Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tournament of Books: The Signature of All Things v. The Dinner

I'm playing along with the Tournament of Books

Today's book match:

The Signature of All Things v. The Dinner

I wasn't going to read the Elizabeth Gilbert because I hated Eat, Pray, Love.  I got an audiobook in the mail for review and then it ended up on the Tournament of Books list, so I gave in and listened to all eighteen hours of the thing.  While absolutely nothing like Eat, Pray, Love, I ended up feeling like I'd spent too much time with it and felt it went a weird direction.  The best part of the story probably didn't need to be in the novel at all - the adventure story of the main character's father growing from poor to wealthy.

With The Dinner, I was probably misled because I read it after finding it on a list of books recommended if you enjoyed Gone Girl.  For me, the parts I liked of Gone Girl were nowhere to be found.  The only similarity were unlikeable characters, but who wants to spend an entire book with those?  There is a central mysterious event, which the author only maintains the suspense over what happened until halfway through, and then you know and the rest of it rehashes said event through various characters' perspective.  By then I was so over with it, I ended up feeling like I'd spent too much time with it.

So who gets to win?  Elizabeth Gilbert looks at botany and feminism and trade and spiritualism and relationships and travels all over the place.  Herman Koch looks at guilt and privilege and stays in one room during one meal.  I suppose I should vote for the book that was better than I expected, rather than letting me down from a preconceived notion.  For that, I give this round to: The Signature of All Things.

ETA: Roger D. Hodge picks a winner at the Tournament of Books site.

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