Many of you may have followed the recent competition organized by novelist, literary critic and Waugh fan Philip Hensher. This was conducted on Twitter which is linked on the right side of the Society’s home screen. In case you missed it, the results of the final round were announced this weekend. The way it worked was to organize the leading books into four groups from which the finalists would be chosen:
Group 1: Decline and Fall, Black Mischief, Put Out More Flags and Men at Arms
Group 2: Vile Bodies, Ninety-Two Days, Brideshead Revisited and Officers and Gentlemen
Group 3: Labels, A Handful of Dust, The Loved One, and The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold
Group 4: Remote People, Scoop, Helena, and Unconditional Surrender
Just what a book needed to qualify for the group round or why Sword of Honour was separated into three entries rather than participating as a single volume at its full strength was never fully explained except that each book in the group was “from a different period”. It may have been related to the difficulty of assigning Robbery Under Law, Ronald Knox, Edmund Campion and A Tourist in Africa to a “period” (not to mention Collected Short Stories) and the general recognition that none of them was a serious contender.
The participants in the final round were, in descending order: Brideshead Revisited (39.3%), Handful of Dust (22.1%), Decline and Fall (21.5%), and Scoop (17.2%). This looks more like a semi-final than a final round, but it does look doubtful that Handful could have prevailed over Brideshead given their point spread. There were a total of 163 votes.