Tag Archives: Man Booker

Incoming Thoughts…

It has been about a month since I shared some of the highlights of the books that have come through the Savidge letterbox and so I thought I would share some of the books (as I am being very tough on books that now come through the door unsolicited) that I will be reading over the next few months as the mood takes me. Though I have been thinking about how I might change things on Savidge Reads in the New Year, but more on that after I have mulled it further. Anyway back to the books that have come to Savidge Reads HQ and have made themselves most at home. First up some books which have come out quite recently…

Out Now

First of all, I have to mention the book that is causing some big buzz here there and everywhere at the moment and that is S by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. I have to admit that initially I was a bit sceptical about the book because of all the hype. I knew it was written by ‘the man behind Lost’ and if I am honest I wasn’t sure about it because I stopped watching Lost after the first series as I got, erm, lost. However as I saw people discussing it and how the book houses postcards, napkins with maps on, letters and much more my interest was officially piqued. When it arrived in the post last week I will admit I did do a little dance of glee. As yet I haven’t dared open it, I am planning on spending the day with it next weekend – as I don’t want to lose the pieces inside or put them in the wrong order. This is partly why I still haven’t opened Building Stories by Chris Ware, it is still wrapped on the top of my bookshelves.

Elsewhere in that pile are some new to me authors such as Ismail Kadare (who won the International Man Booker Prize, and its short so worth a punt), Jorn Lier Horst (who I was recommended I would like for giving a very different twist on the cold crime genre) and Nadifa Mohammed (whose Black Mamba Boy I have always meant to read and haven’t and is one of the Granta Best Young British Novelists), all of whom I am going to give a try.

There are authors I know too of course. M.R.C. Kasasain’s The Mangle Street Murders was one of the books I mentioned in my ‘books to look out for in the second half of 2013’ on The Readers, I love a Victorian mystery and this looks like a great start of a new series with a duo with a new dynamic and looks at the roles of women in Victorian society, ace. Val McDermid I have been a big fan of for ages and am very excited to read the next Tony Hill and Caron Jordan series after how she left us with The Retribution, this time Tony is prime suspect in a crime. Kishwar Desai’s series is one I often tell myself off for not reading more of, this is her third so I really must read her second.

The last two books are from more famous authors I suppose you would say. Donna Tartt really needs no introduction at the moment as The Goldfinch has had more press and social media buzz than I have seen in a book in ages. It has really put me off and after hearing the last episode of The Readers, her publishers sent me this to see if I could be tempted. We will see. I loved The Secret History so I am not sure why I am so anti this one. Finally there is the memoir of Anjelica Huston (who I like to call Jelly Who-Who, and have been slightly obsessed by since she played the Grand High Witch in the adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches and as Morticia in The Addams Family) I can be a bit funny about celebrity memoirs but I find her a fascinating woman and apparently her mother was a great writer and it runs in the family by all reports. Actually a bit giddy about this one.

Next up, some more books to keep your eyes peeled for in 2014…

Coming 2014

Oh actually Essie Fox’s latest The Goddess and the Thief, another Victorian delight, is out at the start of December my mistake. Louise Welsh is back with A Lovely Way To Burn the start of a new trilogy which sounds like a crime set in a dystopian London from the blurb. Tim Winton is back with Eyrie a novel of a man who has shut himself off from the world and whose past comes to haunt him through some neighbours he meets. Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li (who I have meant to read for some time) also sees the past coming back to haunt three friends, now living continents apart, who were involved in a mysterious accident in their youths that saw a woman poisoned.

Eat My Heart Out is meant to be the debut of the Spring as Zoe Pilger has apparently written The Bell Jar meets The Rachel Papers, intriguing – Sam Byers loves this book. Lost tribes are hunted in 1950 in Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees which Ann Kingman of Books on the Nightstand has been raving about. If you like your books with a dark disturbing twist and sense of malice The Bear by Claire Cameron looks amazing as a camping trip goes horribly wrong and five year old Anna is left to fend for her and her three year old brother as her parents have disappeared and something is lurking in the woods.

Ray Robinson’s Jawbone Lake is one that will intrigue me personally as it is set in the Peak District, which is of course my homeland, and you know I love a good tale set in the countryside and a literary thriller, which apparently this is. I actually spent some time with Ray when he was writing it and we hunted murderous spots in Matlock – though I’ve noted there are no thanks for this tour in the author’s acknowledgements, the bugger, ha! This is probably going to be my next read.

Finally, blimey I have gone on, three books I bought when I fell into a second hand bookshop the other day…

Second Hand Treats

You will read my thoughts on A.M. Homes May We Be Forgiven in the next few weeks and suffice to say I am a bit on the fence with her. I think she’s an incredible writer but almost too good. That might sound crazy though it will make sense when you see my review; I decided to grab Jack as I want to try more of her work. Tove Jansson is an author many people, especially Simon T of Stuck in a Book, have recommended so I thought I would try her short stories. Paul Bowles The Sheltering Sky I know NOTHING about but it was a silver Penguin Classic and so I thought ‘oh why not?’ and snapped it up.

Phew – that is more chatter than I had planned, I do apologise. So do tell me your thoughts on any of the books that are out, the ones that are coming and any of the authors mentioned. Oh and if you think this is a showy off post go here and see my thoughts on that. Also do let me know what books you have got your hands on lately or what you are keen to read, I look forward to hearing all about them.

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

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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The Man Booker Judges 2011… Can Judges Make A Prize More Interesting?

I am feeling a little bit fickle today. The reason I think this is all because of The Man Booker. I have to say I was a little disappointed with The Man Booker Prize winning novel this year, without having read it I will freely admit, and the prize in general. Wonderful titles like ‘The Long Song’ and ‘Room’ were included but I couldn’t get passionate about it like I did back in 2009 when ‘Wolf Hall’ won and I read the whole long list. I couldn’t be bothered about reading them all this year (and have culled quite a few of the titles I haven’t read that were in the long and short lists) the prize seemed to be really stuffy and trying to be trendy all at once. Though of course that could just be me who thought that?

However the fickle me is now quite excited about The Man Booker 2011 because of the announcement of the judges earlier today who are author Matthew d’Ancona (who I hadn’t heard of before), author Susan Hill, politician Chris Mullin, Head of Books at The Telegraph Gaby Wood and Dame Stella Rimmington who was the head . Rather an eclectic mix don’t you think?

I don’t know two of the judges, sorry, but the other three I am really intrigued and pleased about. I am not majorly into politics but I am a big fan of Chris Mullin and his political views so that’s endeared me to him, we have something in common to a degree, though I do wonder if people will be a bit ‘why is a politician judging a book prize’? I am of course ecstatic that one of my favourite authors Susan Hill is one of the judges I need say no more. The one I am most excited about is Dame Stella Rimmington… because she worked for blinking MI5!!! I wonder if this could be the year for crime appearing more heavily on the list with her and Susan Hill at the helm.

Interestingly as ‘The Green Carnation Prize 2010’ draws to a close with the winner announced next Wednesday and yet we are already working on ‘The Green Carnation Prize 2011’ and currently its judges, some of us are staying and some sadly just have too manic a year but maybe joining as ‘guest judges’ after longlists and shortlists are announced, it’s a different way forward for a judging panel but will mean new insights at each stage and yet some of the same faces year by year. So we have been looking at who we should approach and why which has had me thinking a lot about judges and their appeal, so I thought I might ask you your thoughts!

Does who is on a panel affect what you think of an award? Can certain judges endear you and if so why? Would any particular people put you off? Who, if you created an award for books, would you love to have on your five piece judging panel along side you and why?

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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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Filed under Book Thoughts, Man Booker, Orange Prize, The Green Carnation Prize

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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Filed under Books of 2010, Emma Donoghue, Man Booker, Picador Books, Review

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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Filed under Hilary Mantel, Man Booker

Love & Summer – William Trevor

Bizarely a week or so before the Man Booker Long List was announced my Gran (who I know you are all a big fan of) was telling me how wonderful the author William Trevor was. She did add that invariably his entire works “end in tears before bed time” but equally were some of the most wonderful writing and prose she has read from a modern author. Now had I know that he had a new book coming out after such praise as that (my Gran doesn’t rave about authors often after 60 plus years of reading) I would have possibly put him in my guess for the Man Booker Long List this year, but I didn’t. Now reading the Long List I have had the honor of getting an early copy but would William Trevor live up to my long list hopes, let alone my Gran’s high praise?

‘Love & Summer’ is really a snap shot of several peoples lives in the village of Rathmoye, Ireland. I have to admit as I have a slight nosey streak I really enjoy books that have a decent plot but are very much about people and observations of characters and from reading this novel it’s clear that William Trevor is wonderful at this. However it is at the end of one characters life that the book starts and through this death certain characters meet and certain characters circumstances change for good.

The death of Mrs Connulty and her journey from building to building through the town after is the opening paragraph of the book and had me thinking ‘oh this is going to be gloomy’ until I read a line that made me laugh out loud. As she dies Mrs Connulty thinks that “she wouldn’t miss her daughter and she sincerely hoped she wouldn’t be reunited with her husband”, I thought that that was a brilliant line and one I wasn’t expecting. After her death we also see how grief affects her children both Joseph and the unnamed Miss Connulty. There are scenes with the latter and her mother’s jewelry that are fascinating and incredibly insightful.

Mrs Connulty’s death seems to affect everyone in Rathmoye as if you believe the gossip mongers “Mrs Connulty owned half the town” and everyone is out for the funeral. One such guest is Ellie Dillahan the young former convent girl and now second wife of the local farmer who used to deliver Mrs Connulty her eggs. There she spots a stranger to the village taking photos of the funeral that no one else seems to notice. The photographer is Florian Kilderry and he has originally come to photograph the burnt out cinema until he see’s the funeral procession. However someone else spots Florian and Miss Connulty decides he is bad news and must be kept and eye on as events unfold.

I won’t go into anymore of the plot as it would give too much away and so intricate is it that I could end up writing endlessly about the twists and turns of these wonderful often dark and compelling characters. The pasts of both Ellie and Miss Connulty are fascinating and wonderfully written and you do wonder how on earth William Trevor manages this in less than 220 pages, it is quite a feat and I can see for that  reason why the Man Booker judges have selected it.

I will admit in parts with so many characters in such short spaces of time I found it occasionally confusing and had to re-read a fair few bits, but then this isn’t the sort of book you can sit down and read in one go just because its short. You can’t rush it as you may miss important small statements with the love story that runs through it, even if I wasn’t sure about Florian myself, and the fact that what story you instantly think you may get isn’t quite what is delivered. It is truly a book you have to savour it and with characters like my very favourite Orpen Wren who is a wonderful old man with dementia that plays a very pivotal role you will want to savour every scene.  

I did really enjoy the book; will it make it into my short list for the Man Booker? Hmmm, time will tell as I still have another ten of them to read. I will say that this is a perfect summer book (as the title will suggest) and found it the perfect companion by the pool with a picnic this weekend even if as my Gran warned there were ‘a few tears before bedtime’.

Have you read any other William Trevor books? I definately want to read more of his fiction in the future and havn’t a clue where to start!

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Filed under Man Booker, Penguin Books, Review, Viking Books, William Trevor

Man Booker 2009… 5 Out of 13 Ain’t Bad!

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'

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!

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Guessing The Man Booker Longlist

Now in case any of you think that I am cheating and releasing this on the day that the longlist is announced, I have actually written this a few days ahead, as am still in bed and its good to use this swine flu for something positive, anyway so its a timed blog that should be online from 2am. See all bases covered. So back to the point of the blog its the day (or will be the day – as I type) that the Man Booker Longlist is announced which in the world of books is quite a big event. So I thought I would have a guess (and believe me I have done this for two years running and only matched four of my guesses to actual longlisters so am not expecting better this year) and this years Savidge Reads guess is…

  • Between The Assassinations – Aravind Adiga
  • Strangers – Anita Brookner
  • The Childrens Book – A. S. Byatt
  • The Lieutenant – Kate Grenville
  • The Wilderness – Samantha Harvey
  • The Book of Negroes  – Lawrence Hill
  • Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
  • The Taste of Sorrow – Jude Morgan
  • Burnt Shadows – Kamila Shamsie
  • Brooklyn – Colm Toibin
  • The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas
  • The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
  • Breathe – Tim Winton

Will I be even close? I would love to be and possibly feel a little current and with it, at the same time I would like to be quite wrong and see lots of talent I haven’t spotted that I can then read if that makes sense? Out of my list I would most like Kamila Shamsie, Jude Morgan or Samatha Harvey win, though really its a close battle at the moment for Kamila Shamsie and Jude morgan as to who has written my favourite read of 2009 so far!

Who do you think will get longlisted? Are you going to try and do the longlist? I think I am, I just need to pace myself properly with ‘other books I want to read along the way’ as I didnt do this with the Orange. So how close will I get… we will have to wait and see, let me know all of your thoughts!

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Hotel du Lac – Anita Brookner

I don’t know if I included this in the photo’s from yesterdays blog (see below) but I also bought ‘Hotel du Lac’ by Anita Brookner as I am slowly but surely determined to read through all of the Man Booker Winners and this was one that I didn’t own already. It being so short and having heard very mixed reviews I sadly admit that I wanted to read this straight away to ‘get it out the way’ which just goes to show you should always start a book with an open mind as you might just find a diamond before you. 

I absolutely loved Anita Brookner’s 1984 (I was two when this won) Man Booker Winner, seriously loved it. I can easily imagine this becoming a slightly underground classic in the future as the characters and story are just wonderful. Hotel Du Lac is the story of Edith Hope as she takes a break from the world and her writing of mildly successful romance novels. She has, it unfolds, been sent away by her best friend Penelope Milne who she is in disgrace of (along with a fair amount of her social circle) and would only be forgiven if she went to Switzerland to “disappear for a decent length of time and come back older, wiser and properly sorry”. If you loved that line, like I did, then you will love all of the wording and wit Anita Brookner provides throughout a mere 180 pages.

Of course you then want to find out just what disgraceful act Edith has been apart of and as the novel and her character develop you soon realise it could be more than one thing. Once she is in the hotel though you also want to learn about all the stories of the other random guests who are staying in Switzerland ‘out of season’.

There is the fabulous Lady X or ‘the lady with the noisy dog who smoked endlessly and ate only ice cream and cake’ who we learn to love and learn her real name is Monica, sent by her husband to stop eating and loose weight. We also meet Madame De Bonneuil who has been dumped there by her son who visits once a week whilst he and his wife, who hates her, spend all her money and live in her fabulous mansion. There are the fabulous and incredibly wealthy Iris and her daughter Jennifer Pusey who have come merely to shop… endlessly, and drink unbelievable quantities of champagne and gossip. They also like to think they are talk of the town and whilst Iris is her daughter Jennifer “inexpressive as a blank window” doesn’t seem to be following her mothers lead, though there is a dark twist where she is concerned.  

One final quest is Mr Neville who claims himself ‘a romantic’ and thinks he knows just what Edith needs to sort her life out if only he can show her. As the obvious romance story evolves between the two characters I was initially touched and then started to get very disappointed in where the novel might be leading. I shouldn’t have worried as Brookner pulls out a very final and very clever twist as well as finally letting us in on Edith’s past.

I actually hugged this book when I had finished it and really wanted to start the whole thing all over again. It reminded me of the wit of lethal wit, scandal and romance of a Nancy Mitford novel only with modern twists and turns. It also looks at the roles of women at a time, I am guessing it is set in the late sixties early seventies though you are never sure, when rules and ways were changing and they had more options yet weren’t really meant to use them.

All in all this was a short riveting funny and clever novel and what in my eyes isn’t what a Man Booker Winner is normally like. If the judges were to choose a ‘Man Booker Dozen’ filled with novels like this then I would read the whole long list without stopping. There will be more on this year’s long list another though as am doing something special the day before it is announced, so watch this space.

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Filed under Anita Brookner, Books of 2009, Man Booker, Penguin Books, Review

The Great Unread

Todays blog was planned after finally finishing book sorting in the new flat, but looking at Booking Through Thursday  today its a coincidence that I was going to do a blog on my ‘unread’ books now that their move was all done and dusted by 1am this morning, now its just the rest of the flat to shift.

The Booking Through Thursday Question was ‘Give me the list or take a picture of all the books you have stacked on your bedside table, hidden under the bed or standing in your shelf – the books you have not read, but keep meaning to. The books that begin to weigh on your mind. The books that make you cover your ears in conversation and say, ‘No! Don’t give me another book to read! I can’t finish the ones I have!’ I will say that I never ever think ‘don’t give me another book’ though… ever! Also i couldnt do a  list as I think a list of 900+ books could be quite boring! So I thought I would do it in pictures.

Now you guys were fantastic when I asked questions about how to sort my new shelves. However first of all I had to get the boxes sorted which preety much had every book I owned in and had no real structure other than box one was the books I most wanted to read etc. Now as you’ll see below there were a lot of boxes!

 

These six boxes now contain books I have been given by friends and family, or bought from second hand shops. Once these were all done and dusted it was time for the sorting of the shelves. Not the shelves in the lounge which are only for books that I have actually read, these are my new in built shelves in massive new bedroom, it has a bed and a sofa in it, most pleased. But how to do organise incoming books and my TBR? Well you all gave me your hints and tips and in the end I decided to do it like this…

First Set of Shelves

Biographies on the top shelf, big tomes of books on the next shelves, new, old and inbetween. The final bottom shelve is very thin quick and easy reads again new old and inbetween. This is so dependent on mood or if I am up for a challenge I can just grab one of those at random… it makes sense to me! Then we have on the opposite in built shelves… 

More shelves

We have two piles of ‘Man Booker Winners I Haven’t Read’, followed by my ‘Daphne Du Maurier’ TBR and then a small cluster of books that might be ‘unfinished’ but I wouldnt like to comment or linger on those. Below that we have all the latest incoming paperbacks from publishers and under that the latest hardbacks from publishers. It appears that I have quite a lot of reading to do, but I would never say ‘oh no more books for me thank you’. If I did I wouldn’t have received this pile of delights from Vintage

Vintage Man Bookers

I was tempted to give these books thier own shelf as in the picture above as they look stunning. Vintage have decided to re-issue nine of their published Man Booker winners with delightful new covers and in smaller paperbacks which make them easier for commuters like Savidge Reads, though that might not have been the original idea behind the resizing. The books are, in case the picture isnt great…

  • Possession – A. S. Byatt
  • The Gathering – Anne Enright
  • The Famished Road – Ben Okri
  • Amsterdam – Ian McEwan
  • The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch
  • Disgrace – J. M. Coetzee
  • How Late It Was, How Late – James Kelman
  • Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha – Roddy Doyle
  • Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

I have already read Amsterdam and Midnights Children as I had made a pact with Jackie at Farmlanebooks that we would try and read all the winners over a certain period of time, so this series has been a very welcome new addition to the shelves, and almost a housewarming gift!

What about all of you? Whats your TBR like, where can I have a good old nosey! Which pile of my TBR should I pick a book from next, what reads do you have lined up in your ‘great unread’?

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Man Booker Musings…

Firstly, a big congratulations to Alice Munro for winning The Man Booker International Prize today! It did make me think though as for some reason (I should undoubtedly be ashamed) I thought that the Man Booker Prize was International. However after doing some research I found the non-international Man Booker eligibility really interesting though I did question a few things which I have added in italics.

– Any full-length novel, written by a citizen of the Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland or Zimbabwe is eligible. Such a book must be a unified and substantial work. Entry for books is dealt with in Rule 4. (Why only the countries mentioned here???)

– Authors must be living at the time of the award. (What if they died after the longlist is announced, do they automatically get disqualified and the book withdrawn? What if they died the day of the announcement? Please note I am wishing no authors ill, I just find that random!)

– No English translation of a book written originally in any other language is eligible (So are they saying its only English speaking countries that can put a book forward as that goes again the very first point and what about America? )

– Self published books are not eligible where the author is the publisher or where a company has been specifically setup to publish that book. (Not very promising for struggling new talent but then they probably can’t afford the £5000 for the publicity publsihers contribute to any longlisted book.)

– All shortlisted books will be made available by publishers as e-books within two weeks of the shortlist announcement. Extracts from the e-books should be freely accessible for downloads. (Now I never knew e-books could count, that’s amazed me. This also means Margaret Atwood’s new book wont be in the long list as it’s out in September and I thought that would be a definite long lister at least)

– Children’s books will only be accepted on the condition that they have also been published by an adult imprint within the specified dates. (Never knew this, very interesting, but has it ever actually happened. Can you imagine Harry Potter having won the Man Booker?)- No entry shall be ineligible because its author has won either the prize or any other prize previously. (But if it has won other awards does that help?)

I also found this really useful “United Kingdom publishers may enter up to two full-length novels, with scheduled publication dates between 1 October 2008 and 30 September 2009. In addition, any title by an author who has previously won the Booker or Man Booker prize, and any title by an author who has been shortlisted in the last five years may be submitted.” Now I know all the above I can have a proper go at guessing who will make it onto the long list of thirteen before the 28th of July 2009. Is anyone else up for that game? I will do a blog on it again nearer the time. I have to say I am predicting already that The Children’s Book by AS Byatt (which popped through my letter box yesterday) will quite, quite possibly win, the signs are all then. I will let you know my thoughts in a week or so when I have read it but that’s an early guess from me.

Back to today’s announcement, I wondered what differentiates the Man Booker Prize each year from the Man Booker International Prize. The obvious answer, to me any way, is that the International Prize is more for an author than for a piece of work. The site though makes the eligibility a bit vague “Any living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language. The winner is chosen solely at the discretion of the judging panel; there are no submissions from publishers.” Isn’t that a little bit too open?

Now for the winner herself… naturally I now want to read some Munro and wondered if any of you had and if so what did you think? What would you recommend?

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Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

So finally I have conquered the Booker of Booker’s Salman Rushdie’s epic novel Midnights Children. Like Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin I have been finding it difficult to review such an epic and complex novel (seriously this about the fourth time I have sat down and tried to review it so I hope that I get it right this time). I did wonder if reading the Booker of Booker’s was a wise decision when I had only read about five other Booker winners. Would it be too much of a mission?

Midnights Children, let there be no doubt, is a huge novel and not only as it is a grand 675 pages long. Though what is essentially the tale of a mans life in India growing up born on the hour of its independence and all that follows it’s a book that looks at our families life before us, our environments, genealogy, culture and how all of these things make us who we are. It also takes us into the surreal, as the narrator himself is certainly not the most reliable of narrators you will ever come across in fact he sometimes worries himself with the order of events in his mind when he knows they can come out wrong as he crafts his tale and his history.

Our narrator is Saleem Sinai also known as Snotnose, Baldy, Buddha and Piece-of-the- Moon. He is born on the exact stroke of midnight on August 15th 1947 also the exact moment that India became independent after British Colonisation. This makes him special as only he and one other boy of the 1001 born in the first hour of independence actually arrived dead on the midnight hour. However before you find out just why Saleem is so special Rushdie takes you through his heritage and his family background and looks at the question ‘are you born with all your ancestors baggage attached to you before you have even drawn your first breathe?’ I found this idea absolutely fascinating. Not only does he look at that huge question, through Saleem’s family history and indeed through the years that Saleem tells us of his growing up Rushdie shows you how the landscape, religious and political tensions and society changed in India.

Before I get to the ‘surrealism’ I should also mention that one of the other things that makes Saleem so special is the fact that he can get into peoples mind’s read their thoughts and even see through their eyes. In fact as it turns out all of the ‘midnight children’ have some sort of powers that make them unique and also very different from any other children born the day before or the hours after. Which opens up even more interesting tales and made me think that Rushdie might just have had his idea’s “borrowed” for a certain ‘heroic’ TV series, maybe?

Now one thing that scared me off the book before I read it, bar the length – as long books and myself have a funny relationship, was the dreaded ‘surrealism’ word. Now I don’t personally hold anything against books that use surrealism the whole point of fiction to me is to escape. What I don’t like is when it is done to be ‘out there’ or get noticed. I didn’t think that this sudden twist in the tale, there are quite a few unexpected twists in this novel making you wonder just how much genius there must be in Rushdie’s head, did anything other than make the book even more enthralling and fantastic. I admit it I was completely hooked.

It’s not just the extreme storylines that are surreal though its some of the paragraphs of prose which to me read almost like fairy tales throughout the book and who out there didn’t love fairy tales as a child? For example the love story of Saleem’s Grandparents who met when he was a doctor and she his patient only he could only see her via a small hole in a sheet used to cover her modesty when she needed to be examined. They fall in love without ever seeing each other, beautiful. It’s almost a shame she becomes such a sour faced old lady in the end… only it isn’t because what wonderful characters those are.

That is another thing that teems throughout this book. The characters, not only is Saleem himself a great character so are his family, especially his sister ‘Brass Monkey’ in his childhood along with his tempestuous Grandmother. His alcoholic father and adulterous (though not in the way you would think) mother are wonderfully written, in fact his mothers story like his Grandparents love story could have made two more books just by themselves. There is his wonderful wife Padma ‘Godess of Dung’ and possibly my favourite all the cat shooting, bicycle stunt loving American new girl on the block Evelyn Burns who in Saleem’s pre-teen years becomes a femme fatale and young tyrant all in one. Every character is fully formed in this book even if they only show up for just one page.

Overall I think this is a complete masterpiece. Some people will of course hate it, some will find it hard work and some will be taken away by the beautiful prose, the fairy like quality of a true epic tale. (I have to add here this last few years I have read some wonderful fiction based in India or from Indian writers that I am simply going to have to go there – I have quite fallen in love with it.) The latest Rushdie novel The Enchantress of Florence has just jumped about twenty places up my TBR pile, I only hope its as good as it does seem I have started with his best work! Let me know if his others are as good and what your experiences with Rushdie have been like!?!

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Filed under Books of 2009, Man Booker, Review, Salman Rushdie, Vintage Classics

The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

Now I have decided with the Man Booker Winners that as I read them I am not going to compare them to what else was long listed and short listed that year which I might have read. I don’t actually see any benefit in debating if it should have won if a) I haven’t read the whole long list and b) it doesn’t make any difference as I can’t change history… I know, I know, my mystical powers are weak! I am simply going to tell you what I think. Have I ever done a blog on how I review a book before? If not do let me know and I will do one in the coming weeks. Anyway onto the book in question…

The White Tiger is Aravind Adiga’s first novel and it is an incredibly accomplished first book which paints a vivid if slightly dark picture of ‘the real India’. We follow the story of Balram Halwai son of a rickshaw puller also known as ‘The White Tiger’ (which is of course the rarest of all the feline family) and his journey from a boy in a small village to ‘an entrepreneur’ in the big city via a life of servitude as a driver and, rather ominously, murder.

The story is undoubtedly a dark one and one in which Adiga is telling us of the corruption (which as Dovegreyreader brilliantly summed up in her review “just slimes off the page”) in India, its globalisation and how it has faired since the British moved out and American culture moved in. We see the darker sides of life out there that ‘tourists’ to India might not. Though this is a hard look at India and is very gritty for the reader, amongst the dark though there is humour thanks to such a wonderful protagonist. If you are puzzling over how a murderer could be likeable and funny then you need to read the book. Mind you there are a few other novels where I have felt that way too… oh dear, should I worry?

Balram’s personality changes as his surroundings do. He starts of as a naïve but clever school boy, and then becomes a disheartened young man in the tea shops before becoming a wry, calculating and knowing servant to his repugnant masters. He tells us; actually he isn’t telling us his story he is telling it to someone else. We read his story told in the form of letters to The Premiere of China. Which is oddly the only bit of the book that I didn’t really take to as I couldn’t work out why you would tell such a tale and admit to the things that he does if it might very well end up on the desk of someone as important as that.

Bar that one glitch I found the book incredible. It’s so readable and that was all down to Balram and his character (the font of a book helps though I find, more on that next week). I thought the way Adiga managed the plotting and story so we got to see so much of Indian life quite remarkable. We started in the villages looking at education, death, marriage and people who may be poor but make their life as rich as possible through the hard times (Balram’s Gran is a brilliantly calculating old woman – but then you would need to be). In Delhi we get the mix of the richest of the rich, the corruption of the government, the globalisation and Americanisation of the cities and all its gloss and glamour and the in contrast the prostitution, slum dwelling, and the life of those in servitude – the cockroach scenes freaked me out. All in all a great narrator, an unusual look at, and insight into, India and a highly accomplished debut novel.

I look forward to more novels by Adiga and hope that we see more novels from him. Arundhati Roy is an author I always wanted to read more works of after ‘The God of Small Things’ her Booker Winner but sadly we never did, maybe she is biding her time? One thing I will add about the book is the amount of people that I have seen reading it on the tube, I was going to do my report on that this weekend but I am going to hold off another week as am finding it quite interesting. Right I am off to read in the glorious Sunday sunshine.

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Filed under Aravind Adiga, Atlantic Books, Books of 2009, Man Booker, Review