19 October 2011
The winner of the Man Booker Prize is going to be announced today (update: The sense of an ending by Julian Barnes is the winner). Usually I try to read one of the books so that I sound vaguely knowledgable and literary, but this year I have only just graduated to reading books again after a diet of the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, so I just couldn’t face dredging my way through some sort of elongated word fest that leaves me feeling depressed and rather sour.
However, this year the Man Booker’s judges chaired by Dame Stella Rimington, thriller writer and former head of MI5 declared that “We want people to buy these books and read them, not buy them and admire them.” This is almost tantamount to treason in the Man Booker realm, and things began to get rather nasty when one reviewer declared, “Dame Stella? We’d have been better off with Dame Edna.” (Read more in the Guardian)
We need to spare a thought for the judges though who had read all 100 plus books in the long list and then read the short list three times. I think the Man Booker could be introduced as an endurance sport!
All this talk of ‘readability’ bodes well for the likes of me, what have you enjoyed from the list, which ones have ‘readability’ and which ones, just as interestingly, have left you cold?
P.S. How remiss of me. When I was adding the list of titles to this blog I realised that I have read one! Snowdrops by A.D Millar. I picked it up because it looked short. I really enjoyed it.
7 October 2009
Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall has taken out the big one!
Her book revolves around Thomas Cromwell ‘the blacksmith boy who became Henry VIII’s right-hand man’:
Wolf Hall stands on its own, as a complete story – it is the end of one vital chapter in Thomas Cromwell’s life, and perhaps when we meet him again he will be slightly different. Five years are before him, his rise and rise – the destruction of Anne Boleyn, the battle for the soul of Henry’s daughter Mary, a revolt which is almost a civil war, the shaking and remaking of England…
I love her quote on the enduring fascination of the Tudors: ‘Almost all the stories you might want to tell are lurking behind the arras’.
So congratulations to Hilary, and if you’ve read Wolf Hall do chime in and tell us what you thought. I’m still patiently waiting to get my hands on a copy …
29 July 2009
And what do you reckon? Here’s the longlist.
As yet I haven’t read ANY of these, but am intrigued especially by How to paint a dead man by Sarah Hall. I interviewed her at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival in 2008 and she talked about the percolating process of this novel:
… very loosely based around the life of Giorgio Morandi, Italian still life artist, “a very weird character who painted the same series of objects over and over again his whole life. A recluse, very well respected in the field of art but lot of rumours flew around about him and also speculation about the work. He painted bottles over and over again on the table and he never answered anyone’s artistic theories about them. There is a character loosely based on him and four narratives. Art/Death/Existential matters. It’s going to be a hard sell!”
Others on my to-read list are The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt (blogged about Sue earlier this month) and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. It’s set in one of the most interesting times in English history – the reign of Henry VIII – and told largely through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell.
Another novel with a historical bent that I want to read is The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds. The description read to me like a Peter Ackroyd-esque blend of historical figures and intense lyricism – a good thing:
Man Booker longlist press release
Heavyweights clash on Booker longlist – The Guardian
After years struggling with alcohol, critical neglect and depression, great nature poet John Clare finds himself in High Beach Private Asylum. At the same time another poet, the young Alfred Tennyson, moves nearby and becomes entangled in the life and catastrophic schemes of the asylum’s owner, the peculiar, charismatic Dr Matthew Allen. This intensely lyrical novel describes his vertiginous fall, through hallucinatory episodes of insanity and dissolving identity, towards his final madness. Historically accurate, but brilliantly imagined, the closed world of High Beach and its various inmates – the doctor, his lonely daughter in love with Tennyson, the brutish staff and John Clare himself – are brought vividly to life. Rapturous yet precise, exquisitely written, rich in character and detail, this is a remarkable and deeply affecting book: a visionary novel which contains a world.
What have you read from the longlist? What might you want to? What glaring omissions are there?
15 October 2008
The White Tiger
Our intrepid blogger, ‘tewp’ who picked The White Tiger as a possible Booker winner certainly had his finger on the pulse of the Booker Judges, who have agreed with him and declared it to be this year’s winner.
If book sales were anything to go by then Linda Grant’s The Clothes on their backs would have been a sure winner with 3,074 copies sold in English bookshops compared to White Tigers that sold 2,588 copies, and Ladbrooks had Sebastian Barrys’ The Secret scripture as a 2/1 winner. Interestingly word on the ground was that the reason that Linda Grant’s book sold so well because it was considerably thinner than some of the heftier tomes that were nominated this year!
However White Tiger won in the end with the Judges saying that it “shocked and entertained” in equal measure. Perhaps Tewp should be on the judging panel next year, he obviously has a good take on what makes a great read!
30 July 2008
For those of you who follow such things the Man Booker prize longlist is out. Some of the authors are completely new to me, and the ones I have read I didn’t like – so it’s not looking good for my reading list this year. Our trusty fiction buyer has been hot on the case however, so you will be able to order any of these titles from the library network if something takes your fancy.
So here they are:
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
From A to X by John Berger
The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant
A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif
The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher
Netherland by Joseph O’Neill
The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
One title that has been getting some attention is A Case of Exploding Mangoes by first novelist Mohammed Hanif. Apparently written in a similar vein to Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, it is set in the days before the crash that killed General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, president of Pakistan from 1978 to 1988 – one of Pakistan’s enduring mysteries. Hanif uses satirical humour to build up crazy conspiracy theories, and it could be very good, or it could just be annoyingly clever, hard to tell.
If you wish to test your knowledge about past Booker prizes then have a go at this quiz. You will surely do better than me, I only scored two out of five!
22 February 2008
Hot off the Press:
The Man Booker Prize for Fiction announced today (Thursday 21 February) a one-off award – The Best of the Booker – to celebrate the prestigious literary prize’s 40th anniversary. The Best of the Booker will honour the best overall novel to have won the prize since it was first awarded on 22 April 1969.
… visit Debate and let us know who you think should make the Best of the Booker shortlist.
What are your picks? Check our list of previous winners.
The ones that stick in my memory are ones that have all been made into rather fine movies: Heat and dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the 1975 winner which later was made into a movie starring the gorgeous Greta Scacchi, the 1989/1990 double whammy of Remains of the day by Kazuo Ishiguro and Possession by A.S. Byatt, and 1992 winner The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. 2000 winner The blind assassin by Margaret Atwood is an astonishing read. But if forced to pick “the best of the Booker” I’m plumping for Possession by A.S. Byatt. It combines the scope and splendour of the best Victorian novels with modern wit. It’s big, juicy and readable. (more…)