I was reading the paper yesterday and noticed that of the five books nominated for the Christina Stead prize (worth $40k!), I had read three of them fairly recently. Out of those three, I loved one and was a bit disappointed with the other two.
I really liked 'The Spare Room' by Helen Garner and read it in about a day after receiving it as a gift. I just loved the way she wrote. It the story of a woman who has an old friend come to stay with her for three weeks. But the friend is dying of cancer and has come to stay while she tries an alternative cancer treatment. It is terribly sad and so lacking in any hope. As a Christian I'm so accustomed to speaking about death and the aftermath with hope. And it was the lack of hope and the desperate attempts by the woman's friend to cling onto life that intrigued me.
The other two books nominated for the prize were 'Breath' by Tim Winton and 'The Lieutenant' by Kate Grenville. I had been looking forward to both of these books being a fan of the authors. But they were both disappointing. I sometimes feel that when writers get 'successful' they just churn out the next book. That's what it felt like with these two. When you're onto a good thing stick to it (especially Grenville's book - so much like 'The Secret River' - when you've done all that research may as well get another book out of it). I suspect that Winton's book (all about teenage boys surfing) may not really have been meant for me!
Last week I read 'Back When We Were Grown-ups' by Anne Tyler. I really like Anne Tyler. Lovely, interesting, funny characters. Often about middle-age women having a mid-life crisis and looking back at their lives. Not sure what that says about me!