How do you read yours?

I got in trouble last week with some of my colleagues. I gave up on a book before I reached the end.

 

That’s tantamount to finishing your Sunday dinner before you’ve eaten all the roast potatoes. It’s definitely not something I like doing, but what made it worse was that everyone else really enjoyed the book.

 

A bad reading experience can really put you off reading for a while. Last week I didn’t finish a book which was why I published no review. This week, I simply haven’t read anything to tell you about. Although, I have just started something new which I have high hopes for.

 

But why did I stop reading? Was it a bad book? Not particularly – a lot of people have really enjoyed it, so much so that I’m not going to tell you what it is because I’m starting to wonder if I’ve been a bit unfair to it.

 

Asking me to read an historical romance was always going to be a long shot, but it showed a lot of promise, so I gave it a go. It didn’t grab my attention, and it took a long time for me to get through the first hundred pages.

 

When I came to dipping back into the book on my second night, I got through about a page and a half before throwing it down, officially giving up. I was in a bad mood, and there was something about that page and a half that annoyed me. It didn’t take much.

 

Do I have a point? Maybe I don’t, but I do have a question. What makes a great book great?

 

There are books I have loved that others haven’t, and vice versa, like this one. Is a great book universal, or do we have to accept that no book can be good for everyone?

 

Are the things that are objective about a book what makes it great, or is it the subjective “

 

One of my favourite books is The Island by Victoria Hislop, and I know that is in part because I read it on the stone steps of a small village in Crete where the book is set. Was it my subjective experience of reading the book what made me like it, or was the writing simply that good that I could have enjoyed it anywhere?

 

Can even a technically perfect book be enjoyed by someone in a bad mood, or is our own environment part of the experience?

 

I can read anywhere, I sometimes proudly exclaim – but should I? Should I find some where that helps me enjoy the books I’m reading?  And is it the same place for each book?

 

I enjoy reading – but am I doing it wrong?

Dawn French – 30 Million Minutes

It’s been approximately a thousand minutes since I sat down in my chair in the Hexagon theatre in Reading and photo bombed the selfie of the woman in front of me.

I was there to watch Dawn French perform her one woman show ’30 Million Minutes’ – the premise of which is that that is roughly the amount of minutes that French has been alive.

It is an autobiographical show, one in which Dawn tries to look back on her life and make sense of it. She says at the very beginning that she feels like she’s in a transition phase between one part of her life to another, and that this show is about stopping, taking a pause and trying to make sense of everything.

To that effect, it’s important to note that is not stand-up. It’s not gag after gag. It’s Dawn French telling the audience about all the things that have made her who she is.

She talks about her childhood, her mum, her dad, her brother and her grandparents. She tells a few anecdotes – including one about the Queen Mother – none of which will be new news to anyone who has read her 2007 autobiography Dear Fatty, but it’s great to hear them told by her, and makes it that little bit better.

French talks candidly about her father’s depression and subsequent suicide, her battles – not with weight loss – but with those weight loss headlines that dogged her for a while some years ago and her fierce protectiveness of her adoptive daughter Billie. She mentions her divorce from Lenny Henry after thirty years and some of the racism that they encountered as a mixed race couple, some of which is quite shocking.

But it’s still Dawn French telling these stories, she’s a funny woman. Her style of delivery is naturally funny, and while there are still tears rolling down your face after hearing about her father, you’re almost on the floor with laughter as she starts telling you about her mother’s growler.

It’s a brilliant show, and you can’t help but feel you’ve gotten to know Dawn a little bit better than you might have done before. The show’s warmth and candid nature makes you feel like you’ve spent the evening with a friend – and it spilt over for us.

We ended the evening sat in a bar with the two women – two strangers – who’s selfie we photo bombed earlier in the evening, and that is in no small part due to the way that Dawn made us feel. Friendly, open, and a little bit silly.

30 Million Minutes is on tour now with dates currently running until December – I highly recommend getting to see if you can.