Friday, 8 March 2013

Tournament of Books-Opening Round and Pre ToB Play-In

March 4th saw the Pre ToB Play-In book decided upon. 

All 3 books were Iraq war novels (sort of). Here's a brief rundown of the books.

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers - is about two young men, Bartles and Murphy, who are serving together in Iraq between 2004 and 2005. 
Only Bartles survives and he has to go home and tell Murphy's mother that he'd broken his promise to bring him home.
The author served in Iraq in 2004. I imagine it probably helps when writing war novels, if you have had the experience of serving yourself.
Fobbit by David Abrams - is set in Baghdad’s Forward Operating Base Triumph (FOB), kind of like a behind the war office block. It has a MASH style black humour.  Again the author also served in Iraq.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain - though this book is set in the United States, it is about a group of 8 soldiers who served in Iraq and who have been bought back to be paraded around America on a 'victory tour'. The book is set on the last day of the tour at a Dallas Cowboys game in Texas. The author has no experience serving in the military as far as I'm aware.

The judge they bought in for this round was Nathan Bradley. He is an active-duty Army officer and a writer, both of which I think give him the perfect background for judging these novels.
However, I was disappointed with him. Purely because I felt he was reading each book looking for his experience of war and not judging the books for their merit. At least that's how the review came across to me. 

Having never read the books, I shouldn't really comment at all.

In the end, he picked Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk as the final book to enter the ToB.

March 7th was the Opening Round of the Tournament of Books.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich and The Fault in our Stars by John Green are the first books to be played off against each other.

The books are both narrated by teenagers and are both tearjerkers.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich is about a teenage boy, Joe, who's mum gets beaten and raped on their reservation. She is so traumatized by the event that she won't talk about who did it. Joe sets about finding out who's responsible.
The Fault in our Stars by John Green is narrated by Hazel who is 14 years old and has lung cancer, she goes to a support group and there meets Augustus who is in remission from bone cancer. 

The judge for this round is Edan Lepucki, who is an author, a staff writer and a founder and director of Writing Workshops Los Angeles.

She seemed to find My Fault in the Stars slow to get into but felt it really picked up and had some dynamic and vivid scenes. However, Edan did mention that she thought the book seemed too slick and clever in places.

As for The Round House, it had some phenomenal and some only 'ho-hum' (love that description!)prose. A lot of the scenes were boring to her and she didn't like Joe. However she did have this one positive thing to say - "But Erdrich also balances so many tones, from tragic to slapstick to nostalgic, that she captures the richness of a very specific juncture in a boy’s life."

The Round House couldn't hold her attention whereas The Fault In The Stars, for all it's faults, did keep her engaged hence making it the winner of this First Round.

From both these rounds, the only books I came away wanting to read is Fobbit, for it's humour, and maybe one day, The Fault in the Stars, if I feel like crying!

The next round will be tomorrow.

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