Tag Archives: Alan Hollinghurst

The Man Booker Shortlist 2011

At some point today, probably this morning as apparently the judges decided it a week ago; the Man Booker Shortlist will be announced. I have to say when I first saw the longlist this year I was really, really excited. There were some debut novelists, an almost 50/50 ratio of male and female authors, and lots of independent publishers. In fact the list had a lot of people saying ‘what??!!’. I thought I would update you on what I have thought of the list so far, and what I think (or hope) will be on the list when it gets announced later today.

Thanks to TheLiteraryStew.Blogspot.com where I found all the covers in one image.

So I think the best place to start is looking at the longlist as a whole. I should say that there is a slight clause in this, I have read at least 100 pages of each of the books of the longlist, and I just haven’t finished all of them, or indeed reviewed all of the ones I have read. So I thought I would give you  a brief round up of the longlist reading experience. And if any of the ones I haven’t finished yet end up getting shortlisted then I will go back to them…

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – The bookies favourite, but not actually mine personally. Whilst I agree it is beautifully written and emotive I personally didn’t ‘get it’. I think maybe, and this isn’t meant to sound as ageist as it will, I was too young for it, rather like last years winner. I didn’t think it was eligible being so small, but it did mean that I managed to read it in two naughty sittings at a Waterstones in town, but shhh don’t tell anyone. I wouldn’t be cross if this was on the shortlist, and think it probably will be, I just think there were more exciting rather than ‘literary’ reads. Oh, I know this is a ‘literary’ award in case you think I am being silly. I just think ‘literary’ is very subjective, shouldnt a ‘literary’ book be a work of literature accessible to all? Not that I am saying this book is being bandwagoned by critics… maybe I need to read it again, and not sneakily hidden away in a shop.

On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry – I will actually be rather cross if this book doesn’t make the shortlist. I had enjoyed Barry’s previous novel ‘The Secret Scripture’ but this one just blew me away. I was expecting another ‘Brooklyn’ (which is wonderful in itself) with the tale of a young Irish girl and her journey to America, I got something equally wonderful but utterly different and utterly devastating. I loved it.

Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch – Another favourite, I read this a while back and didn’t expect to like a book that was set so much on a boat (I have issues with books based on ships) I also loved this. It’s like a proper Victorian adventure, something that Conan Doyle would read and frankly he would have won a Booker prize, well he should have, if there had been such a prize then. I also found the emotional twist that develops in the second half of the novel was a pleasant surprise and one I wouldn’t have guessed.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt – Possibly my favourite ‘surprise find’ on the list. I don’t think that I would have read this if it hadn’t made the longlist (and there will be a very positive review coming soon) because it is by all sense and purposes a western, which I would normally avoid if I am really honest. I thought this was, excuse my French, bloody brilliant. There is something so fresh about this book that if you wouldn’t normally touch this genre then you really should try deWitt.

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan – A book I knew nothing about and I am still not too clear on. I started it, popped it down and haven’t gone back to it yet. That makes it sound like I didn’t like it, not so as I would like to return to it, I just wasn’t grabbed and I am not sure why. Well written, interesting subject, one to return to and think over more maybe?

A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards – Another novel that I would have heard nothing about had it not been for the Man Booker Longlist. I was intrigued from the title and the intrigue carried on in the pages as I started to read. It is in some ways a murder mystery, and yet not all at once. That makes it sound experimental and it isn’t a particularly experimental novel, it just has some good twists and turns both in terms of story and delivery. I hope that makes sense. Oh and I liked not liking anyone in it, how odd is that?

The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst – Oh, oh, oh… ‘The Strangers Child’. Hmmm. I have the same issue in a way that I have with the Barnes novel. It is beautifully written… but. Whilst Barnes is a short novel, Hollinghurst’s is almost never ending. I totally understand people who are saying ‘oh my goodness the prose alone…’, I just think you need to have a story. Hollinghurst’s has several stories and yet none all at once, it’s also got a middle that (oops, ouch) sags and drags, it’s about 200 pages too long. They are a beautiful 200 pages though. I have been mulling reviewing this book ever since its release but am still on the fence… or simply undecided.

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman – I want to start off by saying that this book doesn’t deserve the vitriol that it’s been hit with since getting long listed. Give the book a bloody break people. It’s immensely readable, which is a quality that I think every good book needs. Sadly the story, for me, of teenage gangs and crime including murder whilst being very timely looses something in being told by a child narrator. A shame as I loved the narrative voice, the two aims of this book just didn’t quite go hand in hand.

The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuinness – I am midway through reading this. I can’t say that I think it’s the best book ever written but it has a certain something about it. It’s one of those things that you can’t quite put your finger on. I think the fact it’s slightly thrilling, slightly surreal and yet seems based so much on fact all merges to work for me. In fact it is reading about something that I know so little about that I think I am currently really enjoying. I haven’t finished it yet though but might just go out on a limb, there’s books that could be deemed ‘better’ and yet…

Snowdrops by A.D. Miller – Another one I have finished and haven’t written about properly yet as I only finished it recently. I liked this one despite the fact it was nothing like I was expecting. There’s a slight black and white noir film aspect to it, which I think sets it apart from ‘The Last Hundred Days’ which actually thinking about it now it is quite similar too in its sense of Englishman thrown into the unknown (how have I only just thought about this, too close to them), and then develops and becomes more and more compelling.

Far to Go by Alison Pick – I have reviewed this for We Love This Book but not on here yet. The more time I have had away from it the more it has grown on me. It didn’t fully blow me away, but only three or four of this years longlist have, yet the story  of the Bauer’s and the Kindertransport has stayed with me more than I expected. It’s a WWII story with a twist and is a little bit different. The modern story just bothered me a little, it felt a tiny bit like a forced ‘see how the war keeps affecting people’ device, if one that leads to an interesting conclusion.

The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers – I wanted to like this one, I liked the idea of a dystopian novel on the list and a small publisher being on the list too. I just didn’t really think it was a great book and have stopped. I think anything can happen in fiction, no limits, if the author can take you with them and sadly I am not convinced. I gave up at page 105! I might try it again though as it does have promise, just not as much as I hoped.

Derby Day by D.J. Taylor – I was excited about this one, I love all things Victorian after all. It started off so well. I loved how dastardly all the characters were and how much planning and manipulation there was. Yes, there is a but coming… I sort of got confused and too much started to go on… and someone else ordered it from the library so I let them have it. If it gets shortlisted then I will order it again, but I would rather see Carol Birch on there if we have a Victorian novel on there.

So from that I have decided (and I swapped two titles on the Man Booker forum but this is my final guess) that these are the six novels that I most hope make the shortlist…

  • On Canaan’s Side – Sebastian Barry
  •  Jamrach’s Menagerie – Carol Birch
  •  The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt
  •  A Cupboard Full of Coats – Yvvette Edwards
  •  Snowdrops – A.D. Miller
  •  Far To Go – Alison Pick

What do you think? What would your short list be made of? Could you give a monkeys? I have to admit the reason so few of these novels have ended up on Savidge Reads yet in more detail was my initial excitement started to turn into Man Booker Boredom, let’s hope the shortlist excites me again. Which six books not listed would make your ideal Man Booker Shortlist this year? I need to think about mine actually, I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours. Oh, and I will report back once the announcement is made. Thoughts please.

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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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We Love This Book

If you are visiting Savidge Reads, be it on a return visit or just by the joys of a search engine or two, the chance is that you like books. So when a new little something bookish is brought to my attention then I really want to bring it to yours.

So today I bring you news of We Love This Book, which is a new ‘consumer’ magazine from the people who bring you The Bookseller. Here I do have to put in a small disclosure that I did hear about it after having done a column for The Bookseller a while back whilst it was in its late planning stages and had been asked if I might like to write for it, I said could I have a gander first? There, I wanted to say that just so you know. Anyway, as you can probably see from the picture above and its state, it has been travelling in my bag from hospitals, to work, to Gran’s etc (I like to dip in and out of a magazine) and it’s a really good read with some really good features.

You have Desert Island Books – this month it’s Tony Blair (hmmm), Past Master – this month Mark Twain, The Child in Me – looking at people’s favourite children’s books, and a piece I think is a great bookish twist called Three Course Crush which takes three delightful courses from three new cookery books. There’s also a great feature on Forbidden Love with Alan Hollinghurst discussing ‘the love that dare not speak its name’ and pieces on ‘the other woman’. Plus there are heaps and heaps of reviews of forthcoming books. What more could you ask for?

In case you were thinking ‘oh, you can only get this in the UK’ (and actually in the UK there are only 100,000 free copies available from certain book shops and libraries for now, you can subscribe though) there is a wonderful website which also features some of the magazine contents and some additional blogs, reviews and features – in fact there is one about P.D James written by a certain someone you might know, hee-hee – plus event listings and a ‘find a bookshop’ facility too.

I think it’s a great new website for a book lover and so thought I would let you know about it. It’s also still in its infancy and I believe that they are always looking for your thoughts on how they can change and improve it for you.

Which bookish magazines and websites are your favourites? Am I missing out on any?

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Fiction Uncovered… Where To Find The Hidden Gems?

I am tempted not to do another post, remember most of these posts are scheduled, and to leave my review of  Catherine Hall’s The Proof of Love’ as as the latest post for ages because I am so desperate to get you all to read the book, but at the same time it has brought up a question that I thought I would ask as a smallish post, before reminding you again that really you need to read ‘The Proof of Love’. Are any of you picking up any subliminal messages yet?

Anyway, I was thinking about this book and the ‘Fiction Uncovered’ initiative and wondered where you all find those books that take you by surprise, those hidden gem books? I am talking about those books you randomly find or hear about that don’t feature in the broadsheets or in TV/radio book clubs etc. Not to be confused with forgotten classics by the way. In fact that puts it best, where do you find lost/under the radar modern fiction?

I include myself in the above rather naughtily. I know I am likely to stick to certain genres and well known (to me) authors, and am more likely to try other well known (to bloggers and broadsheets) authors – I have an Ali Smith review scheduled for tomorrow and you can see I am reading both Alan Hollinghurst and Edward St Aubyn at the moment there ——-> the first an author I know I like a lot, the second I have heard lots about from bloggers et al. Neither of these need further publicity do they? Or should that not be the point, aren’t they well known for writing so well? Should I not be trying to discover more unknown modern novels to share with you all? I’m not getting all naval gazing, but its making me think a lot.

‘The Proof of Love’ has highlighted all those authors, on their second, third, fifth or tenth books yet not household names, that I am sure I am missing out on (it can lead to a headache thinking like that) and how I could find more? So I thought I would ask all of you where you hear of yours, and even better share the books that have been brilliant reads and yet have fallen somewhat under the radar. What can you suggest, both the books that I should have read but might not have and where you find these delights?

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Getting Ahead of Myself…

I can’t speak for everyone in the same position but recently when the doctors told me I had cancer I didn’t react like I thought I would. My initial reaction, after saying ‘oh bugger’ (which were my first two words), was ‘well I’ve blinking lots of things to do then haven’t I?’ Getting cross, reminiscing and resting were the last things on my mind but the first on everyone else’s.

Reading was the first thing that I concentrated on, shock horror, and what I am talking about on here today. The very idea that I have so many books at home,and so many out there, that I wanted to read and haven’t yet and possibly might not sent me into a complete panic. I also started to obsess over how diverse and well read I have been so far, more about that soon though.

I found myself reading two or three books a day and shutting the world out around them (this could also have been a coping mechanism to a degree), this has had it’s bonuses and it’s downfalls.

Subsequently I now have a silly amount of reviews waiting to be posted on the blog (particularly Orange longlisters). I have also interestingly found that scheduling and occasionally rearranging posts a much better way for me to review. I can have it scheduled and yet tweak it as the dust settles on my initial thoughts. I’m beginning to learn, after lots of years of reading, that time away from a book really helps just as much as how everything needs to be aligned when you read a book so does when you write about the reading experience, even when you love a book so much you’re desperate to tell the world.

The negative is that I suddenly got really bad book readers block and nothing old or current would do. So I’ve decided to get ahead of myself and read some of the books that people are expecting to be huge and I am really looking forward too (I’ve missed off the new Jane Harris as have just finished it).

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No I won’t be able to talk about them just yet, but I’ll be able to think about them and read the new Alan Hollinghurst, Sebastian Barry, Ali Smith, Daphne Du Maurier collection etc, etc and have conversations to look forward to about them all in the future.

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Reading Ahead & Sharing Thoughts Early On…

Everything seems to be a little ahead with me at the moment. You see with me going in and out of hospital I have scheduled Savidge Reads a few weeks in advance so as when I go in, or if I suddenly have to go in, you have no idea that anything is out of the ordinary. This leaves me most confused when I then come back and discover that a book I read a week or three ago is now up as the latest title for discussion. Anyway I have somehow digressed as what I actually want to talk to you about is advance reading which I am currently doing rather a lot of and how I should deal with it here on the blog.

One of the delightful things about writing Savidge Reads is that from an unpaid passion of books has come the joy of getting some lovely books in advance, especially when they are books you are desperate to read. The slight draw back is that you don’t get to talk about them non stop when you are reading them, which is what I love to do, you have to wait. At present I have three books I am simply desperate to discuss with you and one I know I soon will be but they are not out for a few weeks in a couple of cases and a few months in others…

In fact thinking about it I have just realised that I am not sure if I will be able to tell you about two of them at all. ‘The Stranger’s Child’ is the latest Alan Hollinghurst and indeed is so fresh of the printing press it’s not in a proper bound copy as it’s not due for release until July. How have I got it? Well like ‘The Tenderloin’ by John Butler, which isn’t out itself till June, these are two of The Green Carnation Prize 2011 submissions. Delightfully it seems that the publicity departments of some of the good and great publishers, not all it has been noted, are really keen on The Green Carnation and Picador/Macmillan have sent these for starters.  I want to rabbit on about them already but whilst I am happy to share submissions and make the whole thing as clear as possible (did you see the lovely show on World Book Night where the whole judging scenario was shown on TV for the UK debut novelists of the now?) I am not sure how transparent it should be? Any suggestions?

Digressing again as the two other advance books I am eager to discuss with you are the latest wonderful Flavia De Luce mystery ‘A Red Herring Without Mustard’ by Alan Bradley and the lovely, lovely Natasha Solomons second novel ‘The Novel in the Viola’  both which come out in a few weeks. It’s tempting for me to just get over excited and tell you all about them yet at the same time it could come across as showing off rather than just being an overexcited book fiend. There is also the worry that if I bang on about them now you will forget them by the time they are out, or not have anything to say and despite my recent rubbish responding (I blame health) to comments I do love the discussions we have on here. This all causes a little dilemma or two with me and I thought I should ask your advice really. So…

Do I dish the delightful dirt on these books, and books like them going forward, before their release date or would you rather I scheduled them for around the time of release? And how much is too much transparency or over sharing regarding The Green Carnation Prize 2011? Is there anything specific you would like to know/hear about?

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