Though not hard and fast, over the past several years a pattern has emerged regarding my evolving opinion of books completed. Curious how much of this sounds familiar to other readers.
Stage 1: My immediate reaction as I read the last sentence. With many novels and some non-fiction, there may have been inklings all along but until finishing, my big picture opinion feels incomplete somehow. I know; a little anal-retentive.
Stage 2 or Stage 3 (where applicable): My wife asking "What did you think?" When this stage occurs (a 50-50 shot), my stated opinion is usually terse. And though my view has often not yet fully evolved, expressing something aloud, distilled to its essence, actually helps the ongoing processing of what I've finished.
Stage 2** (if my wife asks much later or never asks) or Stage 3: My book journal entry. Like stage 1, this is automatic. After three+ years, the book journal discipline is now a non-negotiable in my life, like meditation and exercise. As David Hare famously said "Writing is the act of self-discovery"; when I complete the entry, my opinion invariably gets deeper although not granite-like, I hope. **If my wife asks after my entry and I hear myself say something not written, I do not revise the entry. But I have been tempted.
Stage 3 or Stage 4 (where applicable): A book club discussion. Although here I'm even less prone to the temptation of revising a book journal entry, this stage, where applicable, clearly contributes to my long view. How sad for me if I were unable to be occasionally persuaded by the differing views of discerning readers.
Today? Stage 1 and 2 (the wife version) have taken place re David Wroblewski's 2008 novel "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle"; stage 3 - later today or tomorrow, stage 4 - July 17. That leaves the far less frequent, if always desired, stage 5 - a discussion with one or more of you.