Books and Breakups

Finishing a book for me has always been like ending a relationship. It may sound incredibly cynical (or liberating, depending on your viewpoint), but the process of leaving a book after you’re finished with it, and moving on to a more exciting novel is kind of similar. Also, the pitfalls are quite the same. Case in point:

You can’t believe it’s over. Whether you’re the dumper or the dumpee, there is always the tiniest hint of shock when a relationship ends. Maybe it’s from the thought that you will continue your life without the other person and it would be overwhelming. Or maybe because even if you knew it would end sometime, you realize that you still haven’t prepared for it. Similarly, when you’ve read the last page of a book, you spend some time just staring into the wall and thinking, “Huh. It’s over.”

You think back to how they are. For me, a mark of a good book is when, weeks after you’ve finished it, you begin wondering how the characters are doing. If the book is open ended, you think about all the little possible scenarios in which the story went. Just like when you break up with someone. Sometimes, regardless of how revolted you are with even the thought of getting back together, you kind of wonder how life would be if you didn’t break up. It sounds a little like a masochist would think, but it happens.

You compare the past with the present. I do this with books all the time, but I try not to do this with the guys I come to like. When you’ve started reading a new book just a day after you’ve finished the other one—and similarly if you’ve started dating someone only a few weeks after your breakup—there is bound to be some comparison. I’m learning to not jump into another novel too soon and instead take my time absorbing the story until I’m a hundred percent ready to meet new characters. Sometimes the thought of a new story, new characters and a new author is very exciting, but if you do it too soon, it won’t be as fun as if you waited enough time.

The reason all these came to mind was that I immediately started reading David Nicholls’ One Day right after I finished Bridget Jones’ Diary—and I found it difficult to read. The thing is, when you start reading a new author, there is a getting-used-to process. You have to adjust to the author’s writing style and have to take note of the little discrepancies in the book.

On the one hand, Bridget Jones’ Diary was written in first person, set in the late 90s, totally informal and most of the time the sentences start with the main verb without the “I was/am/did”. There were also drunk entries, where the words are completely unreadable and Bridget almost always used “v.” instead of spelling out the word “very”.

On the other hand, One Day is written in third person, proper format, set at the beginning in the late 80s then moved forward to the present time, with alternating points of view from Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew—different genders, different personalities, different voices.

It was very interesting that I couldn’t take Bridget Jones out of my mind while I was reading One Day. And it occurred to me that maybe I started too early. Maybe I start a lot of things too early and I shouldn’t do that anymore.

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