Thank you to @Vintagebooks , resident tweetist of https://www.penguin.co.uk/vintage/ who inspired me to write this post!
As far as I can remember, there’s only one book I’ve ever fibbed about finishing and that was Crime and Punishment.
To explain this one fully, I’ll point out a few facts about my childhood:
1) I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, there were no other kids my age nearby and my brother and I didn’t get on so we would stay apart as much as possible
2) We weren’t allowed to watch TV until 2004 because my (now former, thank f*) stepfather was Victorian. No doubt one day I’ll tell you more about that.
3) I was a nerd. Such a nerd. Words can’t begin to describe the level of nerdery I was rocking from the moment I could read.
4) I was a very precocious child, I took the Mensa acceptance IQ test at about 13 to prove I could get in then walked away (again, a story for another day)
5) My grandfather, a man who esteemed education as the most important thing in the world, gave my brother a paperback copy of Crime and Punishment with the following transcription (translated from Welsh):
‘If you can read this book before you turn 16, you’re a whizz of a kid!’
6) I’m a competitive reader. By all that is good and gracious in this world, I was going to read that bloody book before my brother did and by mighty Odin I was going to be a whizz of a kid.
I actually doubt that my brother had any intentions of ever actually reading this book but I wanted to read it and then secure a lifetime of bragging rights so I did what any self respecting little sister would do at the age of 12. I stole it.
I stayed up all night with a torch and read. I took it to school, and read. I sat outside in the field, and read. A week or so passed, and I read.
I hated it. Barely understood a word of what was going on, the writing was tiny and poorly printed which only made it worse and above all… I didn’t get it. I heroically battled my way through about 2/3rds of the book and then decided to call it quits.
Obviously I didn’t tell anyone that I’d given up – they’d seen me struggle through it and were so impressed! I gloated halfheartedly to my brother (dick move), told my English teacher in school that I’d made my way through it when she asked how I’d got on and then tried my best to never discuss it again.
Apart from the fibbing thing – I did learn a pretty good lesson though: The book was wasted on me, finishing it wouldn’t make me understand it any better. I’d just have lost more hours of my life to the most depressing book I’d encountered so far in my sheltered existence.
It’s not often that I give up on a book mid-read but now I know, there’s no point flogging a dead horse when it comes to reading. (mwahahaha I remember enough of the book to make that pun)
The question is, of course, am I going to back to it and read it all the way through now I’m older and have glasses? Maybe.
I feel like I should, for a sense of closure but since then I have worked my way through many a classic for the sake of ticking it off some imaginary list of ‘things I should
read’ that I managed to read, fully understand and just not like.
Speaking of classics…. I cheated and watched Anna Karenina on Netflix the other day rather than reading it – no wonder I’m terrified of Russian classics now! It was the most horrendously sad story that had me sobbing every five minutes – which has this second convinced me that I may leave Crime and Punishment to the scholars, after all.
Me, contemplating reading Crime & Punishment again or jumping in front of a train.