Well- I’ve finished reading the shortlist again, this time finishing on Miles Franklin Eve.
I try to read the shortlist every year, but have mixed feelings about doing so each time. I want to be able to nod sagely when my selection gets up, or to snort with derision if it doesn’t. I want to be part of the conversation that surrounds the announcement, and I want to be able to say “I’ve read that!”. It means that I read a concentrated selection of recent Australian fiction each year, and that I keep up to date with the authors and works that are deemed to be the “best” writing of that year.
But it’s always a rush at the end and I find myself reading a work not just on its own merits but with a comparative eye on the other contenders as well. I wonder if it’s a fair way to read a book. I feel a bit resentful that I’ve been sucked into the marketing hype that surrounds it all- even though it’s entirely self-inflicted.
So, ambivalences and misgivings notwithstanding, who am I going for? Jasper Jones and Butterfly are outranked here: Truth I thought was too restricted by its genre. The Book of Emmett is a worthy shortlister and emotionally challenging, but I was troubled by the limited narrative sweep of the book and the author’s difficulty in pushing the story along. The Bath Fugues was brilliant, virtuosic writing but it left me emotionally cold. For deceptively simple, clean writing and a complex human story, I’m going for Lovesong. There- my selection.