The Complex

Leaving Rebecca

Leaving Rebecca

It’s hard to pinpoint when I stopped reading Rebecca. I started it in the middle of April, and I chose it for many reasons: lots of people I like and admire loved it; I wanted to read something from the literary canon for a change; I loved the film adaptation of Don’t Look Now; my wife recently read it for her book club, so it was always floating around in my line of sight. There were so many little cues from the universe that it felt rude not to read it.

I recognised the opening paragraph just from other people talking about it. The prose was rich and detailed. The characters were vivid, and I knew I was going to grow to love them.

But work was busy and kept leaking, in the way the lockdown makes almost impossible to stop, into my personal time. My concentration was not what it normally was. Rebecca wanted to be read — I wanted to read it — but the days became weeks, and I didn’t want to start another until I’d finished this one. Other books, with sexier covers and alluring blurb, kept drawing my eye.

Barbara Sher’s Refuse to Choose is a book about the different creative approaches you can take if you are what she calls a scanner. A scanner is someone who has lots of projects, lots of ideas, but struggles to make time for them. When I first read it, I felt validated and a little less alone. One of the concepts she talks about is being like a bee, who digs around in a flower for nectar, and once it has what it came for, it flies on.

I think that’s what had happened with Rebecca. I was attracted to it, and I dug around in it, but once I saw what it was, had taken what I needed from it, it was time to move to the next flower. I had what I needed for my current project. The energy was gone.

As an aside, this is probably why I’m not a good book reviewer. I read selfishly. If it isn’t resonating with me, that doesn’t mean the book isn’t good — it might even be brilliant — it’s just that I lose enthusiasm.

There have been times in my life where I want to lose myself for hours on end in a story, and those times will come again, but at the moment I’m mining ideas for my current work-in-progress.

I was feeling guilty, frustrated, embarrassed, confused and bored, because what sort of writer doesn’t get on with Rebecca?

It wasn’t her, it was me. Rebecca is back on the shelf.

(While getting the links for this post, I found out Barbara Sher died on May 10, just over a week ago. Damn, that makes me sad. She was my Dad’s age. Here is a TED talk she did in 2016.)