This one is remarkably easy for me to write about this time around. About 18 months ago I reviewed a book called The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes, winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize. In this review I mentioned how I was disappointed by the book but didn’t necessarily think it was bad. I have since, on further contemplation, changed my mind – it is bad. And considering the status of the award it won, I think it’s fair to say this makes it overrated as well.
I’m not going to go into much detail here, but I just can’t see why or how this book won any awards. It is filled with bizarre characters with few redeeming features, a terrible storyline with one of the worst and most ridiculous endings in the history of bad endings, and a general concept and theme too complex to possibly be explored well in a story of just 150 pages.
It plays with the idea of how we can construct our own memories in such a way that they might drift away from the truth, something I have always found interesting and have even blogged about before (Oliver Sacks, the much loved neurologist writer, has some intriguing thoughts on this). So really I should have liked this book, but instead I spent the whole time trying to figure out what was going on, what kind of direction it was heading in, if there was something I was missing from the story, and if the writing was that average on purpose (the writing wasn’t bad, I’ll admit, but it was very mediocre and didn’t sweep me off my feet). All I can think is that something about this novel must have seemed intellectually pretentious enough to win the award, and that in itself is really very sad.
It’s very rare I say this, but don’t read this book. It’s a waste of time, and there are much better stories out there that deal with these ideas in a much more entertaining, thought provoking and less ostentatious manner. Apparently winning an award doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good story.
What do you think are some of the most overrated books you’ve read? Why?