This is of course a tricky question because it is different from book to book, from reader to reader. As usual I have been reading several books parallell, but mostly I have been reading two books. It took me forever to read them. They are:
Doctor Copernicus by John Banville (247 pages)
Aldermanns arvinge by Gabriella Håkansson (813 pages)
Do you believe me when I say that it took me over one month to finish these two books. I usually read a few pages from Banville's book and one or two chapters from Håkansson's book. Although they quite differ in size I finished them more or less at the same time.
Håkansson's novel was easy to read. Rather 'big' font and space on the pages. Banville's novel has smaller font, and no space, just very tight text almost every page. It is more of a biography, or historical fiction, so the text is somewhat more complicated, with thematic and technical words as regards the world of Copernicus.
Neither of the books were giving me the inclination to continue reading. It was more like I have to finish the books. Why did I just not give up, you might ask. Good question. I simply don't know. I had somehow set my aim to finish both of them. Banville's book mainly because I bought it when he held a talk in a book shop in Brussels. Signed book and all. This is the first book in a trilogy, and I bought, and have the other two; Newton's letter and Kepler. Of the three Kepler was the one I liked best. Another reason why I wanted to finish Copernicus is that we visited Torun in Poland last summer, the town where Copernicus was born. We visited his house, now a museum. It is a beautiful, medieval town and a pleasure to walk around the old city. I wrote about it in my newsletter To find the sun.
To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.
Doctor Copernicus by John Banville
Nicholas Koppernigk, or Copernicus which is his more famous name, was a Renaissance polymath, active as a mathematician and astronomer. He worked as a Catholic canon, a kind of religious title. His research led him to a new model of the universe, that placed the Sun rather than Earth as its center. He might have realised that his theory would be controversial, and he postponed the publication of it, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, until just before his death.
Banville gives us a man of "painful reticence" as it is stated at the back cover. That is true. He is a man hunted by something unnamed. Although he discovers faults with other accepted theories of the day, he is reluctant to put forward his own ideas. He is living in a world of wars and conflicts between kings, princes and the church. His brother is haunting him with his life style; he sees conspiracies all around him, and would most of all like to withdraw from the world.
"He found that city (Cracow) strangely altered, no longer the forlorn gloomy terminus he had known during his university years, but a bustling waystation cheerful with travellers and loud with the uproar of foreign tongues. To be sure, the change was not in the city but in him, the traveller, who noticed now what the student had ignored, yet he chose to see his new regard for this proud cold capital as a sign that he had at last grown up into himself and his world, that he was at last renouncing the past and turning his face toward an intrepid manhood; it was all nonsense, of course, he knew it; but still, he was allowed for a few days at least to feel mature, and worldly-wise, and significant."
Aldemanns arvinge (Aldemann's heir) by Gabriella Håkansson
The story takes place in 19th century London. William Aldermann is an orphan, has inherited a huge fortune and grows up in a palace on Harley Street. His father had an anarchistic tradition of ideas and he has put the continuation of these ideas on the shoulders of his son. The idea is to denounce God, the laws and the state and make a revolution. Old friends to his father are appointed custodians of the legacy. It is just one problem; the father hid his plans for the continuation of the fight to change the world.
The society of his father is called Dilettanti. Many of the members are now old and see the world differently. However, there are still a few hardcore members who want to continue the fight. They live in the world of Ancient Greece and surrounds themselves with statues, books and everything that can make that time alive again.
I found it interesting since Ancient Greece is a favourite topic. However, the book was far too long, dragged out and all in all, not much happened. It could not really engage me, but I could not just drop it either. It is the first book in a trilogy, but I don't think I will continue reading.