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.