Man Booker Prize longlist 2011

The Booker longlist for this year is out, and it is full of books (and authors) I haven’t read. So I thought I’d take a look at the chosen thirteen to see which appeal…

Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape)

A short novel  about a middle-aged man discovering that the truth of a weekend in his childhood may not be quite as he remembered. I’m torn here, because I like the idea of the “mutable past” (to quote the blurb) as a theme and plot device, but the actual synopsis sounds less interesting.

Anticipation rating: ***

Sebastian Barry, On Canaan’s Side (Faber)

The life of Lily Bere, who left Dublin after World War One to live in America, and is now (in the novel’s present) in her eighties. Again, not something I’d probably pick up from the synopsis alone; I’d have to research more opinions first.

Anticipation rating: **½

Carol Birch, Jamrach’s Menagerie (Canongate)

This one was already on my radar, the tale of a Victorian boy who joins a seafaring menagerie. Simon Savidge really enjoyed the book, and it does sound a proper rip-roaring adventure story.

Anticipation rating: ****

Patrick deWitt, The Sisters Brothers (Granta)

A Western that sounds intriguing, but not at all like something I’d expect to see in contention for the Booker:twoo assassins travel to California, only to find that their intended target has an invention that could be the making of them.

Anticipation rating: ****

Esi Edugyan, Half Blood Blues (Serpent’s Tail)

A novel revolving around the arrest and ‘disappearance’ of a black jazz trumpeter in pre-World War Two Berlin — not an aspect of history with which I’m familiar, so this could be interesting.

Anticipation rating: ***½

Yvvette Edwards, A Cupboard Full of Coats (Oneworld)

Over the course of a weekend, secrets are revealed concerning the killing of the protagonist’s mother. I think I’d want to see other opinions before I decided whether to read this one.

Anticipation rating: ***

Alan Hollinghurst, The Stranger’s Child (Picador)

This is title I was most certain of seeing on the longlist (owing purely to the reputation of its author). I’ve heard great things about The Stranger’s Child (a journey through the 20th century with a particular poem at its heart), though the synopsisi alone wouldn’t cause me to read it.

Anticipation rating: ***

Stephen Kelman, Pigeon English (Bloomsbury)

Rather like Emma Donoghue’s Room last year, Pigeon English seems to have been on some high-profile lists — the Waterstone’s 11, The Culture Show‘s New Novelists — and now here it is on another. When I read an extract earlier in the year, I was undecided about the book, and that opinion has not changed.

Anticipation rating: ***½

Patrick McGuinness, The Last Hundred Days (Seren)

A novel set in Bucharest at the end of Caeucescu’s regime. As with the Edugyan, I’m not familiar with the background, which is what catches my interest.

Anticipation rating: ***½

A.D. Miller, Snowdrops (Atlantic)

A crime story set in contemporary Moscow. Sounds good for the portrait of its setting as well as the plot.

Anticipation rating: ***½

Alison Pick, Far to Go (Headline)

The tale of a Jewish family fleeing Czechoslovakia after the Nazi invasion.Another one that I’d want to read about further before it went on the to-read list.

Anticipation rating: ***

Jane Rogers, The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Sandstone)

The Booker has a reputation for overlooking works of science fiction, but here’s one (admittedly not published within the genre, but still). I’d already intended to read this near-future dystopia; perhaps its being longlisted will spur me on to actually do so.

Anticipation rating: ****

D.J. Taylor, Derby Day (Chatto & Windus)

A Victorian-set mystery with as the title suggests) the Epsom Derby as its backdrop. Once again, I’m inclined to reserve judgement about reading it until I’ve heard more.

Anticipation rating: ***

===

So, of that baker’s dozen, I’m most interested in reading the Birch, deWitt, and Rogers; and I think the Edugyan would be my first choice out of the rest. What strikes me most about the list as a whole is how many of the books — at least six, and I think seven — are from independent publishers, which is great to see. The shortlist will be announced in September; for now, though, congratulations to all authors and publishers on the longlist.

3 Comments

  1. A very interesting choice! I’m sure these choices threw off a LOT of speculators. I know I was especially surprised!

  2. David Hebblethwaite

    26th July 2011 at 11:29 pm

    I hadn’t even heard of half of these, and some of those I did know are pretty obscure; it would surprise me if people weren’t surprised by some of the selections.

  3. For the first time in four years, I don’t really care about the longlist. Normally, I’d try and get my hands on a few of the books and read them. This year, I’m looking from the outside; hopefully picking up some of the books that sound good (based on the reviews), but that’s it. It’s such a strange feeling….

    Happy Booker reading!!

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