Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Canada Reads 2013- Predicting the Winner...

Since Canada Reads first began, I've tried on a few occasions to predict the winner. Once, just once, did I  get it right with Terry Fallis' The Best Laid Plans a couple of years back. So, I have a bad track record, but it won't stop me from trying my hand at it again. If I get it wrong again, I may just have to buy me an octopus.

Actually, this is one of the few years that I'll predict that the book I want to win will actually win. Here's what I think'll happen.

1st. Two Solitudes will be the first to go. Not that anyone will say it's tedious and boring (though at least 2 people on that panel will be thinking it). I wrote my review last week and most of my commentators agreed with my less than thrilled response. However, we do need to keep in mind that it made it into the top 5 picks for Quebec based on public votes, so it does have its share of fans, besides panelist Jay Baruchel. I think the public reason they'll give for getting rid of it first is the safety of doing so. Given Hugh MacLennan's status as a literary Canadian icon and that Two Solitudes won a Governor General award back in the day, the case will be made that it's already had its accolades and it's time to share the wealth. Call this the socialist vote if you like. In any case, it's why Margaret Atwood, Mordecai Richler, and Douglas Coupland have not been successful contenders.

2. Indian Horse will be next. This will be partly strategic. I think it has the most public support to win and that'll be the reason the other panelists will want to get rid of it early.

3. Here's where I lose my confidence in my prediction. I think David Bergen's The Age of Hope will go next. On the one hand, I think strategically Trent McLellan (representing February) and Charlotte Gray (representing Away) will want it to stick around. It's my 2nd favourite of this year's contenders, but I think it's perceived as the weakest. Again, like Two Solitudes, it should be noted that it made it to the top five of the Prairies and the North picks by public vote. If I'm wrong here, it'll be Away on the chopping block. But here's the first time the panelist will really matter. A lot of people are saying that Ron MacLean will be a strong advocate, basing it on being able to hold his own against Don Cherry all these years. I'm not so sure. Maybe he's a great debater, but if we're being honest he plays the straight man to Don Cherry. I don't think we can tell how he'll do. As for Charlotte Gray, she somehow managed to convince HarperCollins to publish a wholly overdone and unnecessary book about the Klondike gold rush, so I think she's got some serious debate skills.

4. Next Jane Urquhart's Away will... go away. It's the most unique of the 5 picks and deserves some recognition for that, but keep in mind that that'll also be its downfall. The other four panelist chose books more steeped in reality, so clearly that's the majority preference on the panel.

5. February. It'll be praised for it's beautiful writing and astute observations. (Just as I did.) But McLellan will need to have something prepared to defend against Charlotte Gray who'll undoubtably go after the character of Helen's son John, whose story is somewhat weak and unnecessary. Fortunately for McLellan, any other of the common beefs reviewers seem to have against February can also be said about the other contenders.

What do you think? Who do you think will win? And who would you like to win?

Tune in to the show on starting next Monday on CBC radio.


gypsysmom said...

I think you're right about Two Solitudes going first. I'm not sure about the order for the next two but I think they will be Age of Hope and Away. I think February and Indian Horse will battle it out at the end and I'm hoping Indian Horse will win. Although I could manage to be somewhat happy if February won. On the other hand, my book club has a pretty good record for picking the winner and this year we are reading Away so maybe it will win.

John Mutford said...

Gypsysmom: Well, I called the winner but was certainly off on the rest. Oddly, I thought I didn't feel strongly about the books, just that February was my favourite, Two Solitudes my least, and that I wouldn't feel strongly no matter what won (even Two Solitudes), but as the week went on, perhaps owing to the panelists, I was getting more and more opinionated on the books.

Buried In Print said...

I really enjoyed this year's debates, and was pleased in the outcome, although it was the first year (that I can recall) in which I really wouldn't have minded any of the books winning. I think Helen's son's story was interesting because of the idea of how he had experienced the loss of his own father at such a young age and how that fit with his own decision about whether to be a father or not. But I did wish there was more of a presence for her daughters as well.