The book that almost everyone enjoyed was Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. I have to say that personally this took me rather by surprise. I did enjoy it the first time round, but on re-reading I found a much greater depth than I remembered and I was really glad to have had the chance to come back to it.
The book that we had most difficulty with was Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music. Quite a number of us had read the novel when it first came out and we all found that we remembered it far more kindly than on second acquaintance we felt it merited. Because I love chamber music more than any other form of the art, I suspect that I had been seduced by the discussion of the various pieces that the Quartet are playing and hadn’t given enough attention to some seriously weak plotting and character development. It came as a nasty shock.
However, the book that split us completely was Barbara Trapido’s The Travelling Hornplayer. This was a complete marmite book: we either loved it or hated it. There were no half measures. Those, like myself, who really enjoyed it, all felt so strongly that to a reader we have gone back to the earlier books featuring the same characters. Those who hated every word are unlikely to do the same.
It isn’t often in my experience that a book divides its readership quite so drastically, but perhaps you know otherwise? Is there a book you’ve come across that has elicited a similar response? It would be useful to know before I draw up next year’s book lists. While some difference of opinion makes for lively discussion that level of disagreement can mean that there is no middle ground on which it is possible to meet.