More than fifteen years ago, my mother put a book in my hands, and told me to read it. That book was Gates of Fire. "It's very good," she said. "About the Battle of Thermopylae."
Now, my mother is a voracious reader- perhaps even more than I am- and she often recommends books to me. She is not often wrong. And when she actually gives me the book and commands me to read it, she is never wrong.
And yet I did not read the book.
I put it on my shelf, to wait for the Right Time. I packed it into a box, moved it to my latest New Home, and replaced it on the shelf at least eight times. I never felt quite like I was in the mood to read it, although I did keep it through last year's great, "I'm gutting these large stacks of 'to be read' books because it's time to accept that I'm not ever going to read them" purge. Perhaps that was because my husband (acquired after the book) also informed me, "Oh you'll love it," which only doubled-down on the guilt.
I think the main problem I had getting into the right "mood" to read it was that I already knew the story of Thermopylae, which meant I knew the book wasn't going to have a happy ending. And me? I like happy endings. Almost exclusively. Some people, thinking themselves Quite Worldly, scoff at happy endings as Unrealistic.
Well no shit. I am intimately acquainted with real life's capacity for Unhappiness. So why the hell would I want more of it from my fiction?
But that's just me.
Anyway, after my recent spate of uplifting Georgette Heyer and rediscovered children's classics, I went to my now-only-one and only-thigh-high stack of "To-Be-Read" books looking for something new. There, about 1/3 of the way down, was the bright red spine of Gates of Fire.
I paused, carefully examining my Mood. Was I ready, at long last, to read this book?
Yes, yes I was.
(They were both right, by the way.)