March 11, 2010
Canada Reads 2010: Day Four
I admit I didn’t see today’s elimination coming. I’m not thrilled about it – the book was going to go eventually, but now there’s no “easy off” vote for later in the eliminations.
In fact, it seems to me that today’s vote, in any case, is completely clear cut. Unless something magical happens it will almost certainly be death for Nikolski. Rolly & Michel will vote for Good to a Fault, while Samantha, Simi and Perdita will take out Nikolski. I don’t see who would deviate from that pattern right now, unless Perdita was feeling vengeful enough to lob another bomb at Jade Peony. Alas, Nikolski, you deserved better.
Today’s debates started to get a little more interesting, but I notice the questions tend towards terms like “resonate” and “relate to”. The name of the game this year seems to be finding the book which is the cuddliest, which does not bode well for a book which is experimental, edgy or technically masterful (or in this year’s case, experimental, quirky or technically competent). Perdita’s statement that she “doesn’t want to have to think” when she’s reading a novel was possibly the most horrifying thing I’ve ever heard on this show, but may in retrospect serve to explain why a book like Good to a Fault now seems to have a decent chance at winning.
I didn’t find the moralizing in Good to a Fault challenging or insightful at all. Clara, ultimately, took on three children who had nowhere else to go, something I think most women would do if they had the means. And Clara has the means – she is not, in any real way, put out by taking on these kids. She didn’t have to sacrifice anything and she was not made to suffer for her actions; it was, really, easy for her to do. Ma Pell was perhaps the only thorn in her side but painting her as an anti-social hermit effectively took her out from underfoot. Clayton, the character I thought was going to be the actual challenge for Clara to overcome, conveniently exits the scene before it begins. Darwin looks like a promising challenge for the half-page we think he’s a drunk, but once that case of mistaken identity is cleared up he mainly serves to remove the last adult challenge Clara might have had to contend with: Lorraine.
So we are left with a rich woman taking on three gifted and mysteriously well-behaved children at no particular cost to herself. We have a brief moment where she “loses” the children to Lorraine’s recovery; but no worries, her husband most likely abandons her in the end and this means, clearly, that Clara will be able to step in and support the single mother. Lorraine lobs some unfounded criticism at Clara about something to do with class or self-righteousness, but ultimately it doesn’t feel true because it’s hard to see anything classist about housing three children who have nowhere else to go.
Alright, so that’s what I think, but then, I am thinking and not just feeling. Oh – and on that note, Simi’s claim that it isn’t the church that supports Clara when she’s down was mind-boggling. Of course it was. It was Paul, mainly. You know, the preacher, Paul, from the church.
I really wish I’d liked one of this year’s books a little more because I feel that these updates are maybe a little on the negative side. I’m still putting my money on Jade Peony thought it isn’t out of any great love for the book: I just disliked it the least. It feels safe and appropriate, two things I don’t generally advocate rewarding. So I feel a little dirty there. Oh well – maybe tomorrow will bring great surprises, hey? Here’s hoping!