Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The end of the holiday

When I was a child, holidays were magical. Every year, for the week or two that we spent away from home, I was another me; living a different life in a different world, spending time in a place that was filled with new things to do, friends to make and places to visit. Of course it was a totally artificial creation, but for the length of the holiday it was real to me. I belonged in that world and I never wanted to leave.

A couple of days ago, as I read the last few pages of a book that had completely captured me, I recognised that old feeling; a familiar sense of loss, a wistful wishing it could all carry on for just a little bit longer.

Just like arriving on holiday, whenever I begin a new book, it takes a day or two to get into it. I start off feeling a bit unsure, finding my way around, wondering how it might unfold. Bit by bit, I start to feel comfortable in my new surroundings, I see who all the people are and where they've come from, I begin to work out what they're like and what their contribution might be. As I read on, those characters stay with me, I find myself thinking about them, even when they're not right in front of me.

About three quarters of the way through, my reading slows down. I've been caught out before, thinking that there were dozens of pages left to read, only to find that they were filled with promotions for other books, guidance pages for book club readings, or an extract from the author's next novel. Now, as soon as I realise that the unread section is getting thinner, I flick to the back to find out how many pages are really left. If I have to reach the end of a book, I need to prepare for it, and if possible, put it off just a little bit longer.

When the ending comes, as it inevitably must, and even when it's the very best ending that could have possibly been written, the sense of loss is palpable. I think about what happened in the story, and wonder what might have come next for the characters that have become my companions.  For a while, the thought of starting another book seems almost disloyal.

Eventually though, I remember that the very best way to get over the end of one holiday, has always been to have another one to look forward to. So then I place the finished book with all the other ones I've read, in the book pile that's gradually turning into a book wall. And I look at the stack of those I've yet to start, wondering where the next one might take me.


BarkyMag said...

I know exactly what you mean. Even the best possible ending needs some mental preparation, a readiness to let go. A good book engulfs me.
Also, I am totally impressed by your book wall!

Elephant's Child said...

All too familiar. And a couple of times I have reached the end of a book, flipped it over and started again.
Not for a while though. My unread tower is tooooo big.

Hillary said...

Wow, that is some wall, Sharon! I also feel forlorn, especially if it was a series, and I have no new books to read from that imaginary world.

I'm somewhat of a book addict, though; I start to neglect everything else in my life but the pages. Books can be, for me, a trap, too.

Sarah Pellew said...

I do exactly that!! And with some books that I really expect to be good, I keep them at my bedside unstarted like forbidden fruit... because I know that the sooner I start the sooner I will be finished. Lovely post. X

Zainab Ummer Farook said...

Holidays as analogues to reading... wow. Never thought of it that way.

I can never delay the ending though. My curiosity overwhelms my desire to prolong the 'holiday'. And after everything is done, I go into mourning.

Lovely post, Sharon. Relatable in so many ways.

savannah said...

Perfect! I have some down time coming up, so I've started assembling the books to read. I could start any one of them right now, but they are this pleasure deferred that I anxiously await! xoxoxox