Category Archives: Man Booker

The Man Booker Longlist 2011… Thoughts

I do love the general buzz, most often in a form of outrage, that the Man Booker Longlist seems to bring out after its announcement and this years seems to be one of the strongest case of a ‘what?!!?’ moment I have seen in a while. People seem up in arms about how their favourite books are missing, there’s a lot of ‘what were the judges thinking’ being bandied about too. Personally after my initial ‘oh no, where are Jane Harris, Ali Smith, Kathleen Winter and Catherine Hall’ (possibly my favourite fiction reads of the year so far) moment I looked at the list and the more I think about it the more interesting in seems.

There is no using bemoaning the books I think should have made the cut, I don’t know why people go on about this so much. The thing with the Man Booker Longlist is that we don’t know if the publisher submitted our favourites, they have a small remit, or not do we? We also need to remember like reviews and book clubs every judging panel is subjective. Four of the five might have been passionate about my personal favourites, but all five of them might have been passionate about 13 more of them instead. Who knows, what can we do about it now? I think we should be focusing on what makes this list very exciting, and also what makes the list show publishing is far from dead. Which I actually wrote about in a piece for We Love This Book, feel free to have a look, on the Booker Longlist called ‘Big Guns and Bridesmaids’.

I won’t focus on the titles I am not fussed about on the list here, reviews are coming of some of them, but I will say a big hooray for Sebastian Barry and a bigger hooray (I know that’s a tiny bit of favouritism) for Carol Birch. If a Victorian adventure won the Man Booker this year I would be thrilled. However the list is made up of lots and lots of books I hadn’t heard of, and as time goes on its these I am getting more and more excited by. Patrick deWitt, Yvvette Edwards, Alison Pick and Esi Edugyan weren’t four names that were really bandied about in the lead up to and ‘guessing’ of the longlist. I hadn’t heard of the last three at all. Yet all of these novels look rather exciting and are interestingly the ones that I now want to get my hands on first, they feel like unchartered waters, annoyingly these are also the books that I don’t own. Typical. In fact I only have five of the titles, three of which I have read (wouldn’t it be off if these made the short list)…

What for me though is most exciting is not only the fact that almost a quarter of the titles are debut novels with Stephen Kelman, A.D. Miller, Yvvette Edwards and Patrick McGuinness all being long listed for their first novels – this is a continuation of a trend which was previously shown in the level of debuts in the Orange Prize lists earlier this year. The prize shows an almost landslide victory for independent publishers  with nine out of the thirteen titles not coming from the big gun publishing houses. This seems to be giving a very positive message to the state of fiction today and one that seems to fly in the face of the doubters who believe that the publishing industry is dying when so much new talent, along with independent publishers, that seem to be flourishing as far as the awards are concerned.

That to me is something to be celebrating with this list, along with the fact that some titles we might have missed have been brought to our attention. Is anyone going to try and read the whole lot? I’m not sure with my reading remit at the moment I could, which is annoying as it’s the year that I think I would most like to. Maybe I can sneak a few of them in?

P.S This is my last Man Booker Longlist discussion on Savidge Reads until I start popping up reviews of the titles, and speaking of reviews, get ready for a ‘review rush’ I have a backlog.

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The Man Booker Longlist 2011

Well here it is…

The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes (Jonathan Cape – Random House)
On Canaan’s Side – Sebastian Barry (Faber)
Jamrach’s Menagerie – Carol Birch (Canongate Books)
The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt (Granta)
Half Blood Blues – Esi Edugyan (Serpent’s Tail – Profile)
A Cupboard Full of Coats – Yvvette Edwards (Oneworld)
The Stranger’s Child – Alan Hollinghurst (Picador – Pan Macmillan)
Pigeon English – Stephen Kelman (Bloomsbury)
The Last Hundred Days – Patrick McGuinness (Seren Books)
Snowdrops – A.D. Miller (Atlantic)
Far to Go – Alison Pick (Headline Review)
The Testament of Jessie Lamb – Jane Rogers (Sandstone Press)
Derby Day – D.J. Taylor (Chatto & Windus – Random House)

I am thrilled to see Carol Birch and Sebastian Barry on there (I guessed 2/13 – I am officially rubbish) and also very excited about the fact that I don’t know a lot of the others. So am off to investigate before I do a round up post a little later. What do you think of the list?

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Guessing The Man Booker Longlist 2011

It is the big day in publishing when the Man Booker Longlist is announced and I have to say I have been getting rather excited about it as it’s got nearer, which was not what I was expecting after the winner was announced. I seemed to have gotten into a state of mind that actually the Man Booker was a little out of touch. Why that is I can’t say now. Anyway, it’s great to play the guessing game before a longlist is announced and rather than just give you a list of the books I thought I would share with you a piece I did on the Man Booker Longlist 2011 for We Love This Book, let me know what you think of my choices and reasons…

“Predicting the Man Booker longlist is really an impossible mission—I mean, apart from the judges and a very select group, who really knows what on earth gets submitted and which novels make the grade? And yet we all love to do it. It’s like having a harmless little flutter without needing to spend any money placing a bet.

I am unusually excited about this year’s prize. I don’t know if it’s the panel (which includes ex-MI5 Stella Rimmington and the delightfully arch author Susan Hill) or if it’s because I have found the last year very exciting for fiction. Particularly in terms of d ébut authors and female writing—the Orange shortlist was stunning this year, and I am hoping for the same with the Booker and several other prizes as the year unfolds.

Already I have a feeling there is going to be a shock with the longlist. As with last year’s McEwan and Amis no shows, I think we could have the same with Adiga, Ghosh, Enright and Hollinghurst this year. All of these have fallen through my letterbox, all have been tried, and yet none really held me. I have only so far finished one of them, The Stranger’s Child, which, whilst being some of the most beautiful prose I have read all year, didn’t half sag in the middle. That, of course, is just my personal opinion. I can only base my guesses on the criteria that I would have should I be a judge on this year’s panel.

I would want books that are simply “great books”, beautifully written and addictively readable with characters who walk off the page, books that deal with subject matters, periods of time, events or places I know nothing about and books that touch me emotionally and “get me” in some way. With that in mind, these are the 13 eligible books (not all have been featured on my blog yet) that I would fight for…

On Canaan’s Side – Sebastian Barry
Jamrach’s Menagerie – Carol Birch
Everything Beautiful Began After – Simon Van Booy
 The Proof of Love – Catherine Hall
Gillespie and I – Jane Harris
King of the Badgers – Philip Hensher
Anatomy of a Disappearance – Hisham Matar
Ours are the Streets – Sunjeev Sahota
There but for the – Ali Smith
The Dubious Salvation of Jack V – Jaques Strauss
Go To Sleep – Helen Walsh
Bed – David Whitehouse
Annabel – Kathleen Winter

Those are, of course, in alphabetical order of authors’ surnames, so you can’t see which are my very favourites just yet. I haven’t managed to get my hands on a few of the “bigger” names I’d have liked to—in particular A L Kennedy and Michael Ondaatje (who might miss out with the previous winner curse that I think might be coming)—nor have I yet read some of the lesser-known books like The Sentamentalists, Bernard Beckett’s August or Gail Jones’ Five Bells—I am rather keen to spend a few hours with the latter three in particular. I also keep mulling over Then by Julie Myerson, which I am about to start. You see, this year is a really strong year—I could never possibly get it right.

In fact I would say I would be more than happy if I was completely wrong and the list was filled with what Susan Hill (on the Man Booker forum) has called “some splendid out of the way novels”. Whilst it would be quite something to have guessed the unguessable, I think in honesty I would rather see a list of 12 or 13 books I hadn’t heard of that really excite me. Even if it would add a whole heap of new reading material to my never-ending list.”

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And The Man Booker Prize 2010 Winner is…

…Well we don’t know yet but we will do later tonight. If you are bored of all things booker, and I admit I have gone off it a little this year, then fear not there is another BIG thank you post coming later on today. As I mentioned I have been a little ‘meh’ about the Man Booker this year, maybe reading everything in the longlist last year put me off for a couple of years, or maybe being a judge on another book prize had me book prized out. However a book award is a book award and I do love a good guessing game so I thought I would put forward who I want to win and who I think will win.

Of the whole shortlist I have only read half of them so I am not 100% qualified to really make a decision; hey ho this is only for fun. I actually have a sneaking suspicion that a book that I haven’t yet read will win this year and that is the bookies favourite ‘C’ by Tom McCarthy. I actually wanted to read this one the most out of the short listed books I hadn’t touched yet, however, I never seemed to have the time and I think it’s a book you need a good hour or two with before you can get a hold on it and read it commuting or stealing an hour with it here and there. I decided to give that free time to ‘Jane Eyre’ instead which wasn’t hard to get onto but needed quite a chunk of time and ‘Crime and Punishment’ will be getting the devotion time next. If ‘C’ wins I will undoubtedly read it, though possibly not for six months or more as the hype will quite possibly put me off for a while… but you never know.

So that’s who I think will win but who do I want to win? Well as I type this it’s a real tie with me and it’s between these two books, both which I have read and loved for completely different reasons…

‘Room’ By Emma Donoghue was a book that I was instantly blown away by because it seemed so different from anything I had read in ages. ‘The Long Song’ by Andrea Levy was a book that I loved when I read it and has stayed with me long after, especially the voice of its narrator Miss July. So I am torn really on which of these two should win. I should say I think Damon Galgut’s book is very interesting too. That’s so hedging my bets isn’t it. Ok, ok…

If you had to push me on which of those I would choose then it would have to be ‘The Long Song’ it’s had less publicity and sales than ‘Room’ and I think it deserves an equal amount. It’s also a proper story and I think its time book prizes went back to that. Maybe I should have popped a bet on Levy as she’s not the favourite and my gut instinct wants her to win. What do you all think about it all this Man Booker business this year?

*Well, blimey, it was Howard Jacobson for ‘The Finkler Question’. I haven’t read it, I am not sure I will… but I might, maybe, eventually! I know this shouldnt count but he sounds lovely on the radio and was very funny when I saw him at the Foyles ‘Vintage Day’ when he was very entertainingly discussing sex in books!!! 

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The Man Booker Shortlist 2010

How did I forget that this was being announced today?? I have missed taking part in my guessing games! Anyways, a big well done to Andrea Levy and Emma Donoghue on being short listed for their books ‘The Long Song’ and ‘Room’. I can’t comment on Damon Galgut (as he is on The Green Carnation Longlist) but I think I can congratulate him though without it looking like favouritism or some such? Though I am aware I don’t want to open another can of worms. I will talk about ‘In A Strange Room’ at some point just not quite yet.

  

Will I read the other three?

  

I would like to try one of Howard Jacobson’s books after hearing him talk earlier in the year and laughing rather a lot and Peter Carey is another author I have lots of books of and yet haven’t read a word of. I am not sure though with Carey if this book would be where I would want to start? However I don’t have their two listed books. I do have ‘C’ by Tom McCarthy though and have heard some rather intriguing things (its already favourite to win according to the bookies) so maybe that’s one to take on the long trains up north and back this weekend. What do you think?

Oh and speaking of recommending books, can you please post some recommendations below just here. I know I am on strike (mind you three posts in one day isn’t a strike, in fact I should stop) like London Transport – but your not allowed to be ha! Thanks in advance.

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What Do You Want & Expect From An Award Winning Book?

This is a question which I have been asked rather a lot recently. Actually the exact question has been ‘what do you look for in an award winning book?’ So I thought I would open it up to all of you for all your thoughts on that very subject. We all do it, we judge the panel that judge the award and we always have opinions of why a winning book should/shouldn’t or did/didn’t win don’t we? (If anyone is saying no then you are fibbing!) I am also interested, as ever, in what you all think because I would like to see just how different or similar our expectations are with these books. 

I could easily think of some recent titles that show just how much discussion/controversy book winners can cause. The first that came to mind were these two both winners of awards in 2010.

First up is ‘Truth’ by Peter Temple, which I have now decided I need to get my hands on imminently, this book seemed to shock everyone by being a ‘crime/thriller’ that won the literary prize The Miles Franklin Award 2010. Why should that be so shocking, does the genre really matter? There seems some great surprise, like when Tom Rob Smith’s brilliant ‘Child 44’ was put forward for the Man Booker, that a crime book could be well written and yet they are well written (need I send you in the direction of Kate Atkinson or have I raved about her enough?) in fact I think some of the plots in some of the best thrillers published could put some of the more prose heavy contenders to shame yet you wouldn’t.

Also a shock winner this year was ‘The Lacuna’ by Barbara Kingsolver (which I gave up on and am giving to Gran at the weekend as she’s doing it for one of her book groups and a ‘guest review’ on here) which caused a lot of controversy for winning the Orange over what many believed was the better novel ‘Wolf Hall’. It appeared the judges couldn’t let the latter book win as it won the Booker the year before, which strikes me as slightly odd because surely if its won one award already it’s because its bloody good and deserves to win more? Or is it just me that belongs to that rare school of logic?

Turning to another subject on award winners I was interested that reviews of one of this years Man Booker long-listed titles ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue have suggested that despite the fact people think its absolutely brilliant they doubt it will be Man Booker winning material because its too accessible. I am not berating that because that’s what I thought too, why though? Shouldn’t the books that go on to win awards, not only by being very well written, be able to reach out to a mass of people and just be a cracking good read as well as everything else?

Really with most awards it’s down to a group of people rather than us and what they think makes a cracking read. They aren’t able to please everyone and yet we expect them to, which brings me nicely to my next point.  

Another question which I have been asked a lot is ‘what qualifies you to be a judge of what is a good book or not?’ My answer so far to that one has been ‘I read enough of them to know what I like, what makes a book special or amazing rather than just another good read, it’s a very personal thing too.’ Which left me wondering what my criteria is for an award winning book and I don’t think it would match some other peoples, and maybe people will be asking the question at the start of this paragraph even more after seeing what it is.

Though because we have sworn to secrecy I can’t tell you how many books have been submitted for The Green Carnation Prize 2010, which ones they are/might be or which publishers sent them… I do feel I can tell you what I personally will be looking for regardless of genre, length etc;

  • The writing has to be captivating. I don’t mean that it has to be the most beautiful prose that has ever graced a page – though that helps – I do need to be spell bound by it, every word should count without being calculated and together as a whole work have an effect on me.
  • It needs to be readable and accessible. I don’t want to be able to put it down (this doesn’t mean it has to be trashy books like the marvellous ‘The Hand That First Held Mine’ by Maggie O’Farrell can be stunningly written and also page turning) yet I don’t want to enjoy it and forget about it as soon as its on the shelf.
  • I want narrators who I believe the whole way through no matter how lovely or vile or how reliable or not they may be.
  • It needs to be a book I would rush out and buy for anyone and everyone (hence why no thoughts on any of the long listed or short listed books of a certain prize will appear on my blog or be discussed by me in specifics in the real world until the winners announced) because because its a great story and one I want others to read asap.
  • Most importantly I want a book that stands out and etches itself in my brain in some way, it doesn’t have to change my life or world completely, but it does need make me think and linger with me for days, weeks and months after.  

So what makes the perfect award winning book for you? By all means mention a few titles but what I would love to get to the crux of, and am much more interested in, is just what those perfect award winning books had about them for you? What made them work for you personally? Which criteria would you be looking for if you were judging a book award? What would instantly stop you from wanting a book to go further through the process? Which book award winners have mystified you and more importantly why?

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Room – Emma Donoghue

Out of all the books on the Man Booker long list this year ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue was the one that instantly intrigued me. There has already been a lot of ‘buzz’ (rather than hype) around this book here there and everywhere so it was on my radar but I hadn’t expected to see it on that list. So when it arrived the day after the announcement I knew I had to read it instantly, especially as I knew my reading plans were going to be going awry over the next few forthcoming months, more on that tomorrow. So ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue, what did I think?

‘Room’ opens with the fifth birthday of Jack. Slowly but surely as he describes his day we realise we are in the real world but not a real world we would know. For Jack’s world is Room the place in which he was born and has lived for his five year life with his mother and no one else but ‘Old Nick’ who comes by at night and brings them food, creaks Bed and leaves ‘Sundaytreat’ once a week. As we read on we realise Jack’s mother was kidnapped and has been hidden away for years and that ‘Old Nick’, who has a really dark and menacing presence in the book, is their captor – though of course Jack doesn’t.

It seems that Jack’s birthday sees the start of a turning point though in all their lives as his ‘Ma’ decides that he needs to know there is more than Room, there is outside. But how would it feel to realise that there is a huge world outside the one you have always thought is simply it, which hurts Jack’s head when he even tries to think about it? Even bigger, how would they cope if they did actually get outside?

You might think ‘ooh he’s giving it all away’ but honestly I am not, there is so much more to this book. In fact I was worried myself that having seen so much written about ‘Room’ already, which give hints to the plot, before I even started it something would be spoiled for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong because even the best reviews I have seen so far don’t and couldn’t give you a sense of the journey that you go on with the book. As clichéd as I am aware that sounds it’s true.

Emma Donoghue does something incredibly special with ‘Room’. By putting us in the mind of 5 year old Jack she makes us see things from both the innocence of the child narrating and the cynical knowledge the reader has as an adult and rather than play it for a schmaltzy tale of woe, or a calculated tear fest, though the book is emotional in parts. It’s also very funny in parts too and that’s all down to the child eye observance of Jack and his voice. Child narrators can sometimes really grate on me, let alone books that are written in a slightly childish dialect, yet I could have listened to Jack describing his life for pages and pages more. It adds a new dimension to the whole book.

“Spider’s real. I’ve seen her two times. I look for her now but there’s only a web between Table’s legs and her flat. Table balances good, that’s pretty tricky, when I go on one leg I can do it forages but then I always fall over. I don’t tell Ma about Spider. She brushes webs away, she says they’re dirty but they look like extra-thin silver to me.  Ma likes the animals that run around eating each other on the wildlife planet, but not real ones. When Iwas four I was watching ants walking up Stove and she ran and splatted them all so they wouldn’t eat our food. One minute they were alive and the next minute they were dirt. I cried so my eyes nearly melted off. “

Donoghue’s writing is wonderful. I think my favourite line in the whole book was this… “We’re like people in a book, and he won’t let anybody else read it.” In a single line Ma sums everything up and as a reader it really hit me, there’s a lot of emotion and impact in just that one line so imagine what Donoghue can do with a book full of them. I could go on and on about this book but I will stop and simply say ‘read it’. I think this could very quickly become one of my favourite books of the year and I hope regardless of Man Booker winning or not it becomes a huge seller as it’s a book that really deserves a wide audience, it’s the sort of book I think anyone could get something out of.

A book that will: quite possibly leave you a little breathless and remind you what reading is all about and may have you running out to buy it for everyone you know. 10/10

To me this is what a book prize should be about, finding a book with a new voice, something that’s funny, emotional and captivating (I read this in two sittings) and that’s what the best books are isn’t it? Have you read ‘Room’? Had you noticed the ‘buzz’ before the Man Booker Longlist was announced? Has anyone read anything else by Emma Donoghue as I noticed in the front pages that she has another nine books, any one recommend any?

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The Man Booker Longlist 2010

So it’s been announced and I will probably just be repeating what is already old news but here are the thirteen books the judges have picked (if you are already bored of the Man Booker or just not interested have a gander at the Mum Booker Longlist I popped up earlier here)…

  • Parrot and Oliver in America by Peter Carey (Faber and Faber)
  • Room by Emma Donoghue (Picador)
  • The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore (Fig Tree)
  • In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut (Atlantic Books)
  • The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (Bloomsbury)
  • The Long Song by Andrea Levy (Headline Review)
  • C by Tom McCarthy (Jonathan Cape)
  • The Thousand Autumns of Zacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (Sceptre)
  • February by Lisa Moore (Chatto & Windus)
  • Skippy Dies by Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Trespass by Rose Tremain (Chatto & Windus)
  • The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (Atlantic)
  • The Stars in the Bright Sky by Alan Warner (Jonathan Cape)

How many did I get right, well you can compare today’s list with my list here and see!!!

I have marked the one, yes one, that I have read in bold and the ones that I own in italics (some of which have been saved from the ‘for the charity shop’ pile as we speak – I won’t say which ones). The latter part of that statement suggests I might be thinking of reading the whole longlist. Am I? I don’t think I will be; in part because I don’t have all the books (which isn’t me being bitter) but in the main because I did it last year in a full on way and it became a chore. There are some titles on there that I would like to give a whirl though but if I don’t own it (though I know one of the titles I don’t own yet is on the way) its very unlikely to be read. I have a feeling ‘Skippy Dies’ and ‘The Slap’ might get devoured fairly soon though!! Athe moment though, as its the only one I have read, I have everything crossed for Levy hahaha! I did really like that book though.

It is an interesting list, and one that I don’t think anyone could have predicted the whole of – which is a good thing, I think. I was slightly surprised that Ian McEwan didn’t make it and feel slightly smug I predicted Amis wouldn’t be on there.Why do I have a small vendetta against that man after quite liking the last book I read by him? I am rather chuffed for Andrea Levy and sad to see Maggie O’Farrell wasn’t on there but most of all annoyed Neel Mukherjee didn’t make the cut as that’s one of my favourites of the year and one that feels truly worthy of winning. I kind of think its a forgone conclusion that Mitchell will win which is a bit boring, but I could be wrong.

So what do you make of the list? Any surprises or shocks for you? Any you are really annoyed were missed out or even included?

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The Man Booker Prize 2010

I know it’s rather in advance but on the Tuesday when the Man Booker Longlist is announced I will be posting the first of two ‘mother of all posts’ for the week. I actually really ummed and ahhed about doing a post on the Man Booker Longlist, short list or even anything at all this year but I do love a guessing game and in creating my own guesses and hopes for the Man Booker Longlist  I couldn’t really not discuss the prize a little.

I don’t think, as it stands right now, I will be reading the Longlist this year – mind you if I have read a few and have the rest on the TBR who knows. It was the TBR and the shelves of ‘books I have read’ in the lounge that inspired my final ‘Savidge Reads Booker Dozen’ because every book that I have popped on the list is one I have read or one I own and am rather keen to read. Hence why you won’t see one of the books many people say will be on there – ‘The Pregnant Widow’ by Martin Amis. So without further ado here they are, with a nice picture of the doodles and scribbles that took place in guessing (also proof I thought of some if they sneakily turn up, ha)…

  • Grace Williams Says It Loud by Emma Henderson (Sceptre)
  • The Clay Dreaming by Ed Hillyer (Myriad Editions)
  • The Long Song by Andrea Levy (Headline)
  • And This is True by Emily Mackie (Sceptre)
  • Solar by Ian McEwan (Jonathan Cape)
  • Even The Dogs by Jon McGregor (Bloomsbury)
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell (Sceptre)
  • A Life Apart by Neel Mukherjee (Constable)
  • Ghost Light by Joseph O’Connor (Harvill Secker)
  • The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell (Headline)
  •  The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe by Andrew O’Hagan (Faber)
  • The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (Atlantic)
  • As The Earth Turns Silver by Alison Wong (Picador)

I mulled over ‘The Blasphemer’ by Nigel Farndale but as I didn’t really love it I couldn’t pop it on, I have a feeling that might show its face, maybe! So maybe in that case of all my choices being picked I could end up reading the whole lot if I’ve guessed all thirteen right – which I very much doubt! At the moment though its not in my plans because it took so much time last year and became a bit more of a chore despite some of the marvellous books on the list that I adored, ‘Brooklyn’ and the winner ‘Wolf Hall’, and wouldn’t have read without that extra push. I just got narked with the schedule and I tried earlier this year with The Orange Prize and it all went a bit wrong.

So what would your thirteen be? Or which certain books would you like to see in the Longlist? What do you make of my choice; I am sure they are well out. What are your thoughts on the Man Booker Prize in general?

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Mantel for Man Booker 2009?

So today is the big day and we finally find out who is the winner of the Man Booker 2009. Its been quite a special year for me as its the first time I have read the entire longlist before the shortlist was announced. Last year I seemed to pick a longlist out of thin air and was pretty rubbish this year I was halfway there so maybe next year will be even better? I ahve to say I am split on whether I will do it next year.

I have loved reading some new authors that I may not have heard of otherwise (Adam Foulds, James Lever, James Scudamore, Ed O’Loughlin) some authors I have been to scared to read until now for fear they would be too highbrow for me (J.M. Coetzee, A.S. Byatt, William Trevor) a favourite author (Sarah Waters) a fabulous debut again (Samantha Harvey) and some authors I now want to read the entire works of (Sarah Hall, Simon Mawer, Colm Toibin, Hilary Mantel) so it has been brilliant in many ways.

There were a couple of con’s and that was the fact that it meant my reading became scheduled and slightly more pressured, and reading should be fun and occasionally it was a bit like wading in thick mud and I also worried that by reading that list I might be allienating readers in a way, plus with so many bloggers doing it were we saturating the book blogosphere? I would love your thoughts on it seriously, do you want to know all about the long list?

Back to the task in hand though and to who I think will win. Well there were many joys in the Man Booker dozen this year and though my personal favourite ‘Brooklyn’ by Colm Toibin didn’t make it onto the shortlist it was one of my reading highlights so far this year. Another reading highlight for me and the book that I would love to see win has to be ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel. I don’t think I have ever loved a tudor based book this much, and believe me I have read quite a lot both in my blogging and pre-blogging days, its a favourite era for me in fiction and history. Who thought i would ever enjoy a book about Thomas Cromwell, I certainly didn’t and yet I was totally there along side him to the peak of his career. I will also be there on his downfall if the rumours are true and their is a second book in the wings (I do so hope so).

There is one author that I wouldn’t mind Mantel loosing out to and that would be Simon Mawer as I though ‘The Glass Room’ was a very, very good book. I do have a feeling it may go Byatt or Waters way though, oh dear now it sounds like I am just covering my back. I want Mantel to win and thats that.

What about you who do you want to win and is it the same person as you think will actually win? Do you care? If you havent read the longlist and shortlist will you read the winner? Do you think that bloggers all blogging about the man Booker cuts people off or do you like it? Oh so many questions… 

***Please note Simon has just noticed neither his Sarah Hall or Simon Mawer thoughts are up… this will be rectified very soon!!

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Me Cheeta – James Lever

When I heard that there was a book on the Man Booker Longlist that was the memoir of a celebrity ape I have to say I had a slightly snobbish attitude of ‘how on earth can something like that be on the Man Booker Longlist?’ I mean it didn’t fit in with my image of the Man Booker Award which instantly makes me think of stunning prose over thought provoking plot and this didn’t sound quite like that sort of book. How could you take a book that was a fake memoir by a chimpanzee seriously? I should have followed my own motto and not judged a book by its cover/blurb and let the actual reading of the book do the talking as it were.

James Lever’s debut novel ‘Me Cheeta’ is, yes that’s right, the fictional memoir of a famous ape. Yes ‘Cheeta’ is indeed the legendary sidekick of Tarzan and the cult classic 1950’s movies that took the world by storm and spawned many a sequel. Now I have to admit it takes a few pages of getting used to but once I was involved in the story I had to keep reminding me that it was fiction and that a chimp couldn’t actually tell you a story like this even if it was true and even if they wanted to.

Now retired and living happily as an artist in Palm Springs Cheeta takes a look back over the crazy and fabulous life that he has lived and of course the golden era of Hollywood in the 1950’s. If you like the era (and stars like Cary Grant, Mickey Rooney, Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn) then you will love this book as it brings the Hollywood hey day very much to life. It is also filled with gossip and the cult of celebrity which of course right now is a huge market, come on whom of us can actually say that they have never read a famous person’s autobiography? This is the gossip from the times when production companies made stars what they were, decided their climb and devised their demise. It is also from the time when stars were stars for talent (on the whole) and for a long time.

The star of this book though of course is Cheeta and his story, which also includes quite a saddening childhood and period of capture, even if he does very honestly admit that he may have added violins and slight exaggerations in order to sell more copies of the book. This honesty both works in terms of being incredibly funny making me laugh out loud on the tube and also in places incredibly, and slightly unexpectedly, moving.

I really, really enjoyed this book and having read it am thrilled that it was on the Man Booker Longlist and quite sad that it didn’t make it onto the short list. I think this is an incredibly modern novel that would get many more people interested in reading the shortlist and reaching a market that it may sometimes miss. Someone said on an earlier blog they ‘never thought someone would seriously consider’ this book as going to the short list compared to the other books and my question is “why not”? It’s a compelling read with a great unreliable narrator and made it very difficult for me to put down, I laughed, I was moved and all this combined to a great read for me and some of the other shortlisted books haven’t had that effect on me.

What are your thoughts? Do you think a book like this should be on the Longlist? Last year Child 44 caused some controversy and I think that’s just the Man Booker moving with the times and being inclusive of all writers and more diverse, do you agree/disagree? Have you read this book?

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Filed under Fourth Estate Books, James Lever, Man Booker, Review

Off The Man Booker Mark…

Well it seems that my Man Booker shortlist  guess earlier today was somewhat off the mark! mind you 3 out of 6 isn’t dreadful, it’s 50% which is much better than last year when I actually only guessed the Longlist and got that pretty wrong really so there is definately some improvement. This years short list is…

Anyone got any thoughts? I am mulling mine over.

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Filed under Man Booker

Savidge Reads Man Booker Shortlist

Ok, now indulge me for a minute or three and let me imagine that I am one of the judges on the Man Booker Panel (which I won’t lie is one of my life’s missions) and I was in the position to choose what made it onto the shortlist, which of course is the big literary news of the day, just what would I choose? Well having actually read them all now (more reviews coming in between Sensational September when it starts tomorrow) I feel that I can finally give my verdict.

I won’t score them or anything like that, as its not something I do with my book thought posts, and I am not going to even try and guess what the judges are going to name as their shortlist. Instead I am simply going to leave you with the pictures of the covers of the six that are my personal favourites be it for the prose, the plot or just the way I reacted to the writing/characters/situations. Those six are…

  

  

Now I wonder how close I will come to the actual six, probably not very close at all but hey ho, time will tell. It was hard with Summertime and Love & Summer as I could have placed The Glass Room or How To Paint A Dead Man (reviews of both coming soon) in the top six, the later of the three particularily but I had to be tough and looking at prose and thought provoking reads the six above ticked all the boxes. There is nothing wrong with the seven I havent picked and I know some people may be shocked about’The Wilderness’ being missing, while I did like it, having now read it twice I still didnt really quite connect with it though and I have mulled that book over lots and lots now. I would be perfectly happy to see it in the short list though. Which ones wouldnt I want to see? I couldn’t possibly comment… on here, but maybe in an email ha!

Who do I think will win… it flips between four hourly and for all I know they may not even be short listed so I will comment on that nearer October and the winner being announced. Have you read any of the longlist? Who would you like to see short listed or even win?

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Filed under Man Booker

The Quickening Maze – Adam Foulds

There have been some books that I have been really daunted by on the Man Booker Longlist and some that I have been really looking forward to. The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds was one of the latter. It ticked quite a few boxes for me straight away, it was based on true events, it was set in a mental institution and on a superficial level it has a wonderful cover. It sounded like it was going to be a creepy account of a man’s journey into madness.

Adam Foulds novel ‘The Quickening Maze’ is a novel based on factual events that happened in Epping Forest in the 1840’s. The book is set in High Beach Private Asylum where the poet John Clare is incarcerated. Well not incarcerated as he is allowed to wander the woods where he writes his poetry and dreams of his wives, yes wives. You see John Clare thinks that he is married to more than one woman though the depths of the why behind it is never really properly explained. It’s not just John Clare that we meet in the novel though of course.

Through the novel we get to meet all of the other people either working at the asylum such as Dr Matthew Allen who owns the asylum and his family or those who are staying there, some of whom which we get to know rather too well in some circumstances like the man who is scared that his daily ablutions add evil into the world and so will not purge himself. I did find the patients and their varying different issues and how they were treated really fascinating and wanted to read a lot more about them.

One of the latest arrivals to the asylum is the poet Alfred Tennyson who is there to support his brother who becomes a patient. Dr Allen’s daughter Hannah takes it upon herself to try and become the apple of his eye and so we are thrown in a strange kind of love story of sorts. I had no idea that these two world famous poets paths had crossed and so it was all again very interesting. Sadly though despite the premise being so me and the ideas and characters of the novel being so interesting it sadly just didn’t really quite work for me.

The prose is beautiful, you can tell the author is a poet himself, and the journey of John Clare into the depths of madness is written incredibly well so in parts you feel you are going through it with him. The disjointed relationship between Hannah and Alfred and also her sisters and family just didn’t quite mesh with me. This could be due to the fact that I read it on a plane which is not the best reading spot for me; I don’t think that is quite the case though. I found that in what is actually a very short 258 page novel there seemed to be a few too many characters and ideas, if the story had just concentrated on the poets and the asylum it might have done slightly more for me.

I feel bad not praising it as it’s very good, it just wasn’t the ‘me’ book that I had the high hopes it would be. Has that ever happened to any of you? A book you are looking forward to because it has all those magic ingredients that are just up your reading street and then it leads you into a dodgy dead end? What novels have you read based on factual events have really worked for you, which ones haven’t?

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Filed under Adam Foulds, Jonathan Cape Publishers, Man Booker, Random House Publishing, Review