So I am faced with an important decision. One that readers everywhere must deal with every day: whether to (as the saying goes) fish or cut bait. The thing is I tend to move books aside without much hesitation quite often, but then I usually have a twinge of guilt about doing so. Do I stick it out with a book that I am feeling lackluster about in the hope that it will really grab me soon (and sometimes they really do), or simply move on to the next?
Now normally I say to others asking the same question, why spend time reading something you are not enjoying, but herein lies my problem. I am such a predictable reader and don't go out often on a limb with my choices. And I tend to second guess my choices far too often, thinking I am not choosing very literary books or that my choices show me as being a fairly shallow reader. I wouldn't even be following this train of thought, but the book I am ready to move to the "will try this one some other time" pile happens to be a classic novel. And I've not done very well with classics this year.
The book in question is one I was very excited about when I first started it. It is Henry Adams's Esther (yes, he of the famous Adams-political family). Set in late 19th century New York the story is about a woman torn between her personal convictions and marriage to a preacher. Esther Dudley is an interesting character. She is an artist who is helping in the decoration of a local church, the only woman painter amongst the group. Stephen Hazard is a new episcopalian minister at the church and their paths cross, and, well that's about how far I am into the story. It's less than 200 pages and I am already a third of the way in, but I am not feeling the desire to pick the book up and continue on with the story. As a matter of fact I have read the first few pages of chapter five at least three times now, and I am wondering if only I need to get through chapter five and will be fine or whether it is better to pick up something else I am feeling more inclined to read right now, which as it happens is Jane Austen's Emma.
Here's a little comparison just to get a taste of the two stories. Starting with Esther first:
"While this ecclesiastical idyl was painting and singing itself in its own way, blind and deaf to the realities of life, this life moved on in its accustomed course undisturbed by idyls. The morning's task was always finished at one o'clock. At that hour, if the weather was fine. Mr. Dudley commonly stopped at the church door to take them away, and the rest of the day was given up to society."
And if I put poor Esther aside I would be reading this (Emma):
"Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her."
So I can either set Esther aside (temporarily--at least that is always what I think...that I'll get right back to the book), just return her outright to the library, or press on and hope I'll feel more engaged with the story soon. I should also mention there is nothing really wrong with the story or writing. It's totally a mood thing.
It's moments like these that I see just how fickle a reader I really am.