Sometimes it’s because it’s interesting. Sometimes because it’s funny. Sometimes it’s because it’s challenging, true-to life or beautifully crafted. It may even be because you think it will improve you.
Yes, there are many reasons to like a book. The reason I liked, and came to love, this one, is because it was just so damned enjoyable. In the over-used expression of the enthusiastic teacher, it was a pleasure to read. The nearer I got to the end, the sadder I became at the thought that it would soon be over.
It wasn’t at all what I expected. And if somebody had described the plot to me beforehand, I might never have bothered to read it at all – the story of an upper-class, Irish layabout who could be something out of P.G. Wodehouse, fretting about losing his family home and also about his sister’s romantic liaisons, whilst steadily drinking his way through what’s left of his father’s wine cellar and a series of gin gimlets (I didn’t even know what one of those was before I looked it up).
But, if that doesn’t float your boat, ignore it. It’s brilliant. Wonderfully written, with a vocabulary that’s erudite and sometimes even exotic, but which never gets in the way. There are a number of laugh-out-loud moments; some characters unlike anything else you’re likely to find in a modern novel; and a plot which may appear to meander but which actually knows exactly where it’s going and why.
But more than anything, it’s very touching. The more I read, the more I began to care – really care – for this rather pathetic hero and his highly-strung sister. And to realize that, in an entirely natural way, he was profoundly in love with her.
I don’t have a sister, but if I did I could easily imagine feeling as strongly about her as Charles does about Bel. I do sometimes wish that I had had a sister.
I rarely read books twice – there’s not enough time to read anything other than a small proportion of those I would like to read once – but this is one I may well return to.
But in the meantime, one of the joys of having a Kindle is that within minutes of finishing “An Evening of Long Goodbyes” I was able to download Paul Murray’s other novel, “Skippy Dies.” This has a different feel to it, but (about 4 chapters in) it’s looking very promising.