Ok, I’ll admit it. When I see this book’s title, I think of “Magic: The Gathering.” I can’t help it. I’ve been surrounded by nerds for most of my life. My apologies to Ms. Enright.
So, anyway, this book won the Man Booker Prize, also won by Cloud Atlas, which (as those of you playing along at home well know) is one of my favorite books ever. Other books that have won the prize that I’ve read: The Line of Beauty (can I just put in as an aside that this is the single gayest book in the history of gay? In a good way. And a very gay way.), The Life of Pi, and The God of Small Things. Furthermore, I would like to point out that while not all of these books are on my all-time favorite list, I thoroughly enjoyed them all and would give none of them less than three-out-of-five possible stars (or cupcakes. I like cupcakes.). This is more than I can say for most prizes. I’ve been burned by prizes, since the debacle with my mother giving me Three Junes (which she had not read; I am thoroughly against giving anyone a book that you yourself have not vetted first) because it won the National Book Award. Boy, she’ll never be able to live THAT down.
The Man Booker prize does exclude American writers, but I don’t know if that’s really a drawback. Living in the US, anytime an American writer drops a turd, they get a special shelf at Borders. It’s nice to have a little light shone on English language writers who are writing elsewhere in the world. Of course, it would also be cool to get more exposure to books translated from non-English-speaking (or writing as the case may be) writers ‘cos man, there’s a lot of THEM, too.
Anyhoodle. It’s a good book and I think I can safely come out as Pro The Man Booker Prize. I shall have to read some more books from past winners.
On to the actual book: this book is beautifully written. Enright’s prose is nothing short of exquisite.
That said, it doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s just a steady plateau. I was hoping in the beginning that it was all building up to something, but no. There’s really no build up. It’s just a straight line. No peaks. That’s not really a bad thing, I was just hoping for more.
The other thing I’d like to point out is how thoroughly Irish this book is. Large, unhappy family. Childhood trauma. Death. A wake. It’s like every stereotype about every Irish novel ever. It’s like James Joyce mixed with Frank McCourt rolled up in In America (which, ok, is a movie, not a book). I don’t mind immersing myself in Irish culture, but I feel a little icky that I just read a long confirmation of every bias I may have had about Ireland. Are there any happy Irish novels out there? Maybe not about being at someone’s wake? Anyone? Bueller?