Tag: Man Booker Prize

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.

Booker genre

This hasn’t passed without comment, but I wanted to add my own thoughts. In a Guardian article on the Man Booker longlist, Mark Brown notes the lack of genre fiction, and reports the comments of Andrew Motion, chair of the judges: “Motion said they had not consciously set out to exclude genre but stressed that the Man Booker prize was an award for literary fiction and there were plenty of prizes for crime and sci-fi.”

I’d agree with Niall Harrison that this comment doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. I’d agree with Cheryl Morgan that it paints ‘literary fiction’ as just another genre. Most of all, though, I think it needlessly cuts people off from good and interesting fiction.

The view expressed by Motion just doesn’t reflect what I see when I look at the fiction being written today. I see literature of quality in all categories of fiction (that’s what I think ‘literary’ should mean). And the boundaries are blurred (I’ll focus here on fantastic fiction, as it’s what I know best): even on the Booker longlist, there are at least four books that seem to be to have been written to some degree with a fantastical sensibility (Donoghue, McCarthy, Mitchell, and Murray).

Look at the Edge Hill Prize for short fiction, which happily reaches across the spectrum – and which, for the past two years, has been awarded to collections with fantastical stories. The Booker is impoverishing itself by not taking a similarly inclusive approach – and, as a result, people are missing a chance to hear about books that may well be of interest to them.

Man Booker longlist 2010

The longlist of the 2010 Man Booker Prize was announced earlier today. I was curious to see what would be on there, and how it would map against what I’d read. Without further ado, the thirteen nominated novels are:

Peter Carey, Parrot and Oliver in America

Emma Donoghue, Room

Helen Dunmore, The Betrayal

Damon Galgut, In a Strange Room

Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question

Andrea Levy, The Long Song

Tom McCarthy, C

David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

Lisa Moore, February

Paul Murray, Skippy Dies

Rose Tremain, Trespass

Christos Tsiolkas, The Slap

Alan Warner, The Stars in the Bright Sky

And the total number of those books which I’ve read is… one. But it is one of the best books I’ve read all year (indeed, it’s my favourite from all those I’ve read which were eligible) – so I’m enormously pleased to see Skippy Dies on the longlist.

Half of the remaining titles are, at first glance, of interest to me. I’ve already got C and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet lined up to read over the next couple of weeks, and Room has also been on my radar. Beyond those, In a Strange Room sounds interesting; I’m intrigued by the reaction I’ve read to The Slap; and I enjoyed Rose Tremain’s previous novel, so I may well give Trespass a whirl.

The other six books are largely unknown to me (I think The Long Song is the only one of which I’d heard). Any thoughts on those, or on the list as a whole?

(NB. Any links in the list above are to my reviews of the books.)

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