One book which has sparked a lot of debate amongst the Brompton Library Reading Group was ‘Snowdrops’ by A D Miller.
This was shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2011 and tells the story of a young lawyer living in Moscow who meets and falls in love with a Russian beauty and ends up being more embroiled in Russian life and a scheme which sadly shows the bitter side of life there.
Everyone in the Reading Group felt that the book was really well written and that the heady lifestyle descibed was totally convincing. However, the main character was in short a bit of an idiot with whom a) you really disputed his actions and b) was too timorous to make any decisions, weak-mindedly following people who he knew were not good for him.
It brought to mind a recent theme that as a Reading Group we are finding in modern adult fiction: the weak male character. In The Sense of an Ending, the main chap (Tony) is so unremarkable that he makes the other characters around him seem mesmeric. How can this dullard of a man be so emblematic of cataclysm itself? In Half Blood Blues the main ‘voice’ is Chip: a man who is shone out of countenance by a member of his band and yet as an all-round good guy makes such disturbing decisions.
You could argue that this is a weakness of the author – that character development is dodgy at best and how can these timorous men hold swathe over the readers? However, we think this deliberate ploy to make the main guy really inoffensive and meek is an innovation; it makes the other characters shine out strongly and provokes the audience into loving to hate these men.
So it may not be coincidental that all 3 of these books described were shortlisted for the Booker last year – the authors have created men which make the reader the judge of who they are and the dark, empty expanses of their lives.
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