Category Archives: Man Booker

And The Winner of The Man Booker Prize 2016 Is…

Paul Beatty with The Sellout

51gc1hccv8l

I was lucky enough to host an event with four of the Man Booker shortlisted authors, including Paul, combining my day job and my love of books perfectly, in Liverpool’s St George’s Hall as you can see below, where Paul is reading to a rapt audience. (You will be able to see a video of the event on my Booktube channel soon, as well as a podcast on a special return of You Wrote The Book!)

15-man-booker-sgh

Having read the entire shortlist I don’t envy the judges having to make the decision because (despite me possibly being a bit underwhelmed at first – before I read them, so who on earth did I think I was) I thought the shortlist had a huge amount to offer and were actually all very different. The psychological profiling and claustrophobic clinging atmosphere  in Eileen, the huge conversations about family and Europe in Hot Milk, the use of satire smoking some serious rage in The Sellout which will have you checking your own prejudices, the sense of adventure, storytelling and gripping nature of His Bloody Project, the short stories meets novel in All That Man Is which looks at what it is to be a man throughout an entire life and the epic nature of Do Not Say We Have Nothing which looks at dark histories and culture clashes in the present. So yeah, quite a choice.

So huge congrats to Paul, and to all the shortlisted authors. Have you all read The Sellout  and if so what did you make of it? My review will be live, very, very soon – and that video and podcast too.

5 Comments

Filed under Man Booker

The Man Booker Shortlist 2016 (And A Liverpool Event)

One of the exciting things that I have been meaning to tell you about for ages, after it being a secret for quite a while, is that I am working on and hosting a very exciting event this week… as the Man Booker Shortlist is coming to Liverpool on Thursday night . When I say the shortlist I actually mean four of the shortlisted authors; Paul Beatty, Deborah Levy, Graeme Macrae Burnet and Ottessa Moshfegh, who will be popping to the stunning Liverpool library to meet some reading groups and then doing an event (hosted by me, not nervous at all) in the evening in the stunning Concert Room at St George’s Hall (if you fancy coming details are here).

Having read the shortlist I am really excited to talk about the authors books this year, which in case you have missed it (as if you have, though I have just realised I never posted anything about the shortlist which only shows what a dreadful book blogger I have been for the past few months, do forgive me) are…

booker-shortlist-final-large_transeo_i_u9apj8ruoebjoaht0k9u7hhrjvuo-zlengruma

  • The Sellout – Paul Beatty (Oneworld)
  • Hot Milk – Deborah Levy (Hamish Hamilton)
  • His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet (Contraband)
  • Eileen – Ottessa Moshfegh (Jonathan Cape)
  • All That Man Is – David Szalay (Jonathan Cape)
  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien (Granta Books)

Now I am holding fire on talking about all the books in full until after the event, though I will then dish all and predict a winner, but you can see me chatting about the shortlisted books, the first chapters of five and the whole of one, in the video below which I hope will give you a taster of what to expect if you are still debating which to read as the list is quite an eclectic one, which I like.

In the interim before I report back I just thought I would give you that quick update. If you are near Liverpool on Thursday do pop by (I know it is short-list notice, see what I did there, but I have been bonkers busy organising the event and now suddenly it is here). I would also love to hear your thought on any of the shortlisted books that you have read. It seems a while since we had a good old bookish natter about some specific books.

3 Comments

Filed under Man Booker, Random Savidgeness

Eileen – Ottessa Moshfegh

One of the (few) books that I correctly predicted would be longlisted for the Man Booker this year was Ottessa Moshfegh’s debut novel Eileen, having read it earlier in the year. It was a book that I had not yet managed to get around to reviewing. The reason? Well, Eileen is a book that is rather like its main protagonist and narrator; complex and puzzling. It is hard to pin down, a book that you really need to let settle, have a think about and then find other people to talk about it with before your final feelings on it come through, which after quite a few months (well seven, I read it in January, oops) they now have.

55d270031d00006e00145048

Penguin Press, hardback, 2015, fiction, 272 pages, kindly sent by a lovely friend from the USA (also available in here in the UK from Vintage Books)

In what we can only guess is the present day, Eileen Dunlop takes us back to the 1960’s when she was not long past the cusp between girlhood and womanhood. Back then she lived with her neglectful (to put it mildly) father and worked at the local correctional facility for men. She also hints that the time she is reflecting on was also the brief lead up to when she left her hometown, ‘X-ville’ New England, a time when it seems Eileen was frankly pretty much as sick of the town as she was herself.

And back then – this was fifty years ago – I was a prude. Just look at me. I wore heavy wool skirts that fell past my knees, thick stockings. I always buttoned my jackets and blouses as high as they could go. I wasn’t a girl who turned heads. But there was nothing really so wrong or terrible about my appearance. I was young and fine, average, I guess. But at the time I thought I was the worst – ugly, disgusting, unfit for the world. In such a state it seemed ridiculous to call attention to myself. I rarely wore jewelry, never perfume, and I didn’t paint my nails. For a while I did wear a ring with a little ruby in it. It had belonged to my mother.

The catalyst for this change soon becomes clear to the reader. After many days dragging by in the dull and nonexistent life in the prison, where she spends most of the time fantasising about what she would like to do to Randy and vice versa, the arrival of a new face stirs things up for Eileen in almost every sense. This arrival, Rebecca, is at once alluring and also to Eileen (a lot like most of the things in her life) utterly repugnant, yet she can’t help being somewhat mesmerized.

In any case, this woman was beautiful and looked vaguely familiar in the way that all beautiful people look familiar. So within thirty seconds I’d decided she must be an idiot, have a brain like a powder puff, be bereft of any depth or darkness, have no interior life whatever. Like Doris Day, this woman must live in a charmed world of fluffy pillows and golden sunshine. So of course I hated her. I’d never come face-to-face with someone so beautiful before in my life.

It is at this point that the reader starts to realise, from the growing clues in Moshfegh’s writing, that something awful this way comes. It is also the point that we start to realise that either Eileen, Rebecca, or possibly both of them, are not quite the sort of girls that they like everyone to think they are. By this point I was of course hooked, especially as I began to realise that, whether Eileen was villain or victim in what was to come, she was a completely unreliable narrator and probably not intentionally. Eileen it seems is playing a slight cat and mouse game as she whispers in your ear with regards to all things truthful. And who doesn’t love that, especially when you have the dreadful foreboding that something truly awful, or several things, is/are going to happen as you read on?

A grown woman is like a coyote – she can get by on very little. Men are more like house cats. Leave them alone for too long and they’ll die of sadness. Over the years I’ve grown to love men for this weakness. I’ve tried to respect them as people, full of feelings, fluctuating and beautiful from day to day. I have listened, soothed, wiped the tears away. But as a young woman in X-ville, I had no idea that other people – men or women – felt things as deeply as I did. I had no compassion for anyone unless his suffering allowed me to indulge in my own. My development was very stunted in this regard.

What that something is I can’t say because I don’t want it to spoil anything for you. I can say that it made my jaw drop because it came completely out of nowhere. In hindsight there were some intricate signs from Moshfegh but at the time it properly knocked my reading senses for six. Which was great, however… Yes, there is a however coming here. It was after this revelation that the whole premise of Eileen as a novel and as a character, became slightly unhinged for me (you can choose if you would like to take that as a pun or not). Let me explain why.

Moshfegh is, without a doubt, a very, very good writer. She likes to play with words and expectations as much as she likes to play with her readers. Great examples of that are the moment she hints she wanted to work in a prison because she was hoping for sexy danger, or the initial focus point for all Eileen’s fantasising being called Randy. There’s lots of these wonderful moments. Moshfegh’s writing is at its most compelling and chilling when she delicately and intricately weaves the most finely spun (by that I mean thinnest, but it is also when she is literally at her finest) of spiders webs around her readers head. This deftness is some of her most powerful writing. It is also when she is at her darkest be it in setting, character or mood which makes the uneasiness it’s most concentrated. There are some sections like below, where a few subtle lines say so more than meets the eye, particularly in the last line.

My daydreams of fingers and tongues and secret rendezvous in the back hallways of Moorehead kept my heart beating, or else I think I would have dropped dead of boredom. Thus, I lived in perpetual fantasy. And like all intelligent young women, I hid my shameful perversions under a façade of prudishness. Of course I did. It’s easy to tell the dirtiest minds – look for the cleanest fingernails.

However after the revelations of what happens we seem to go from carefully crafted psychological thriller to balls out freewheeling plot wise and I think this lost me to a degree. Not enough to ruin the book for me or stop me reading or throw it across the room, just enough to make me pause and have the dark gothic spell of Moshfegh’s prose broken for me slightly. And boy was it a wickedly enchanting spell up until that point. I kept thinking of HIghsmith’s Deep Water as I read on.

Bar that slight blip, I think Eileen is a pretty brilliant debut novel. I love dark, gritty, slightly uncomfortable reads and this certainly ticks all of those boxes. It is also an utterly fascinating character portrait looking at how the way we are brought up and treated affects us, as well as what we expect from women and how society views they should behave. I have been watching BBC Three’s brilliant Fleabag recently, which might seem like a random aside, where we also have a lead character who is dark, frank, tragic, slightly sinister and not quite right, yet we can’t quite get enough of her. I will be very excited to see what Moshfegh follows this up with.

Note. A reader of the blog has asked I add a trigger warning. There are some themes of abuse and violence some may find deeply disturbing. Apologies I didn’t think of that.

3 Comments

Filed under Man Booker, Ottessa Moshfegh, Penguin Books, Review, Vintage Books

The Man Booker Prize 2016 Longlist & My Initial Thoughts

So the Man Booker Prize 2016 longlist has been announced and once again I have been completely thwarted in my attempts to guess it. I managed to guess a whopping three books on the long list, one of which, Eileen, I had actually read (yet haven’t reviewed but will be soon). I have also read another, My Name is Lucy Barton which I didn’t predict would make the longlist – not because I didn’t like it (I have reviewed it here) there were just lots of other books calling to me when I made my very last minute guessing attempt on camera, ha.  So before I waffle on more, here is the list…

longlist

  • The Sellout – Paul Beatty (Oneworld)
  • The Schooldays of Jesus – J.M. Coetzee (Harvill Secker)
  • Serious Sweet – A.L. Kennedy (Jonathan Cape)
  • Hot Milk – Deborah Levy (Hamish Hamilton)
  • His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet (Contraband)
  • The North Water – Ian McGuire (Scribner UK)
  • Hystopia – David Means (Faber & Faber)
  • The Many – Wyl Menmuir (Salt)
  • Eileen – Ottessa Moshfegh (Jonathan Cape)
  • Work Like Any Other – Virginia Reeves (Scribner UK)
  • My Name Is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout (Viking)
  • All That Man Is – David Szalay (Jonathan Cape)
  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien (Granta Books)

In case you are wondering why these are all in different formats; the books in bold I have read, the books in italics I have on my shelves. The Many is a book I was actually contemplating reading last week for Booktubeathon because it is slight and sounds spooky, it may well be the one I turn to next. Hot Milk I have been meaning to read for ages, as I have The Sellout which I was kindly sent by a lovely friend in America ages ago. Do Not Say We Have Nothing only recently arrived and The North Water has remained on my shelves despite being set on boats since reading Shirley Barrett’s whaling novel, Rush Oh!, earlier in the year (again I haven’t reviewed it yet) and loved it.

The others I know very little about but two are calling to me instantly, His Bloody Project because it is a thriller and Work Like Any Other which sounds intriguing with its tale of electricity stealing and manslaughter. Szalay and Means I need to look into more, Coetzee I have read and enjoyed, Kennedy I still haven’t tried and feel I should.

Am I going to read the longlist? Yes and no. I think I am going to see what takes my fancy between now and the shortlist announcement in September (though I have a feeling The Many may get whisked off the shelves this weekend) and see what happens and what the shortlist looks like later in the year.  It’s an interesting list of books though that is for sure. What are your thoughts? Which of the books have you read and what did you make of them?

14 Comments

Filed under Man Booker

Guessing the Man Booker 2016 Longlist

So I said I would hold off sharing video’s for a while, however I thought the easiest way for me to do my Man Booker Prize longlist predictions this year was in that form, so I have. Here it is…

We only have a few hours to go until it is announced, when you will see that none of my guesses were correct and that is exactly why the team haven’t phoned begging me to judge it yet, hahaha. I will share more info, on both the list and my thoughts on it, here on the blog not long after it’s announced and we can all have a good old natter about it. Hoorah. In the meantime what do you think will make the list?

3 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Man Booker, Random Savidgeness

The Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2015…

Has just been announced and it is… Marlon James A Brief History of Seven Killings!!!

9781780746357

I haven’t read it yet, even though The Green Carnation Prize judges have been telling me to since they longlisted it as has Frances of NonSuchBook. So I know what is going in my bag to London with me on Thursday (or possibly tomorrow as I am in a weird book funk) for train rides and snatches of time that I get to myself from then until the weekend! Have any of you read it yet and what did you think?

6 Comments

Filed under Man Booker

The Man Booker Prize Shortlist 2015

Sorry if I have been a bit quiet of late. The new job that I mentioned the other week has been a bit bonkers (in a brilliant way), I was also at Gladfest , then giving a masterclass to some brilliant new reviewers and bloggers up in Newcastle whilst also working on something secret but very fun with Lynne of Dovegreyreader which we might be able to talk about next year, sorry to be a tease. Oh and I have been reading for Booktopia Petoskey next week. Phew, it has been a bit manic!

Anyway to show I still have my finger on the booky pulse here is the Man Booker Shortlist (you can see my thoughts on the longlist here) for you all, if you haven’t seen it already.

9d9445b9-e0d1-404e-8368-c682867fecb3-2060x1236

  • Marlon James (Jamaica) – A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications)
  • Tom McCarthy (UK) – Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)
  • Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) – The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press)
  • Sunjeev Sahota (UK) – The Year of the Runaways (Picador)
  • Anne Tyler (US) – A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)
  • Hanya Yanagihara (US) – A Little Life (Picador)

I am really keen on it, obviously because Yanagihara is my book of the decade and that’s in the mix, but also because I want to read every single one of the other five. In fact I may have to buy Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island as a treat for myself (and my new job, coughs – this excuse will last months) at lunchtime. I like the mix of authors and the disparity between publishers (which I didn’t like but didn’t bemoan when the longlist came out) seems to have been more balanced out, unintentionally I am sure.

What are your thoughts? Which have you read and what did you make of them? Which do you want to read?

14 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Man Booker, Random Savidgeness