Nine days ago I posted on what books I want to have read by August 24. I have since finished two of them. I had just started The Good Earth that morning and finished it the next day. I found it an excellent read, although that doesn't mean I was in tingles of literary delight all the way through. I was in tingles of literary delight for the first third of the book, spent the second third wanting to bludgeon the main character about the head, and the final third realizing that Pearl S. Buck is a better author than I. The ending is not one I would have liked even two years ago, but I'm starting to learn that just because a book doesn't end the way I would have ended it had I been writing it doesn't mean its ending isn't entirely appropriate. There are plotlines that are simply beyond my skill to craft. Admittedly my writing abilities have grown in leaps and bounds these last six years, and while I think the period of explosive growth is largely behind me, by the time I'm 35 (to choose an arbitrary number) I might have honed my skill enough to create a novel worthy of being considered a classic.
Today I realized that I had made no progress in my reading list in over a week, so I sat down with my long-neglected copy of Till We Have Faces. I have developed a method for reading Lewis' fiction, which was confirmed by my experience with this book: 1) Consult the back page (without reading it!) to ascertain the page count 2) Mark the halfway point of the book 3) Depending on the book's overall length (longer books have more leeway in this) count 5 or 10 pages past the halfway point 4) Tell yourself that you cannot give up until you have reached this page. I warn you, however, to approach the halfway point with caution. Unless you have a stronger will than I, you will reach a "point of no return" after which you cannot put down the book until you have finished it. So if you reach the halfway mark at midnight, don't blame me if you stay up until 4 am finishing the book.
I was somewhere around Page 90 when I last put down Till We Have Faces. The copy I have has 309 pages. I picked it up sometime after 3:45 (I was on Skype until then). I put it down at 6:05. That's 219 pages in 2 hours and 20 minutes. I had rather a headache by the time I finished, but I couldn't have put it down for anything. You don't even discover what Till We Have Faces means until 15 pages from the end, but it is well worth the wait. The ending was so beautiful that it very nearly made me cry. Admittedly, I cry rather easily over books--I was once reduced to tears over a book in which an old man had to kill his cow. Still, it's no small praise of Lewis that he can get me that emotionally involved in a story.