Last August I participated in a reading group for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, a book that is loved by so many and at least known by an even bigger group around the world. With different TV adaptations and some movie adaptations, Pride and Prejudice quickly became one of those books of which people said, “You have to have read this! At least once!” I actually started Pride and Prejudice once before and I struggled immensely with the writing style. After about fifty pages I had to put the book away. During the reading group participation, I was able to finish the book. And now that I’m tackling another classic, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, I’m wondering if there is a certain pressure to read these books, regardless of whether you enjoy them or not.
I needed other people to help me get through a beloved classic like Pride and Prejudice, and I don’t know what that says about me as a reader. I might just be one of the very few who is very picky when it comes to classics, and that I don’t like all of them. I assumed I would, seeing as I have a big fondness for historical pieces and a lot of classics take place in older times, but I’ve proven myself wrong. I did, in fact, really enjoy Pride and Prejudice and I do see the appeal of the book for many readers. It encouraged me to try and move on to different classics — To Kill a Mockingbird was my next choice.
If you follow me on Goodreads, you might’ve noticed already: I’m struggling an incredible bit with To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s not like I’m not interested in the story — on the contrary, but my main problem is that nothing is really happening. I’m reading about kids growing up and playing games and in between there’s mentions of racism, sexism and if anything — I want more of that. I could care less about how many times the kids reenact stories, and that’s mostly what I’m getting.
I was warned that it was a book with a slow beginning, so I pushed through it and I expected things to pick up slowly. I’m now about 135 pages in and I’m still reading about kids playing. Nothing is happening. Nothing that really grips my attention, anyway, and I’m bothered by it. This book is praised, loved by so many and I want to do the same. But right now, I have no idea at what point my adoration for this book needs to start at.
The question in my mind at this point is: is it at all accepted to not finish classics? Genuinely, is it okay to say, “No, I did not like this book that everyone else loved”? When a big group of people enjoys a book this much, there is without a doubt a certain pressure to, as a new reader, enjoy it as well. Certainly if nearly everyone enjoyed it and you didn’t, you’re the one who’s missed out? That’s the feeling I’ve always gotten from classics, which might also be the reason why I’m hesitant to read them.
To those of you who have read To Kill a Mockingbird — have I somehow still not passed the moment when everything picks up? Should I push through even further or would you advise me to put the book away for now and try again later? I honestly can’t determine whether I should’ve already been invested at this point and I consider that a problem.
Have you ever thought about the things I’ve addressed in this post? Or have you ever felt pressured into giving a book a higher rating, for example, if it was very well loved by the reading community? I’d love to hear about it.
As always, thank you for reading and have a lovely day/night.