendency to hate “significant” female protagonists (hello Jane Eyre and Madame Bovary) and I was worried that Scarlett would grate on me throughout the book. However I am finding instead that with more insight into her thought process, I am slowly coming to love and admire Scarlett O’Hara-Hamilton (as I currently know her as). She admits her faults, flaunts them on many occasion, allows herself to give into her worse judgements and though thinks of herself as having no conscience she cares for a woman she hates (Melanie) while simultaneously behaving ridiculously selfishly. What I love about Scarlett the most I think is that to me she is infinitely real, and a mesmerising portrait of some of the modern attitudes that “kids these day” conduct themselves with (aaaaand I hate myself for just using the phrase “kids these days”).
I find myself also able to empathise with Scarlett, and she has made me feel better about the worst parts of myself. While I know that I am at heart a good person, I know that I get selfish at times and want the whole word to revolve around me. Scarlett O’Hara is teaching me that sometimes, it’s okay to want that! I am looking forward to reading more from her as her journey unfolds.
What has your white whale been this year? I wish you luck with yours!