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!!
Now this is going to be an interesting post for me to write as I am still not quite sure how I feel about this Man Booker Long List novel, and when I haven’t quite decided how I am feeling about a book I don’t like to put down my thoughts ‘out there’. However I am reading the Man Booker Long List and also I think that this book is one of those books I am not sure I will ever be quite sure how I feel about, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
‘Not Untrue and Not Unkind’ is Ed O’Loughlin’s debut novel and to be long listed is a huge feat and I think from some of the writing and the subject matter of the book that Ed O’Loughlin is definitely a talent to watch out for. The story is based around a group of journalists and photographers who are covering the wars in Africa. The thing is again this is one of those books that suffer slightly from the start because of the blurb.
We as the readers are told “In Dublin, a newspaper editor called Cartwright is found dead. One of his colleagues, Owen Simmons, discovers a dossier on Cartwright’s desk. And in the dossier Owen finds a photograph, which brings him back to a dusty road in Africa and to the woman he once loved! “Not Untrue and Not Unkind” is Owen’s story – a gripping story of friendship, rivalry and betrayal amongst a group of journalists and photographers covering Africa’s wars.” Yes, this is undoubtedly Owen’s story and more of him later but the whole ‘Cartwright is found dead’ I was expecting a much more suspenseful tale and you have to get well past page 80 for any of that to kick off. This is a small thing though; it is just something that really bugs me with blurbs. I know a book needs to be sold, but don’t miss-sell it.
So Owen is our narrator and he is a very interesting one. War has made him immune to the death toll as it rises in more shocking and horrific ways. He in some ways sees his time in Africa both as furthering his career and some sort of extension of his student days, the drink and the girls though he does fall in love. However I did find that his disillusion with people and those who came into his life meant that I never connected with characters and in fact so many were introduced in the style of “and that was how Polly ended up on the scene” so quickly I was quite confused and had too many people to remember in too little time. Not quite the best start but I persevered.
Owen’s disillusionment sadly for me continues with all of the war scenes he goes to. I say war scenes because you never really get the background on what the war. You end up going to a looted palace or going to a site of dismembered bodies without actually ever knowing why this has all happened, it’s sort of assumed that you would know and I didn’t. Maybe that’s my fault though maybe I should have put the effort into researching the background more? Anyway it also ran into the shocking scenes you are shown for example when one of Owen’s colleague says the shocking line “has anyone seen the other half of this baby, I don’t want to count its body twice” because of the fact your narrator has seen it all before it passes onto you as the reader and so you aren’t as shocked as frankly you should be.
I loved the premise of the book and its settings. I thought some of the writing was great. I was intrigued by the characters as far as I could be, though I think the cast is way too many for a book of less than 300 pages. I also liked the idea of seeing these times through the eyes of a journalist and seeing the world they get to see, sadly because my main narrator was immune to it all, I in some way became immune to all of it too and the book didn’t have the effect that I think it could have. Mind you having said all that it is an accomplished debut maybe it’s just not quite for me.
I told you I hadn’t made my mind up yet. I also think it seemed too stereotyped and dark a view of Africa which is a theme that Dovegreyreader commented on when she reviewed the book. Yes it has a dark past but there are books that somehow look at these times, and worse yet they see hope in those times. I think that one of the best books set in Africa is ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche and definitely want to read her other works. What other fantastic books set in Africa are out there that you have encountered? Have you read this one and what did you think?
I have had quite an influx of books at Savidge Towers from some lovely publishers and thought I would share with you what titles you may well be seeing much more of on Savidge Reads. The first set of books that have been coming very kindly through the letter box are of course my main source of reading through August and that is the Man Booker Long List.
Now I have ordered them into “read” which are standing up vertically, “going to read” horizontally and then ‘The Children’s Book’ which is my “steady progress” I actually should have put The Wilderness slightly at an angle as I am re-reading that one again as I think I read it to fast earlier this year and missed some of the magic you have been mentioning. ‘Love & Summer’ was read this week and ‘The Little Stranger’ I read a while ago, I am still finding the latter is one I think about a lot in hindsight. I have just finished ‘Heliopolis’ so expect a review of that soon, possibly later today. I am feeling quite chuffed I have gone from having read one and a half of the list to 4 and 3/4 in a week. Now which should I read next? I still have two more to come which are apparently in the post and those are ‘How To Paint A Dead Man’ by Sarah Hall and ‘The Glass Room’ by Simon Mawer… I hope they arrive in time before the shortlist is announced! Eek! There has also been some non Booker books arrive…
We have in the picture (do you like my new bedding?) just in case you cant see the books are;
- One Day – David Nicholls ( we meet a couple of people on the same day every year for twenty years and see how their lives entwine)
- Serena – Ron Rash (don’t know much about this but sounds like an epic novel)
- Border Songs – Jim Lynch (haven’t read him before but have always wanted to try The Highest Tide)
- A Beginner’s Guide To Acting English – Shappi Khorsandi (I think she is a brilliant comic and a tale of escaping to Britain should be quite funny)
- Of Bee’s & Mist – Erick Sethwan (not out till December this is meant to be an amazing debut of magical surrealism based on folklore from Erick varying family cultures, apparently this has been quite big in America)
- The Other – David Gutterson (someone I have always wanted to try)
- Julie & Julia – Julie Powell (I won’t lie I will be reading this pronto!)
- The Monsters of Templeton – Lauren Groff (a debut novel thats sounds very exciting and me and I have been wanting to read since it came out in hardback)
- The Bronte’s Went To Woolworths – Rachel Feruson (I seem to be late on the uptake with this re-released classic)
- Henrietta’s War – Joyce Dennys (Paperback Reader and Stuck-in-a-Book have both loved this so I am sure I will)
- The Angels Game – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (loved Shadow of the Wind, VERY excited about this one)
Now if this wasnt enough I had two more deliveries (my Gran is staying and has been flabberghasted at the arrivals) one which isgoing to remain secret and be a theme for Septembers blogs and I will announce at the weekend and hope some of you will join in. The other wasn’t for me… or my Gran, but for ‘The Converted One’.
The lovely people at Bloomsbury had sent two Brazilian authors works they are publishing this year, or have published sorry. ‘Equator’ by Miguel Sousa Tavares which ‘The Converted One’ is “going to read next, is so kind of them” and ‘Ashes of the Amazon’ by Milton Hatoum which won the Brazil Jabuti Prize for Best Novel in 2006. After enjoying Heliopolis (even though not by a Brazilian but set there) I am going to have to piler these myself!
Which of these books have you been tempted to read or have your read? Have you read anything else by one of the authors? As ever do let me know, I love all your opinions. What books are at the top of your TBR and are you itching to start?
Okay, okay so I didn’t guess the Man Booker Long List but compared to my two correct guesses last year I don’t think that five is that bad? Yes, the Man Booker Long List has been announced, just over two and a half hours ago and the long listed novels are…
- The Children’s Book – A. S. Byatt
- Summertime – J. M. Coetzee
- The Quickening Maze – Adam Foulds
- How To Paint A Dead Man – Sarah Hall
- The Wilderness – Samantha Harvey
- Me Cheeta – James Lever
- Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
- The Glass Room – Simon Mawer
- Not Untrue & Not Unkind – Ed O’Loughlin
- Heliopolis – James Scudamore
- Brooklyn – Colm Toibin
- Love & Summer – William Trevor
- The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
The ones I guessed are in bold (you can see the others below) and I think the winner will be… I have no idea actually. I am disappointed that neither Jude Morgan nor Kamila Shamsie haven’t made it onto the list, the latter I think a few people will genuinely be shocked about. Am I going to read the Long List? Well yes I am going to give it a whirl and the publishers are behind me reading them which is very nice to know and also saves me around £260. I do think hardbacks are too expensive, sorry am drifting off onto another topic.
I have already read ‘The Wilderness’ by Samantha Harvey but am going to read it again, slowly as I think I rushed it last time plus my review has never shown up and I have jiggled with it and allsorts. I don’t think I am going to re-read ‘The Little Stranger’ though unless it makes the shortlist as I read it quite recently. I will say in regard to that book that my opinion of it has greatly changed. I went from liking it to liking it very much after re-reading the last chapter, that’s all I will say. I can see this being one of the books people might moan about being long listed. We will see.
What is quite funny is I could have guessed six out of thirteen as ‘The Converted One’ (previously known as ‘The Non Reader’) has already read Heliopolis by James Scudamore and absolutely loved it and indeed has even been raving about it to me. It’s set in Brazil where ‘The Converted One’ is from and I have now been told, and I quote “that one should win because its based in Brazil and Brazil is the best” I will see when I start reading it over the weekend. I actually found a picture of ‘The Converted One’ which seemed apt both to the new nickname and to the Man Booker theme today. It was taken on the train to Manchester a few weeks ago…
From 'Non-Reading' to 'Man Booker Reading'
I shall leave you with that for now and you can let me know just what you think of the Long List, I think its going to cause quite some debate. Do you think it’s the right 13? Have you heard of all of them? Have you read some of the more obscure ones? Should any definitely not be in there? Which books are you furious didn’t make it? Do divulge all!