With just two more short-listed contenders still to read, it feels like this has to be the one. But I've made that mistake before. Mind you, if there's a better contender, then I really do have a treat in store.
With similarities to Marlon James' entry, this is another big book with its story being told by a number of voices. But this one works, whereas I found the former didn't. This story is told by only three of the central characters, rather than the half dozen or so in the former. There is no overlapping and the majority of the book is told in a straightforward timeline, with only one backstory being slowly uncovered in flashback. Both books deal with tough subjects - the former with murder, drugs and violence - and the latter with child abuse and self-harm. But whilst the former seemed to focus on the tales of drug taking and violence with a degree of relish, the latter has a much gentler touch. Jude's childhood suffering is related simply and sparingly. The majority of the book tells the story of his adult relationships where the focus is on friendship, love, kindness and acceptance. But can the extent of the child's suffering be healed by loving adult relationships?
I've seen a synopsis of this book describing it as the tale of four friends who meet in College and who remain close for the remainder of their lives. But, in truth, its Jude's story - the tale of his friendship with Malcolm, Willem and JB. The tale of his finding friendship and a family with Harold and Julia. The tale of Andy, his doctor and friend, who cares for him and knows the dark secrets written large upon his damaged body. The tale of Richard who provides him with a home, where he feels safe until the unthinkable happens. The tale of Jude and Willem - a love story of great pathos. For this is an emotional and moving tale, sad but beautiful, bringing me to tears more than once. Please don't allow the thought of sadness to put you off reading it, for there are moments of great joy too. The best book I've read for a long while.
Clearly I loved this one, but how did you feel about it? Did the harrowing early childhood and the later sadness mean you were unable to enjoy the joy? Did you find it a great book regardless?