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It occurred to me the other day that I’m approaching a year since I started on this challenge (2 April 2010). Naturally, this led to a spot of reflection and the rather disquieting realisation that my initial estimate was wildly optimistic. In nearly 12 months I’ve read 10 and a bit books (being fair, I’m probably about halfway through Persuasion). I haven’t even managed a book a month, let alone a book every couple of weeks.
Lest I start beating myself up about this, I’ve also had to remind myself that I have plenty of other demands on my time (work, other hobbies, household chores), and that I’ve read at least three other books (not on the list) as well.
The other reason for reduced pace, with the last couple of books at least, is not a lack of enjoyment, but rather a shared enjoyment; I’ve been reading them to Rose Red. Understandably, it takes a bit longer reading out-loud, and we have to both be there. Also, it means we frequently pause to discuss the implications of what has just happened. We don’t always completely agree (though she does seem amazed and delighted that I’m willing to read and discuss Jane Austen with her).
In this process of reading “good literature” and thinking about it, I’ve noticed the development of certain instincts about story patterns that lead me to make intuitive leaps about where the story is going, or what happens to certain characters. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong, but it’s amusing to find out either way.
One particularly interesting (and amusing) example came from the introduction of Captain Benwick. Now, just by the way, any or all of these posts may involve spoilers*, so if that sort of thing concerns you come back once you’ve read (at least Volume One of) Persuasion. Now, at this point, the love of Anne Elliot’s life, Captain Wentworth**, seems firmly besotted by Louisa Musgrove, so when another young, handsome naval officer is introduced I promptly remarked that he must be going to marry Louisa. Rose Red was flabbergasted.
To me, it seemed a perfectly reasonable conclusion. The main story is about Anne and Cpt. Wentworth; he’s currently wooing someone else; that someone else will be heartbroken when he marries Anne; oh, look, a new (eligible bachelor) character is introduced who can soothe her pains. Of course, I could be completely wrong: Cpt. Wentworth and Louisa could have a long and happy life together, and Anne could end up with Cpt. Benwick (who is mourning a lost fiancee) – mutually aware that they both pine for another but can make a satisfactory life together. It would certainly be interesting how the different characters react to that. However, despite appearances to the contrary, I stand by my theory. Time will vindicate me, or prove me a ninny. If it hasn’t already.
* Though, I’m not sure spoilers count for a book that’s been out for over 100 years…
** The combination of the name “Wentworth”, and the description of Mary’s younger child forcibly reminds me of Tiffany Aching’s little brother in The Wee Free Men, which I was given for Christmas and promptly re-read. It would not surprise me if it is an intentional allusion on Pratchett’s part.