I am running out of steam on this thing….
Don’t get me wrong, I still stay up late at night, frantically refreshing my browser to check if my favourite book has come through unscathed, but I’m running out of things to say. The judges are so much more articulate and insightful than I am and for a book to have made it this far it means I’ve already put my thoughts out there three times. So my delayed posting is not because I am any less passionate but rather because I am worried about boring you, gentle reader.
So I’ll try to keep it snappy.
Monday saw A Tale for the time Being go up (and then down!) against The Good Lord Bird. Like Judge Darnielle I was unwillingly won over by Nao but captivated by Ruth. I like my books slow like I like my…. I don’t know, slow things. Turtles. Thus Ruth’s quiet, introspective life in coastal Vancouver was right up my alley. I also like books that leave you with room to think and draw your own conclusions. So I liked reading about her weird neighbours and offbeat relationship with her partner when she wasn’t even sure what she was doing there at all. In a way the novel reminded me of Australian bush writing traditions, what with the eccentric community and remote location. I thought A Tale for the Time Being was touching and beautifully crafted. The way Ozeki was able to hold all the scenes, characters and concepts together in a seemingly logical way was really quite a feat of structure and form. As well as being incredibly readable, with well-placed cliff-hangers and clever switches between perspectives. I was sorry to see it go but I thought Judge Darnielle made a well reasoned argument as to why he preferred The Good Lord Bird. Which I still don’t get.
Then on Tuesday I was incredibly surprised to read that The People in the Trees had taken out The Son. There’s no particular reason this should be surprising but I keep expecting that my favourite book in the competition will get knocked out, and the one I haven’t read will end up winning. I am frequently constructing worst-case scenarios in my head which I’ve been told is a coping mechanism so maybe that’s what’s going on. But that’s neither here nor there. I still don’t want to talk about it because I really want to give it more time, space and thought. And I have nothing to say about The Son.
Which brings us to Wednesday. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Judge Hu’s verdict. It tickled me. I also liked watching my favourite book triumph again. Yet again, reasonable criticisms were levelled against Ron’s pal Donna. The lack of proper female characterisations was one we touched on the other day. I myself am ambivalent about the zombie round; I understand that Judge Hu believes that ‘The Zombie introduces doubt among the living, and allows us not only to revisit, but to potentially even change, the past. The Zombie Round is hope’ but last year it saw my least favourite books returning as the undead. The few years previous it was about 50/50 and I feel the same way about this year. I really liked Life After Life! And The Goldfinch was ok! Or maybe not ok. I’m still tossing up about that one. But what I really would have liked to have seen was The People in the Trees go up against The Good Lord Bird. It still might but what I’m saying is that overall I’d be happy to let the judges decide and leave the popular vote out of it. It can be a little frustrating to watch a book get knocked out in a complex, well-argued piece and then have it come back anyway. Someone already made this call, people! I want to know who wins already!