Not everyone loves Eleanor Catton

JILL LAWLESS
Last updated 08:28 23/01/2014
eleanor catton
FAIRFAX NZ

NOT LOVED BY ALL: Kiwi novelist Eleanor Catton.

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A swipe at New Zealander Eleanor Catton's bestseller, The Luminaries, a moan about Morrissey and a bitter verdict on Donna Tartt are contenders for Britain's Hatchet Job award, honouring the year's most cutting book reviews.

Catton's Booker Prize-wining The Luminaries is one of eight finalists.

Reviewer David Sexton was unimpressed. "Catton never shows, she tells, wagging on in the most officious way. She has a particularly dismaying habit of telling us what the characteristics of every personage are, before then making them conform to them, a sure-fire way of killing any curiosity."

The finalists also include AA Gill's verdict on Autobiography by former Smiths lead singer Morrissey - "utterly devoid of insight, warmth, wisdom or likability" - and Peter Kemp's dismissal of Tartt's best-selling novel The Goldfinch – "a turkey."

The Hatchet Job award was established in 2011 by literary website The Omnivore to honour "the angriest, funniest, most trenchant" review published in a newspaper or magazine.

It has received criticism for rewarding mean-spiritedness, but organisers say the tongue-in-cheek contest has a serious purpose: to encourage reviewers to be fearless. Omnivore co-editor Anna Baddeley says the prize also "celebrates the book pages and gets people reading reviews."

Prominent books on the savage shortlist include Paul Theroux's African travelogue The Last Train to Zona Verde, which struck Hedley Twidle as "offensive and plain bizarre".

The other finalists include Lucy Ellmann's appalled review of Douglas Coupland's Worst. Person. Ever; Rachel Cook's scathing verdict on Strictly Ann, the autobiography of Ann Widdecombe; and Craig Brown's acerbic assessment of Distant Intimacy by Joseph Epstein and Frederic Raphael.

Raphael is also nominated as a reviewer, for his smack-down of John le Carre's A Delicate Truth.

The winner, to be announced on February 11, will receive a year's supply of potted shrimp from the award's sponsor, a fishmonger.

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- AP

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