Are Award Winning Novels Doomed to Failure?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a novel in want of an award must be absolutely fantastic. Or not.

This is something I’ve noticed a lot over the years. Have you ever read a “great” novel? One that was lauded by critics all over the world? One that was supposed to be simply out of this world? And have any of those novels ever been utterly disappointing? I thought so. Of course.

It seems to me that a lot of these novels are just overrated by a mile. Take Arthur and George by Julian Barnes – a prime example of this… predicament. When I was a member of a book club, back in my youth, we opted to read this novel, on the basis that it had been nominated for the Man Booker prize and the Dublin Literary Award. We all expected great things.

So we all went away and spent two weeks reading the book. And the result? Well, it wasn’t that we all hated it, it was just that none of us were in any way overwhelmed by what we read. Interesting characters wandered the pages, but none of them seemed to have much of interest to say. And the plot was essentially… lacking. Yes, I went there. Lacking. It just wasn’t impressive, and I was totally aware that I had read novels that were far better and hadn’t received much recognition at all.

So why is it that these novels seem to be doomed to failure? Well, in my own experience I think it’s all to do with the people who decide on these novel’s importance. These people are no doubt graduates of English Literature, or at least Journalism. After spending years studying classical novels that are, by nature, not easy reading, they now love a challenge, and thus, novels that aren’t gripping get nominated. That’s not to say that all novels nominated for awards aren’t good – I just believe they could be better.

4 comments on “Are Award Winning Novels Doomed to Failure?

  1. It seems like most of the novels that are nominated for awards tend to be those that are very technically proficient, exactly the kinds of novels that people with degrees in English tend to fawn over, while the rest of us have a hard time getting into them.

    I can appreciate when a book is well written, but if the story and characters in a book don’t grab me, it doesn’t matter how well written the book is, I’m not going to enjoy it.

    • Thanks Adam for commenting 🙂 And I agree with you completely. Sometimes we just like to read a book for pure enjoyment. There really is nothing like a book that is completely unputdownable. But most of these award winning novels are nowhere near easy reading.

  2. Book critcs, are like art critics…so far up their own backside, and lord it over us, that they know so much better.

    When I watch those literary programs on BBC2, where are having discussions like “Oh ya, The main character is so deep, and he metamorphoses throughout the book spectacularly” I feel like screaming.

    I (hope) and can’t wait till I am a recognised author. I would love to go on that program and go “Aye, Its a bum number, I was in the loo for an hour, couldn’t get up till I finished the chapter!”

    • Thanks for the comment – and I agree with you completely. Some people look into these things way too much – just enjoy the damn novel! 🙂 Your comment was hilarious by the way 😀

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