Always a lovely sociable event, The Women's Prize. This year, there seemed to be no clear favourite. The chat was all about whether Hilary Mantel should or could win another prize, and the relative merits of the books that everyone had read - or not read. I'd be pretty representative of most people present - having read two or three of the books and not the rest.
Pity the judges. How can you compare Bring up the Bodies with Zadie Smith's novel about contemporary London? Of course we all know the books that we love, but some take us outside our comfort zone and beyond, so are not so easily digested. One of the criteria for inclusion in the Women's Prize is accessibility, though. What's quite clear is that the prize is quite a maverick. Who knows what will win? I've recommended The Song of Achilles (last year's winner) to no end of people who would never have embarked on a book based on Greek mythology otherwise (me neither).
Taste is such an odd concept to understand. Because I like a book does that mean it's good? Not necessarily. Because a novel pushes the boundaries of what's understood by fiction, does that mean it's any good? Not at all. Because a novel is conventional, does that make it unworthy? Definitely not. Oddly enough, I've got somewhat clearer vision when it comes to the theatre. I went to see Chimerica at the Almeida last night, a play about, among many things, the West's relationship with China. Funny, accessible, unusual, embracing the latest technology but also highly dramatic, great characters, witty dialogue, rapid change of pace and mood.... in other words, all the components of traditional drama. And memorable and delightful and moving and thought-provoking.
Not much to ask, this criteria for greatness.