Dear Chris, Tony, and Jim--
I've been following your exchange with delight because I read the book a couple of months ago, when it came out in England, and now find that I have agreed at times with most everything all of you have said. How's that for equivocation? But that's one of the points of this book, I think: that it's not supposed to be easy, that it's supposed to confound expectation and make you think hard about what is going on and what the author is trying to say.
So, I would go with Jim's argument on behalf of the reader who reads for pleasure. I liked it because (beyond a plot that kept me guessing and surprised if it did prove ultimately unsatisfying) it was haunting in its way, and because it defies easy explanation, and because I found it so nicely written.
And, for what it's worth, the judges of the Booker Prize (Britain's most prestigious literary prize, as it's called in the New York Times and will be again this year) have taken this book that so many people have found infuriating and put it on the five-book short-list, which was unveiled this morning. Winner announced Nov. 7, along with winners of various other more world-important races.