“My husband took 3 years to read To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Shankari Chandran
Shankari

 

 

 

 

 

By SHANKARI CHANDRAN

In 2010 Husband embarked on an important personal journey. He began to read To Kill A Mockingbird whilst we were on holiday. He’s not a prolific reader of fiction. It’s one of his few failings and over the years I’ve come to terms with it. I’ve grown to accept it and to focus on his many other strengths as a best friend, husband and father. He is an avid reader of The Economist, which has a Valium-like effect on me, despite the fact that I have been known to publicly pretend that The Economist is where I get my news from. In reality, I get most of my news from Husband who I use like a hot RSS feed with fringe benefits, in between reading the works of fiction that I love.But I digress.

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As I said, in 2010 Husband began to read To Kill A Mockingbird. I can not begin to describe my excitement that finally he was going to read this masterpiece and we would be able to spend hours talking about it together. And I mean hours. Like many people, I love this book. I read it as a child, I studied it as a teenager and I memorised it as a young adult.  As an older adult, it is the novel I turn to when I’m anxious or worried.

To Kill A Mockingbird inspired my childhood belief in justice and the importance of defending fairness, even when, as Atticus said to Jem, “you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.”

I could go on and on and on about it.

In 2010 Husband started To Kill A Mockingbird but he didn’t finish it. I KNOW. I hear you, people. He has continued to carry it with him on the following three years of holidays and long train journeys. When he wasn’t reading The Economist, the European football scores or other books, he dipped into this piece of the literary canon.

What book have you never quite finished reading?
Um… Is there a movie version?

I have had to learn to swallow my impatience and incredulity as the months stretched into years and he still hadn’t got to the court case, Mrs Dubose’s camellias or even that timeless scene with the rabid dog.  I had to learn not to ask ” What do you think?” instead, confining my desire to book-club it to my head. (Yes, to book-club is a verb).

And finally, on holiday in Fiji, aided by a Kids Club and poor Internet reception, he finished it. I was so happy I could have jumped him. But of course I wanted to know what he thought of it first.

“Yeah, it’s really good.” FULL STOP

I had waited three long and critique-barren years for that. I probed him gently, hoping to elicit further comment that would allow me to unleash the torrent of deferred deconstruction that was waiting, bursting to come out. But no. He loved it, no further comment.

I tried “Would it help you to talk about the novel if we were both naked? ” It helped but not to talk about the novel.

He did add that over the years, when he read the novel on public transport, strangers would come up to him to tell him how much they loved it and he enjoyed this break with public transport privacy protocol.

I briefly pondered recasting the novel. “Darling, if Atticus was Arsene Wenger, and Jem and Scout were a younger, idealistic version of Arsenal, and the court case was the European Cup Final, how would it make you feel…?”

In the end I decided to hold hands and watch the movie adaptation with him instead, to re-read the novel (again) and to join a book club.

Shankari Chandran is a former social justice lawyer who has finally finished writing her first novel. In her free time she is obsessed with researching how many times her favourite writers were rejected before they were first published. She has four children and a husband whose lives she chronicles on her blog, duckformation.
What novel have you found difficult to finish? What novel did you love so much that when you see people reading it on a train,  you want to tell them how great it is?

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