As a child it was drummed into me that I must eat everything on my plate. To leave anything was the most terrible crime after hurting someone. This lesson was one I carried with me through my teens, my twenties, pregnancies until I have reached here, my fat forties. Yes, I am fat. Even now, I suffer terrible pangs of guilt at the sight of a half-finished meal. I also suffer from that terrible affliction of ‘eyes bigger than stomach’ and so end up with far too much food on my plate to start off with. I warn my children all the time – take a little and when that has gone take a little more, don’t pile it on.
I love food. Second to food, as a personal pleasure, is reading, and I encounter the exact same problem. I hate not finishing a book. Once started, I will struggle through page after dreary page because a) I have to finish it and b) I never feel I can fully justify any comments I make if I haven’t read it in it’s entirety.
Two years ago I realised that I was wasting my life with this dogmatic attitude. Life is too short and there are far too many fabulous books out there to waste a single moment reading a book I don’t like. Now, even though it pains me and I carry around a suitcase of guilt, I will put a book down. I came across this very same dilemma last week when I started reading The Girl With the Dragon tattoo. So many people recommended it that I decided to give it a go. After 100 pages I decided I had devoted enough of my life to it but Linda Turvey persuaded me to continue, that it would come into its own, and it did – after I had survived a third of the book. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is a good story with a good plot and I loved reading about ‘the girl’. But, I wish it had been about the girl and only about the girl. All the extra stuff, the ‘hero’ (for want of a better word), the need to relate every single irrelevant detail, was too laborious and ruined the book for me. I shan’t be reading the next two.
On the other hand The Slap was really good although I knew immediately it would not appeal to many people if only because it was too raw and earthy. From the very first page it dropped you into the sweaty, farty pants (underpants) of a suburban man and the rest of the book continued to drag you, retching and coughing, through the unembroidered, undiluted, caustic minds of the various members of the garden party who witnessed the slap. It was bizarrely exhilarating to trammel through the personae of so many different people, ages, cultures, identities, opinions and see how at the end of the day we are all as screwed up as each other, hiding behind the thin veil of propriety. One other thing about ‘The Slap’ – it highlighted, frighteningly, the manner in which our PC-obsessed society can be, oh so subtly, destructive.
I preferred ‘The Slap’ to ‘Girl with a Dragon Tattoo’. I will recommend ‘The Slap’. I know a lot of people who end up reading it through my recommendation will, from then on, think me a little mad and never listen to another word I say. But then again I also recommend that you never finish a book you don’t enjoy.