Sally Beauman

The Sunday Salon: Second Chances

I’ve never been one of those readers who will “solider on” with a book to the bitter end even if I don’t care for it. I’ve always felt the searing truth of the saying: “So many books, so little time.” Most of my books come from the library where I have a habit of dashing in, plucking a sackful of books off the new release shelf, taking a quick pass through the stacks to see if there’s anything I might have missed or if an old favorite might be calling my name, and then making off with them like a bandit. (Sometimes, I still feel like the entire concept of libraries is too good to be true - I mean, they really let me come in and just take a dozen books home with me?) 

I admit, it’s harder to set aside a book I’ve bought and paid for than one I’ve borrowed from the library, so I’ve learned to be very selective in the books I purchase because I know I’ll feel a stronger compulsion to finish them. 

On Monday,  I started reading a library novel by a new-to-me author, Sally Beauman. I had finished In This House of Brede early Monday morning, and gave myself the entire day to let it “digest” before starting something else. I found it’s necessary to do that after reading a book that was particularly entrancing, and I was definitely deeply immersed in Godden’s 1960’s novel about a contemplative monastery of nuns.

Although I gave myself the day (and a busy day it was) to release Brede from my mind, I still struggled with The Visitors during my regular evening reading time, and also well into the hour I give myself for reading each morning. The early stages of the novel were set in Egypt, circa 1920, and recounted a good bit of detail about Egyptian archeological expeditions. It’s well written and researched, but not an area of particular interest to me. I was contemplating giving up on it. With the same library haul that yielded The Visitors, I had also brought home a number of quite interesting novels, as well as a memoir I was eager to read. 

But then, I hit the second section of the book, almost 200 pages into a 450 page novel. Suddenly we were back in England, near Cambridge. Our main character was dealing with a very interesting, complex new person in her life. We were meeting her father for the first time, and learning what an absolute dolt he was. The author was filling in the back story of this young girl who had lost her beloved mother, and was on a psychological search for a family of her own, just as the English archeologists were searching for royal tombs in the Egyptian desert.

Suddenly, I was hooked. I can’t put the book down. I’ve been carrying it around the house every since, and read a few more pages whenever I have a few moments to spare.

I’ve had this experience a few times before - almost ready to set a book aside, I decide to read on a little more, when suddenly the author pulls a rabbit out the hat and lures me completely in. Naturally I have to wonder if some of the other books I’ve put aside unfinished might have fulfilled their initial promise if given a second chance. Reading teaches us so much, in so many ways.  Of course there is a life lesson to be learned here as well: second chances sometimes pay off. 

Now, back to The Visitors..I can’t wait to see what happens next.

How about you? Have you ever been tempted to give up reading a book only to find yourself completely sucked in within the next chapter?