June 17, 2010

To Skim or Not to Skim?

Looking at the bookcases in my basement the names of authors begin to run into each other. You can get a little lost and a little overwhelmed. How am I ever going to read all of these? How am I ever going to read half of these? I remember on many occasions having conversations with my mom about skimming through books. She insisted that she never skimmed. She thought every detail was important. I found this difficult to believe. She could take a book out of the library and finish it in one week…how is that possible? In retrospect I think this was why she had an “Itty-Bitty Book Light”.

I skimmed my way through many books in university. How could I be expected to read a novel a week, in addition to all the chapters of various text books? I think the pressure to read so much in university is actually detrimental to your studies. I understand that you have to read a lot…but really…who isn’t skimming?

My eyes landed on a collection of hardcover books by the author Phyllis A. Whitney. These are old books. The one I decided to start with was titled “Lost Island”…written in 1970. My mother has 13 Phyllis A. Whitney books. They must be interesting! The cover boasts that the books are “romantic suspense novels”…Andrew called them “sexual thrillers”. “Are you reading your sexual thriller book?” He thinks he’s so funny.

This was a new genre and I was curious to see what it would be like. The book started off pretty slowly. A young woman, Lacey, was returning to an island where she used to spend her summer vacations when she was a girl. Returning on the invitation of a girlfriend, who offered no explanation for the invite. Very interesting. Then we learn that Lacey had a son when she was a teenager and gave the baby up to this girlfriend. At that time this was the only way to provide the son with a better life. The plot thickens and this is where the book lost me. There were many, many, many pages spent describing the island. I mean every minute detail of the island. The sound of the waves, the scent of the waves, the colour of the sky, the colour of the grass, the buildings, the people and the emotion it all brought up for her.

I had an important decision to make…to skim or not to skim. I was either going to read this book one boring paragraph at a time, and fall asleep or I was going to skim past the island parts. I was curious to see what would happen to Lacey, her son and the father of her son, who also lived on the island. I was not curious about anything else on this idyllic island.

Skimming was the only viable option (sorry mom). I made it through. Lacey’s girlfriend had an accident and died (on the island). The news of Lacey’s son’s true maternity was exposed…no one was terribly upset by this news. The suspense part was tied up when it was revealed that the possessive grandmother figure was guilty of attempting to murder Lacey…to get her to leave the island. All of this was tied up pretty neatly.

I would say that if you are looking for a light summer read then I would agree that Whitney does write a decent novel. This one in particular would be best suited to a vacation on…an island.

I defend my decision to skim and I defend my decision to take a pass on any other Whitney novels. Twelve more stare back at me from the bookcase. I wanted to give her a second chance…but there are so many other books to read…and so little time.


  1. Hmmm, interesting question. I say, "not to skim." I place myself in the shoes of the author who likely, painstakingly, chose every word that hit the page. I would honour the author's effort and keep on reading. Plus, maybe the island was a figurative character in the novel and the descriptive narrative meant to reveal more than you realized....Why wasn't I this deep in university....I was likely dazed from that endless reading of Elizabethan and Victorian novels. Still, I stand by my decision of "not to skim". Reading every word offers you the gift of time and reflection. Looking forward to your next posting. Luv, E

  2. My name is Pat,and I'm a skimmer. xoxo