I consider myself a reader, I read all sorts of modern contemporary fiction along with the classics and being a school librarian, I also read a great many Young Adult titles. Apart from admitting ‘crime’ is my ‘guilty pleasure’ I have no particular favourite genre.
In recent years I have been looking at the Man Booker Long-list and trying to predict the shortlist – I confess I never usually get it right, in fact, I am lucky if I get one right.
Why is this? I enjoy reading, I don’t mind being challenged in my reading either – so why can I not find myself on the same page as the judges?
Take for instance, last year’s winner – ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’ by Marlon James, when I read the blurb I thought ‘yes finally a book that had my name on it’. I was a child of the 70’s, I love Bob Marley and have some glorious memories of the Caribbean. I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Book of Night Women’ also by Marlon James, which was harrowing and uncomfortable at times but a truly amazing read.
I tried and I tried to enjoy it, but sadly I gave up and let me tell you, that is so unlike me! I usually battle my way through to the end regardless. I managed about a third of the way and had to admit defeat, I could not get on with the many literary styles and found it most confusing trying to recall all of the characters. After a while, I didn’t really care who died and if I could recall them or not – which is not a good sign! However, it could just be my age, maybe it is of a style that suits a less mature reader?
I know it received many wonderful reviews from the critics but you only have to look on Amazon to see I was not alone in my struggle – sixty-nine people gave it only one star, with most quoting it was very ‘difficult to read’.
So how does a book that is difficult to read, win one of the most prestigious literary awards? And is it wrong of me to want the occasional easy read or popular author to occasionally get a sniff at the hallowed long-list? Imagine how outraged the establishment would get and also how enthusiastic many other readers would be to see a Lee Child on the longlist? I am not holding my breath on that one!
There have been some outstanding winners in the recent past ‘The Luminaries’, ‘A Sense of an Ending’ and ‘Wolf Hall’ to name but a few, and I have just started reading ‘His Bloody Project’ by Graeme Macrae Burnet, the only one that really appealed to me from this year’s shortlist. (It’s a crime thriller, so I am very hopeful for this one). You never know, it may also be a tale that appeals to the many of us out there, who still just read for pleasure and escapism?
What do you think? Are the awards a little too “out-of-reach” for your every day reader?
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