I just finished reading Joanna Smith Rakoff’s 416-page debut novel A Fortunate Age. It was the article “First-Fiction Annual: Six New Novelists on What It Takes to Write and Publish a Debut” in the July/August 2009 issue of Poets & Writers that inspired me to read the book. That Joanna is about my age and making her debut as an author made me even more interested in her novel.
But, within the first 30 pages, I didn’t like the book. The characters just didn’t resonate with me (they felt like sketches of people I’d known in college) and the story itself wasn’t nearly as interesting as I had hoped (it felt predictable). But since Poets & Writers had been so enthusiastic about A Fortunate Age—and it was sold in a bidding war and it was a New York Times Editors’ Pick—I forced myself to stick with it. I figured I just hadn’t reached that “magic point” where suddenly I couldn’t put down the book. Or maybe I just needed more time to “click” with the characters, a group of friends that felt, well, a little clique-y. I never reached those moments.
Still, I finished the book. Of course, having to stay off my feet so my two sprained ankles can heal did give me more reading time than usual. However, this is somewhat typical of my reading habits. Once I start a book, even if I struggle in the beginning, I feel committed to see it through, to discover what he or she did with the characters and plot.
Am I wasting my time? My honey laughs at my stubbornness to finish a book, especially when it’s something I am not enjoying and could quit reading. But I won’t let myself.
Do you force yourself to read a book if you don’t love it right away? Do you think it’s a waste of time to read something you don’t enjoy, especially when there are so many books you could be reading? Is there a book you’ve forced yourself to finished and ended up loving? And, if you’ve read, A Fortunate Age, what did you think of it? Please share in the comments.