Canada Reads 2010: Day One Thoughts « Once & Future

Once & Future

Charlotte Ashley – Book seller, collector, writer, editor, historian

March 8, 2010

Canada Reads 2010: Day One Thoughts

This will be brief, because I am a poor working mother with very little time between a 7:30pm broadcast of the debates, a toddler’s bedtime and a blog post!  This was easier, let me just say, when I was on Maternity Leave.  Oi!

I read 4 of the 5 books for these debates.  I skipped Fall On Your Knees because I read it already some 5 or 6 years ago.  At the time I put the book down and sighed to myself  “Well at least I’ll never have to read that again.”  Despite some wavering in December, that conviction stuck with me.

Now don’t get me wrong.  It pains me to admit it, but I think Fall On Your Knees is the best book of the batch this time around.  I also think it is unequivocally the least deserving of the Canada Reads 2010 title.  For me, anyway, the prize is about discovering a forgotten or hidden gem, and recommending it to people.   Fall On Your Knees needs discovering the same way I need a third armpit.  If there are five people left in this country who haven’t read it already I suggest that’s entirely intentional and I doubt those people will run out and buy it at the end of this week no matter what happens.

I didn’t love any of the books this year, but I’ll grudgingly stand up for two of the books: Jade Peony, because it was good and I think most people would enjoy and be bettered by an encounter with it even if it was a little boring; and Generation X because it’s clever and different, even if it drove me a little crazy.  I don’t think Good to a Fault or Nikolski were particularly good as novels, though both authors are obviously quite adept with words.  Sometimes – AHEMGilAdamsonAHEM – it takes more than an agile vocabulary to tell a good story.  That’s what I think.

Now the other thing about Jade Peony is I thought it could sneak a win thanks to being pretty unoffensive on all counts and being defended by a passionate and intelligent panelist.  Thought, because after listening to the debates I now wonder where this is going to go.  I thought Fall On Your Knees would be eviscerated for it’s overexposure & Tall Poppy status, and I thought Perdita Felicien’s lack of a literary background would make her a easy target.

But man, this year’s panelists are a bunch of hippies.  What love for everyone’s books!  What soft pitches!  The elephant in the room that is Fall‘s Oprah endorsement was totally unmentioned while Generation X of all things took knocks for popularity.  Everyone loved Nikolski and Jade Peony and Fall and Good to a Fault. The pitches and defenses were downright sentimental, as if none of our panelists had any literary training.  I now fear for both my adopted charges because Jade Peony was greeted with polite but unenthusiastic praise and Rolly Pemberton’s Generation X pitch sounded petulant and defensive right from the get-go.

But maybe I just don’t read poker faces very well.  Perhaps they’re giving Fall an easy ride because they’re all planning to give it the boot anyway and don’t want to be obnoxious about it.  And maybe Jade Peony will slip through to the finals by traveling the middle road!  Suffice to say I think this is still anyone’s game.  Perhaps tomorrow daggers will be drawn!

(And yes, for me, 600 words is “brief”…)

3 thoughts on “Canada Reads 2010: Day One Thoughts”

  1. melanie says:

    My thoughts about The Jade Peony are similar – I think it could win because it is the “safest” book of the lot – it’s like last year’s The Book of Negros. It was an interesting read but it didn’t stick with me.

    1. Charlotte says:

      True! I suppose if last year’s pattern is anything to go by, the “good” book will go first (Fall) followed by the book everyone wanted to like (Nikolski), then Safety Book falls out (Jade/Good?) and we’re left with The Book That Never Stood a Chance (Gen X?) and The Book We Feel Safe Awarding It To (Good/Jade?).

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