'Larry's Party' by Carol Shields on the other hand was just wonderful. Another winner of the Orange Prize and a very worthy winner. You know when you read something that you will tell other people to read. I couldn't find a photo of the actual cover that my book has, which is a pity because it shows a small baby clutching at his high chair table with a disconcerted look on his face, and it was well chosen because she describes this exact photo in the story, and you feel like it really could be a picture of Larry.
So the book is essentially his life story. I suppose many novels are 'merely' life stories, and it's how you tell it that differentiates a good story from a mediocre one. I frequently find it hard to put my finger on quite what makes good writing, it's mostly the case that you just know it when you read it. Larry is quite an ordinary chap, struggling with the ordinary things in life and trying to find some meaning. The story follows him from his early twenties through to his forties. Some things happen to him rather by chance, like the way he falls into being a florist, but at other times he carves out a path for himself of his own choosing. It is very much a story about Larry's relationships; with his parents, his wives, his son, his co-workers and his long standing friends. You watch how people come in and out of his life and how each of them changes him. Maybe the art of writing well is to make the ordinary feel remarkable. Nothing dramatic happens to him, beyond some kind of non-specific middle aged 'attack' which leaves him in hospital for some weeks, and yet his life contains all human experience, examined under the microscope of a very astute observer.