Well it had to happen and finally it has so I'm going to write this and then do a runner from the county for the day.
I think I may have to hold my hands up and admit to my first Booker refusal of the 2007 season, four faults and no plans to go back and try to jump this fence again unless it makes the shortlist.Susan Hill has big sponduliks resting on this one to win so make what you will of all that. I have a 100% unbroken record stretching back several years of spotting the winner in one of two ways
- the book I like the least of any I read (The Sea - John Banville)
- the last remaining book that I haven't had time to read (The Inheritance of Loss- Kiran Desai)
I have flogged and struggled and strained pitifully with every sinew to like this book, to tune into it, to bond with it and I'm floundering so much I'm going to stop.
There will therefore be no decent review of Winnie and Wolf by A.N.Wilson at this stage of the bookerthon.
On that basis I really should draw a line here but this is the Booker so I will explain why I have failed because it's mea culpa maxima. (maximus? Perhaps my Latin teacher is looking on and tsk-ing?)
If I had loved opera I might have had a route into enjoying this book because the eighty or so pages I have read thus far are chock-full of operatic facts and historical detail about Mr and Mrs Wagner, Siegfried's penchant for little boys, Bayreuth and all things Wotan plus Mrs Wagner's love for Mr Hitler. There are names dropped all over the place which will have all the operatic divas salivating but they are wasted on the likes of me.
So much so that I was beginning to wonder whether I was reading fiction or non-fiction.
But this is a novel after all, it says so on the cover and I just couldn't touch base with the story, it completely eluded me, concealed in this mass of operaticalia.When it's not your subject research can tend to rest on the book like a ton of bricks and though I adore a bit of well-researched fiction, unless it sits lightly on the whole I start to feel as if I'm sitting in a lecture.
Hands up, I would never go to a lecture on opera so this book was going to have to work overtime.
With apologies to all the zillions of opera lovers out there but I am the philistine who hates it.Opera grates in a part of my brain that I can't quite locate.Clearly I am lacking the Operatic Appreciation Lobe, the singing does not wash over me in a flood of emotion reducing me to tears.
Well actually it does reduce me to tears because to my ignorant ear it sounds like caterwauling and if it comes on the radio I switch it off fast, it drives me nuts.That's how bad it is...oh heck I can see the garments being rendered to shreds out there.
I'll quickly change the subject.
Actually nor would I go to a lecture on Hitler.
I must admit I am not overly interested in the life and flatulence of Hitler and by all accounts he really was full of hot air, manifesting itself not only as lengthy speeches but also as a voluminous wind problem.
A.N.Wilson suggests that Hitler could apparently trumpet with enough force to start an avalanche, the motto here being surely never go off piste with the Fuhrer?
Winifred Wagner does exactly this and though I'm interested, I'm not interested enough.
If Susan says there's a fine novel in here then sure as eggs are eggs there is, but suddenly this whole book made me feel depressed and miserable, not an ounce of enjoyment.
That said, I have read plenty of other fiction on subjects I might know little about or even have little interest in but I emerge feeling as if whole new reading trails have opened up before me.Many books have captured my imagination and run with it, not so Winnie and Wolf yet.
If it makes the shortlist I might throw myself at it again.
So with humble apologies, other than wondering whether Hitler was eating a touch too much fibre or swallowing a great deal of air as he spoke and whether Winifred had recourse to a mask (A.N.Wilson supplies sufficient detail that would make one hope so), there is nothing I really want to follow through on this one.