I started reading The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon. I bought it a year ago at the Grant MacEwan bookstore, when it was the MacEwan Book of the Year. It has sat on my shelf since then, and after 30 pages, that is where it has returned.
Most readers, I think, will agree that they read to relax, to escape, to enjoy. This tends to belie the fact that reading really is work. To do it with any appreciation for the narrative takes time – sometimes a lot of it, sometimes even more than a lot of it. And even though my books are limited this year, I still approach books with the mentality that I will put the effort into reading a book only if I find it worth reading. There are so very many books, and more coming out every year, so having a discerning or even harsh taste is something I like to have.
Sometimes I convince myself that an initially dull book is going to get better and try to soldier on. This method has Swordspoint to its credit, when I told myself that it had one more chapter to save itself, and four pages later the stakes changed completely and I was hooked. Sometimes I can really only bear first impressions, and I’m afraid The Golden Mean was a victim of my caprice. On my fourth day of reading it, I picked up a magazine to peruse over my lunch hour rather than inch a little farther in the tale of Aristotle and Alexander. I did that on the fifth and sixth days, too, and that was when The Golden Mean returned to its rather envious place between A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and In Cold Blood.
I’m sure that The Golden Mean is excellent, that it did not receive so much praise and so many nominations for nothing. But I’m also sure that books and readers need to find each other at the right time. I will be the first to confess that when I tried to read Pride and Prejudice when I was fifteen, I put it down just as swiftly as I did The Golden Mean, with the same bad taste in my mouth that Little Women had left when I was nine. Pride and Prejudice when I was seventeen was a completely different matter and will forever have a special place not only in my reading heart but in my heart of hearts. (The March Sisters have not fared so well. But I still have the beautifully bound copy my grandparents gave me, so maybe one day Jo, Meg, Beth, Amy, and I will find each other in better spirits. [Is it in bad taste to say “spirits” when discussing Beth March?])
So The Golden Mean and I part ways for now. No doubt it will stay on my shelf for ages, though it may lose its prime real estate and go into the cupboard with The Da Vinci Code and my bescherelle. But maybe one day I will find it again, and maybe that will be the right day to read it. All of this thinking about Pride and Prejudice has stirred my addict’s twitch, though, so I have decided to reread my well-worn copy of An Assembly Such As This by Pamela Aidan. Few things can match the thrill of reading someone call Mr. Darcy “Fitz” and not get clocked. There is a fist fight… but it is unrelated to the “Fitz” thing.