Tag Archives: Amitav Ghosh

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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Filed under Book Thoughts, Man Booker

New Arrivals, Blind Assassins & Big Weekenders

A slightly late blog today but I have been work, work, working and on deadline weeks blogging, though delightful, is slightly harder to fit into my day I am here now though. Highlight of a hard day today has been two parcels, one from the delightful people at Transworld/Doubleday which I might have known was coming and one from the lovely people at Sceptre which was a complete suprise. You can see them on my coffee/fishbowl table here…

Their Finest Hour and a Half – Lissa Evans
I am really excited about this one, partly because its in the Orange Longlist and I really wanted to do the whole lot but just to get one is a delight. The other reason is because its sounds quite different. “It is 1940. France has fallen, and only a narrow strip of sea lies between Great Britain and invasion. The war could go either way and everyone must do their bit. Young copy writer Catrin Cole is drafted into the Ministry of Information to help ‘write women’ in propaganda films – something that the men aren’t very good at. She is quickly seconded to the Ministry’s latest endeavour: a heart-warming tale of bravery and rescue at Dunkirk. It’s all completely fabricated, of course, but what does that matter when the nation’s morale is at stake? Since call-up has stripped the industry of its brightest and best, it is the callow, the jaded and the utterly unsuitable who must make up the numbers: Ambrose Hilliard, third most popular British film-star of 1924; Edith Beadmore, Madame Tussauds wardrobe assistant turned costumier; and Arthur Frith, whose peacetime job as a catering manager has not really prepared him for his sudden, unexpected elevation to Special Military Advisor. And in a serious world, in a nation under siege, they must all swallow their mutual distaste, ill-will and mistrust and unite for the common good, for King and Country, and – in one case – for better or worse…”

The Solitude of Prime Numbers – Paolo Giordano
This young man (26 years old) has had a huge hit with this already in 34 countries and won awards that authors such as Umberto Eco has won, stand him in good stead. “He had learned his lesson. Choices are made in a few seconds and paid for in the time that remains. A prime number is inherently a solitary thing: it can only be divided by itself, or by one; it never truly fits with another. Alice and Mattia also move on their own axes, alone with their personal tragedies. As a child Alice’s overbearing father drove her first to a terrible skiing accident, and then to anorexia. When she meets Mattia she recognises a kindred spirit, and Mattia reveals to Alice his terrible secret: that as a boy he abandoned his mentally-disabled twin sister in a park to go to a party, and when he returned, she was nowhere to be found. These two irreversible episodes mark Alice and Mattia’s lives for ever, and as they grow into adulthood their destinies seem irrevocably intertwined. But then a chance sighting of a woman who could be Mattia’s sister forces a lifetime of secret emotion to the surface. A meditation on loneliness and love, “The Solitude of Prime Numbers” asks, can we ever truly be whole when we’re in love with another?

Sunnyside – Glen David Gold
I knew nothing of this book until it arrived but it sounds very interesting and unusual. “From the author of the acclaimed Carter Beats The Devil comes a grand entertainment with the brilliantly realized figure of Charlie Chaplin at its centre: a novel at once cinematic and intimate, thrilling and darkly comic, which dramatizes the moment when American capitalism, a world at war, and the emerging mecca of Hollywood intersect to spawn an enduring culture of celebrity. SUNNYSIDE follows three overlapping fortunes: Leland Wheeler, son of the last (and worst) Wild West star, as he heads to the battlefields of France; snobbish Hugo Black, drafted to fight in Russia under the British general, Edmund Ironside; and Chaplin himself, contending with studio moguls, accusations of cowardice, his unchecked heart and, most menacing of all, his mother, as he pursues the goal of making a movie ‘as good as he was’. With a cast of enthralling characters both historical and fictional, Sunnyside is a heart-rending, spellbinding novel about dreams, ambition and the dawn of the modern age.”

The latter two arent out until June, so do you think its ok to leave reviews and reading until nearer the time of release? Hmmm, a puzzle and a conundrum I hadn’t thought of before.

So The Blind Assassin… no review just yet its more likely to be tomorrow that I have it up and online. I have still got about 190 pages to go but am giving myself the night off to devour the final pages. So far I am really enjoying it, I can see why other people might not though. It’s definatley a book to take your time with and though the print is quite big its misleading! So the first Big Weekender Review is running a little bit behind now… whoops!

Speaking of the Big Weekender am swapping some of the dates of the books. I am going to do Midnights Children on the May Bank Holiday instead as it sounds like its needs some extra time and patience. I think aswell I might start the books on a friday night! Oh and I also decided on the 4th book after all your thoughts so now the list looks like this…

Memoirs of a Midget – Walter De La Mare (Weekend of 18th April)
The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco (Weekend of 25th April)
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (Weekend of 2nd May)
Sea Of Poppies – Amitav Ghosh (Weekend of 9th May)

So thats all the latest. Oh actually not quite, I need your advice, Savidge Reads Towers appears to have mice (its a Victorian house in London enough said) how can we humanely get rid of them, and most importantly… they don’t eat books do they?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco, Walter De La Mare

Introducing: Savidge Reads Big Weekenders

That title makes it sound like I am hosting some sort of blogging/book festival every weekend which sadly I am not. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful event though, lots of book bloggers under one roof discussing books for a whole weekend, you could even get publishers and authors in on the act too… maybe I should trademark that? That’s actually really got me thinking! Anyway sorry I digressed.

Did you all have lovely Easters? Isn’t it nice that we still have a day of relaxation, reading and letting all that chocolate digest? I have spent most of Friday and Saturday working, no rest for the wicked if they work from home. There have been big breaks away from the computer to curl up on the sofa and read though. Yesterday I had a day off with the Non Reader which was meant to be wandering the streets and getting ‘Lost in London’ which we like to do. You can find the most delightful secret areas of London that way. However the not great weather ruined it all and so we ended up having a spring clean. I held off from a great book sort as then the Non Reader wouldn’t have seen me for a day. Today is back to the grindstone for a half day this afternoon after a lovely lunch with my ex-boss. What did you get up to both relaxation and reading wise I would love to know? I have digressed again! So The Savidge Reads Big Weekenders…

I have a TBR pile all of its own for books over 500 pages. Now I do not call these books tomes (is that spelt right?) by any stretch of the imagination they are not War & Peace, Gone With The Wind or Anna Karenina (which is still at 200 pages read – and has been since late January whoops) those are proper huge monster books, not necessarily monsters in a bad way, just slightly daunting. No the books on this special TBR piles are ones that I really want to read but then think ‘imagine the number of books I could get through instead of that one book’. So on Saturday when I was sorting my TBR piles I thought ‘Simon this is silly, you’re probably missing out on some true gems here so why not read one big book every weekend?’

Well I started one this weekend which I have been meaning to read for ages and promised Novel Insights I would read as part of our Rogue Book Group’s Rogue 5 Challenge while she jets around the globe. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood is a book I started about four years ago, told my Gran I was doing so and she told me the ending. Being only 20 pages in I decided that I would leave it for another year or two until I forgot and fortunately I have – no one spoil it please, don’t you hate it when people do that? This is also a Man Booker winner; and after enjoying doing The Richard & Judy Challenge and then finding that randomly Farmlanebooks was doing the same thing, we have been discussing doing the Man Booker winner list together. More of that later in the week when it’s all finalised though. So I then planned the next four Savidge Reads Big Weekenders which are including this weekends…

The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood (Weekend of 11th April)
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (Weekend of 18th April)
Memoirs of a Midget – Walter De La Mare (Weekend of 25th April)
The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco (Weekend of 2nd May)

I am debating between The Comapny fo Liars by Karen Maitland and Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh after that? If anyone would like to join in that would be wonderful hence why thought would give you the list of what’s coming and we all like a challenge don’t we? I will do the review on the Monday after the weekend of the chosen book and then if you have read it you can leave your thoughts and comments too? Might make interesting discussion, this week the review will be up tomorrow (I should have finished it by then). I would also love to hear your suggestions for ones that I should consider in the future. The only criteria are they need to be more than 500 pages, maybe even 550 and yet less than 850 pages. Can’t wait to see what you suggest.

So far am 200+ pages into The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood and loving it I can already tell there is going to be a big punch in the end. Though isn’t it annoying when you start a book and tell people, or they ask you and then say things like ‘oh god no, I thought that book was awful, I liked her early stuff but that book was dire’ or ‘have you tried The Robber Bride… oh you didn’t like it and couldnt read past 100 pages, shame as its much better than that one you’ve started.’ Fills me with hope that doesn’t it? So far they are both wrong… we will see.

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco, Walter De La Mare