Friday, January 25, 2008

A Dubious Prize--giveaway


Wow, there was unanimous dislike last night at my book group as we discussed Anne Enright’s Booker prize-winning novel The Gathering. And this is a really pleasant group of women, not given to nastiness. They’re all mothers of children around the same age, some of whom I have known for going on ten years, and I would choose to hang out with them whether we were discussing books or not.

It was a dark and stormy night, but my book groupers are intrepid, and they showed up anyway, shaking off rivulets of rain, but ready for the discussion. My very sweet husband had made a fire and some strong coffee, but as usual, most of us chose a little pinot noir to begin the evening. Fortified with the wine, hors d’oeuvres, and lots of desserts, we began to dissect the book. I was surprised that not one of the readers liked this book.

We all agreed that we did not like the narrator much, nor did we like the story. Some objected to the elliptical storytelling, some to the tone, some to the overly familiar themes. But I was surprised at how vehement the opinions were.

On the positive side, some of the readers appreciated Enright’s writing style as poetic and smart. I agreed with that. I found some of her descriptions quite beautiful.

But ultimately nobody cared enough about the characters. This sparked a very interesting conversation about how writers and filmmakers succeed when they make us care about their characters.

After we finish our book discussion, as usual, we turned to other subjects—kids, husbands, politics, movies, you name it. It’s always great talk.

On reflection, we realized we have not had much luck with prize-winning books. We chose two books for next time, a memoir and a novel, both rather short: Shalom Auslander’s Foreskin's Lament: A Memoir, and Vendela Vida’s Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name: A Novel.

Which brings me to the giveaway portion of this post. Considering what I’ve written about this book, I guess this is a dubious prize, but three of my book groupers left their slightly used paperback copies of The Gathering for me to dispose of, and I thought I would pass them on to you, if you want them.

So if you want a copy of Anne Enright’s The Gathering, guaranteed to have been read only once, leave me a note in the comments, and I’ll pick the winners out of a hat.

31 comments:

Joy said...

I have this as a challenge read, so I would love to win it. Please put my name in the hat. :)

Gentle Reader said...

Joy--your name is in the hat!

Logophile said...

Wow, interesting that it provoked such a strong (negative) reaction! I didn't hate it, but certainly didn't really enjoy it either. I'm Irish and certainly found the themes a bit cliched but my mother and sister (who live in Ireland, while I live in the UK) really disliked it - found the characters shallow and the story predictable...

Lisa said...

This is on my list of books I want to read this year, so please add my name to the list.

Gentle Reader said...

logophile--interesting to get an Irish person's perspective--thanks!

lisa--your name is in the hat!

jen said...

yay! so glad you're able to recycle my book. thanks again for the other night. it's always fabulous.

jen said...

also - on your outmoded author challenge -- i've mean meaning to tell you that i read My Antonia again (read it first in 8th grade) and LOVED it. xo

Dewey said...

I would LOVE a copy, since it's a challenge read. In fact, you might get lots of requests because of the Booker challenge.

But if I don't win it, I will probably change my challenge list, since everyone hated the characters. Reading is all about the characters for me.

liz said...

I just finished the book and even though it was intense, sad and somewhat repetitive I actually found it quite moving. I like the way Enright articulates the grieving process as the search for an explanation for the brother's death when no explanation is possible. And she does write beautiful sentences.

Gentle Reader said...

jen--glad I can give the books to people who want them--I had a great time, as usual. I loved My Antonia--I'll have to re-read it, it's been a long time for me, too.

Gentle Reader said...

dewey--your name is in the hat! I'll be interested to hear what you think. You can probably tell it's all about the characters for me, too!

litlove said...

Oh I'm up for that! The controversial books are always intriguing to read. I get fascinated by why people dislike books - it's so interesting. I do rather wish I belonged to a book group, but book blogging does make up for the absence of book chat in my day!

melanie said...

Your book club sounds fun! And don't worry about me for the drawing. Been there, disliked that. :)
Onward!
I will say I liked the part where the author described how the hubs steps it up during a death. I thought that rang very true.

Eva said...

I'd love to be in the drawing! I've heard such mixed reviews about this one, I want to see it for myself. :)

Gentle Reader said...

liz--I wanted to be moved, but found the character so prickly that I didn't relate to her grieving process. But I do think some passages were beautifully crafted, and I want to read more by the author.

Gentle Reader said...

litlove--isn't it interesting to read books that people dislike? Especially when someone is annoyed by a book--that's always interesting to try and figure out. You're in the drawing!

melanie--there were several things like that that rang true--I thought Enright offered insight into some of her characters, but not across the board. I actually thought the husband was a cipher--the narrator's reaction to him was so extreme, and I really wanted to know more about him. But I agree her portrayal of him trying to deal with the death was interesting.

eva--your name's in the hat! Interested to hear if you like this book or not!

Iliana said...

Ok, I'm even more intrigued by the book now. Thank you for having a drawing and please throw my name in that hat.

Gentle Reader said...

iliana--your name is in the hat!

Stefanie said...

You haven't scared me away with your review. Please toss my name in the hat too!

Yolanda said...

I wouldn't mind being added to the hat.

Bybee said...

Your book group sounds great.
I've heard so much about this book..can you toss in my name?

Iliana said...

Oh and I forgot to tell you that I tagged you on a meme. Only if you are up for it, no pressure :)

Gentle Reader said...

stefanie--glad I didn't scare you, but I didn't think you'd scare easily :) Your name is in the hat.

yolanda--your name is in the hat!

bybee--your name is in the hat. my book group is great. Hope yours remains fabulous!

iliana--thanks, I'm up for a meme!

aloi said...

unanimous dislike? vehement? do you think it may have been triggered by the bad weather?

can you put my name in the hat - that is if you are willing to send all the way to the philippines? ;P i would LOVE to read enright.

plus, i've tagged you, if you have the time and feel like it:
http://aloireads.wordpress.com/2008/01/21/8-random-things-about-moi/

Gentle Reader said...

aloi--I definitely would have blamed the weather, but I'd already heard rumblings of discontent before the weather turned bad! Don't mind sending to the Philippines, your name is in the hat!
And thanks for the tag, I will check that out soon :)

lisamm said...

I had this one on my wishlist after it won the award but now I'm not sure I'm interested in reading it!

Gentle Reader said...

lisamm--even though I didn't like it much, I don't want to discourage you from reading it! Should I put your name in the hat for the drawing, so if you do get a copy, at least you don't have to pay for it? :)

Matt said...

My friend's bookclub will be discussing this book. I'm not a regular attendee of this group but it will be interesting to see what the readers think.

Gentle Reader said...

matt--let me know how your friend's book club discussion goes--I'm curious too!

tanabata said...

Your book group sounds like a lot of fun. Your review of the book and the group's reaction actually makes me intrigued to try it for myself. I see that you're willing to ship to the Philippines, so if I'm not too late and you don't mind shipping to Japan, please add my name to the hat too. :)

Gentle Reader said...

tanabata--no problem, your name is in the hat!