Tomorrow the Bailey’s judges will pronounce the 2017 winner. I find myself torn between two novels with a third towing behind. The other ones are, in my humble opinion, not in the same league.
I do not think Stay With Me will be tomorrow’s winner, I would not mind however. I really appreciated the novel about a couple torn apart between the need to produce offspring whereas their country hovers between tradition and modern times. Despite my appreciation I do feel that both Do Not Say We Have Nothing and The Sport of Kings are more likely winners.
I fell for Do Not Say We Have Nothing completely. I loved the way Thien handled her topic, I especially appreciated the fact that in her epic novel there are no winners. She asks us to consider Chinese past from all sides and to try and understand all sides. Thien does not judge, she merely shows that there are no easy truths, that is easier to judge as an outsider than as one involved directly in the events taking place.
The Sports of Kings is a different matter. Cleverly written, from time to time almost exploding into words resembling epic poetry, giving a unique voice to the three main characters. C.E. Morgan does ask us to judge. He makes it very clear that racism and discrimination are wrong. The events he describes leave no room for any doubt on this topic. I did not find The Sports of Kings an easy write, it is one of those novels I feel I should reread from time in order to fully understand all that is written down.
For me the big difference between the two novels is the way they touched me. Thien touched me emotionally, I started to feel understanding for the difficult position many Chinese were put in during the cultural revolution. I almost wept when some of the main characters became the victims of a ruthless state. Morgan’s novel felt more like an intellectual feat. Though I felt moved when things went very wrong for the main characters, my emotion was superficial. I was mostly swept away by the daring style of writing defying any attempt to categorize The Sport of Kings.
Not being able to chose myself I find it hard to predict tomorrow’s outcome. Suffice it to know that I will be pleased when either one of my favourites is pronounced the winner, I will be equally miffed if the jury in its wisdom decided to go the completely other way. Let’s hope they will chose wisely.