Tag Archives: Tom McCarthy

The Man Booker Prize Shortlist 2015

Sorry if I have been a bit quiet of late. The new job that I mentioned the other week has been a bit bonkers (in a brilliant way), I was also at Gladfest , then giving a masterclass to some brilliant new reviewers and bloggers up in Newcastle whilst also working on something secret but very fun with Lynne of Dovegreyreader which we might be able to talk about next year, sorry to be a tease. Oh and I have been reading for Booktopia Petoskey next week. Phew, it has been a bit manic!

Anyway to show I still have my finger on the booky pulse here is the Man Booker Shortlist (you can see my thoughts on the longlist here) for you all, if you haven’t seen it already.

9d9445b9-e0d1-404e-8368-c682867fecb3-2060x1236

  • Marlon James (Jamaica) – A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications)
  • Tom McCarthy (UK) – Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)
  • Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) – The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press)
  • Sunjeev Sahota (UK) – The Year of the Runaways (Picador)
  • Anne Tyler (US) – A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)
  • Hanya Yanagihara (US) – A Little Life (Picador)

I am really keen on it, obviously because Yanagihara is my book of the decade and that’s in the mix, but also because I want to read every single one of the other five. In fact I may have to buy Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island as a treat for myself (and my new job, coughs – this excuse will last months) at lunchtime. I like the mix of authors and the disparity between publishers (which I didn’t like but didn’t bemoan when the longlist came out) seems to have been more balanced out, unintentionally I am sure.

What are your thoughts? Which have you read and what did you make of them? Which do you want to read?

14 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Man Booker, Random Savidgeness

The Man Booker Prize Longlist 2015…

So yesterday I had fun guessing what the Man Booker Longlist would be and now, as I you all want to know what it is before you hear my possibly garbled thoughts on it, here are the books that Ellah Allfrey, John Burnside, Sam Leith and Frances Osborne all judged as being super special and the finest fiction…

Website Splashzone png

  • Bill Clegg (US) – Did You Ever Have a Family (Jonathan Cape)
  • Anne Enright (Ireland) – The Green Road (Jonathan Cape)
  • Marlon James (Jamaica) – A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications)
  • Laila Lalami (US) – The Moor’s Account (Periscope, Garnet Publishing)
  • Tom McCarthy (UK) – Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)
  • Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) – The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press)
  • Andrew O’Hagan (UK) – The Illuminations (Faber & Faber)
  • Marilynne Robinson (US) – Lila (Virago)
  • Anuradha Roy (India) – Sleeping on Jupiter (MacLehose Press, Quercus)
  • Sunjeev Sahota (UK) – The Year of the Runaways (Picador)
  • Anna Smaill (New Zealand) – The Chimes (Sceptre)
  • Anne Tyler (US) – A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)
  • Hanya Yanagihara (US) – A Little Life (Picador)

Surprise surprise as I was absolutely nowhere near correct as I only guessed three. What are my initial thoughts? Well, since you asked so nicely, I think that the list is as always an interesting one. I have read ? of them and am obviously thrilled about A Little Life being on the list, I may even have done a little dance in the lounge which is only for the eyes of my cats. I am also really excited to see Chigozie Obioma and Marlon James on there. I think what is interesting is that some of the big hitters everyone expected to be on the list aren’t. No Ishiguro, no Atwood, no Atkinson (boo), no Toibin etc – which I actually find quite exciting. Firstly all those books are selling like hotcakes so that’s them sorted, secondly it means there are some books that will get a chance to be discussed that might not have been. In the industry we all know of Tyler, Enright, McCarthy and Robinson but outside of the industry is that the case? And then there are even more to discover, I want to read Sahota pronto now, I loved his first. My only minor niggle is Gattis not being on the list, oh and where are all the Australian and Canadian authors. Anyway… I need to mull it all over a little more but overall I think its an interesting list I may well delve into. As it stands I want Yanagihara to win.

So what are your thoughts on the longlist? Which of them have you read and what did you make of them? Which ones are you now planning on reading? I am asking the latter question myself. I might go for all the ones I haven’t you know, maybe…

17 Comments

Filed under Man Booker, Random Savidgeness

Savidge Reads Grills… Charlotte Rogan

Yesterday I told you all about ‘The Lifeboat’ a truly accomplished debut novel with wonderful prose which also gripped me like a thriller, is narrated by a wonderfully unreliable narrator and amazingly also bowled me over considering as it was a book set on a boat – and I don’t normally like those at all. Well today its author, Charlotte Rogan, takes part in a Savidge Reads Grills to discuss the novel, the hidden manuscripts locked away in her drawers and her writing and reading habits. You can also quite possibly win a copy of the book yourself today, read on for more…

Firstly can you describe the story of ‘The Lifeboat’ in a single sentence without giving any plot spoilers?

Grace Winter survives three weeks in an overcrowded lifeboat only to be put on trial for her life, but is she telling the truth at her trial or is she merely saving herself again?

Where did the idea for ‘The Lifeboat’ come from?

The idea for the story came from my husband’s old criminal law text. I was particularly intrigued by two 19th century cases where shipwrecked sailors were put on trial after being rescued. At the time, sailors thought they were protected by something called the Custom of the Sea, which was an unwritten code of conduct meant to govern the actions of those who found themselves far beyond the reach of any civil authority. For instance, it held that the captain should be the last one to leave a sinking ship, that the women and children should be saved first, and that the ship’s crew owed a special duty to the passengers. It also held that the concept of necessity made it acceptable to kill other people in order to survive as long as the victims were chosen fairly by drawing lots. The moral issues involved in lifeboat situations are what hooked me—not only on an individual level, but on a social level, for lifeboats can be used as metaphors for all sorts of situations faced by society today. And the law is so interesting. It is a way of telling a story so we can judge it, but in order to do that, it leaves out the fraility of mind and body, the human will to surive, the nuance, and the fear. The left out bits are what I wanted my story to be about.

This year has obviously been the anniversary of the Titanic’s disaster, was this something that inspired the book at all? Did you use anything from that case for ‘The Lifeboat’?

I was obviously aware of the Titanic disaster, but I was not thinking about it as I started to write the book. Later on in the writing process, though, it proved to be an invaluable resource. The volume of information gathered and written about the Titanic made it easy for me to research elements that were important to my story, such as lifeboat sizes, launching mechanisms, wireless communication devices, and shipping routes, to name a few.

How much research did you have to do for the novel, obviously you couldn’t blow a dingy up and just ask friends or relatives to push you out into the middle of a lake etc? Was there a particular story in history?

Besides researching technical details and reading some non-fiction accounts of survival at sea, I tapped into my own experiences growing up in a family of sailors. My father was intense and competitive, which had the effect of turning a casual family outing into a high-stakes, all-hands-on-deck game. We children would be lured onto the boat with talk of cruising to some far-off shore and cooking marshmallows on the beach, but sooner or later we would find outselves racing with the other boats we saw. My sister and I were too little to be of any help in this endeavor, and it was our job to not fall overboard and to stay out of the way. The weather sometimes turned bad, but we were not quitters! It made us seasick to go into the boat’s cabin during a storm, so I know what it is to huddle in the rain for hours on end surrounded by people who are stonger than I am.

Now I am rather renowned through Savidge Reads for not being a fan of a books set on boats (though I was a fan of this one) as I instantly think that with minimal characters and nothing but ocean around this could limit a novel, this isn’t the case with ‘The Lifeboat’ though is it? What were the pro’s and con’s of writing a novel primarily set on a lifeboat lost at sea?

I, too, have had the experience of not being taken with the premise of a novel and then absolutely loving the book. I think the best novels defy expectations, whether it be through unusual characters or surprising language or intricate plots. I also think closed room novels can be both challenging and liberating. Just the way having their options and horizons severly curtailed forces the characters in the lifeboat to draw on deeper parts of themselves, the novelist, too, has to reach beyond setting and plot when she limits herself in this way.

One of the advantages of fiction is that it has so many dimensions: there is the surface of the words and sentences; there is the linear dimension of plot; and there is the depth, which encompasses the myriad things that are going on in a charater at any particular moment in time: motives and memories, hopes and fears, sensations and thoughts. So there can be a wonderful freedom in limits—freedom to dig and magnify and explore more than just the who did what of a linear plot.

Now Grace, our protagonist, is a very interesting character and we never know if she is reliable or not as a narrator. Did you have fun with this element?

I did. My characters take on a life of their own, and I remember the first time I realized: “Grace isn’t telling the truth!” But my very next thought was: “Well, who does?” I love how Grace is by turns calculating and honest and how we catch her in a truth the way we might catch other people in a lie. I also liked the chance to explore how a woman might use her innate talents in order to survive just the way a stong man would use his. Grace is a keen observer and highly attuned to social cues and nuance. Those are traits that help her in the lifeboat, and at her trial, they help her again.

There is a certain amount of mystery to the book, hence why we have to be rather cloak and dagger, how hard was it to come up with twists in order to leave the reader wondering and wanting to know more throughout the novel?

Plot for me is difficult—and, frankly, it is not the first thing I read for. More important for me are the language and the characters and an author’s attempt to hit on something universal. But I eventually realized that most readers read for plot and that if I was going to increase my chances of finding a publisher, I was going to have to pay attention to it.

The key to most aspects of writing is revision, which includes something I call layering—going back over and adding and refining and intentionally making more of whatever I find in the pages I have written. The first draft is little more that hints and impulses, with the twists and complications accruing over time.

‘The Lifeboat’ has been chosen as one of the Waterstones 11 and been praised all over the book world, how has this been for you?

I spent the first six weeks after publication in a state of heightened anxiety. I was being asked to do a lot of things I had never done before and wasn’t particularly good at, like giving interviews and speaking in front of groups. My publishing team had shown such faith in me that I didn’t want to let them down.

Another scary thing about sending a novel out into the world is that a lot of very smart and knowledgable literary people will not only see it, but will publicly comment on it. I have fairly ambitious ideas about what a novel can be, so I am happy and grateful that some of the people who know about these things have understood what I was trying to do.

An unexpected and wonderful aspect to being published has been the opportunity to connect with a lot of people who are just as passionate about books and writing as I am. I didn’t know a lot of book people before, and meeting them has been both eye-opening and fun.

I have heard that while ‘The Lifeboat’ is officially your debut novel, you actually had/have several novels locked away in your drawers. Why is ‘The Lifeboat’ the first one that got published? Did you know it had something special about it? Do you think any of those other novels will be published in the future?

As I said, I got better at plotting over the years, which I think is one of the things that made The Lifeboat appealing to the publishers. But it was also the manuscript I was working on when I was introduced to my literary agent. I actually sent him two manuscripts, and while he liked the other one, he thought The Lifeboat would be easier to sell.

Once I finish a project, I tend to move on. While I could imagine going back to one of my old manuscripts, I don’t spend a lot of time looking back or worrying about all those pages in the drawer.

Before we discuss books further, let us discuss writing! When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? How long have you been writing for?

At this point, I have been writing for 25 years. I did not always want to be a writer—I wanted to be an architect. When I was in my mid-thirties, I took a leave of absence from my job at a construction company, and it seemed an opportune time to try something new. I decided I would write a novel, and I was lucky enough to take an inspirational creative writing workshop with Harold Brodkey. He is the person who opened my eyes to the layered and multi-faceted thing that writing can be.

When I started writing, I started reading differently. I read and re-read with the aim of figuring out how my literary heroes did it. I was not content to write something that didn’t work on several levels at once, and I think that is why I didn’t really care if I got published early on. What I wanted was to get good at the writing itself—for a long time, getting published seemed very secondary to that.

Describe your typical writing routine, do you have any writers quirks or any writing rituals?

The key to fitting writing into life as a parent is to take advantage of the corners of time, wherever you might find them. I used to have a beautiful fountain pen, and I would sometimes spend a good bit of my writing time tracking it down or racing off to buy cartridges when I was out of ink. I got used to the weight of it, which made other pens seem to lack substance. When the pen broke, I went through a period of withdrawal, but I realized I was better off without it. I became very happy to write in waiting rooms and carpool lines, on the backs of envelopes and receipts—whenever and with whatever I had at hand in those precious bits of time. My first writing space was in a basement, where I sat at a workbench amid the tools, and my second space was a funny room off the garage. Now I have the luxury of time and a pretty desk, but I am trying not to get too used to it.

Back to reading now… What is your favourite ‘guilty pleasure’ read?

I recently read a Michael Connelly mystery and enjoyed it. While that is not the type of book I usually go for, I didn’t feel guilty about it. I like literary fiction, but some of the books I am drawn to can only be read in small chunks, like A Book of Memories by Peter Nádas, which I am reading now. I am also reading everything by Albert Camus and A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash.

Which book, apart from your own, would you demand Savidge Reads and readers run out and buy right this instant, a book you would call your favourite?

Reading choices are so personal, and I don’t have a favorite. How about if I suggest four books I read in the last year and found worthy of my Life List? They are Remainder by Tom McCarthy (a novel as remarkable for what the author leaves out—expostition and explanation—as for what he puts in), The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton (a strange and compelling novel of performers and voyeurs), Zone One by Colson Whitehead (astonishing language and powers of observation, no plot), and The Unlikely Pilgrimmage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (another Waterstones 11 pick; gorgeous language and story that touches the heart). I can never describe what I look for in a book, because the books that knock my socks off do so by being completely unpredictable, which is one of the things I love about them.

What is next for Charlotte Rogan?

My biggest challenge now is to juggle my new responsibilities so I can get back to the novel I am working on. I am superstitious when it comes to talking about unfinished work, so the only thing I will say is that it is set in South Africa. My husband and I spent almost a year in Johannesburg and fell in love with the country and the people.

Huge thanks to Charlotte for taking time to answer all my questions. ‘The Lifeboat’ is a truly wonderful book, you really need to give it a read. Oh… as if by magic you might just be able to win one of five copies, for more details pop here. Don’t say I don’t always think of you all.

3 Comments

Filed under Charlotte Rogan, Savidge Reads Grills...

And The Man Booker Prize 2010 Winner is…

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Man Booker

Books on Trains

I just realised that the title of this mini-post looks like I am about to talk about books about trains, and I swear I’m not though I do have a train themed question coming for you slightly later on. The reason for todays post is that I will be spending about 8 hours on trains and tubes this weekend as I am off up north again this time to visit my youngest Aunty Alice, her husband (who I have a big bag of books for as he is a mammoth reader too) and my two year old twin cousins. So this gives me the perfect chance for some reading time and so I selected four, yes four – in case of all possible reading errors as mentioned in Back Up Books earlier this week, books for my trip away which are…

  • The Birds & Other Stories by Daphne Du Maurier – I am halfway through and this will be ideal if any of the others don’t quite do the trick (which I am sure they will) and if I finish one of the novels this can be a palate cleanser.
  • Wavewalker by Stella Duffy – I havent followed up on Stella Duffy’s crime series since reading ‘Calendar Girl’ and I swore I would so this has been on my hit list a while and both crime and Stella Duffy tend to do me well so a mix should be ideal.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – I need to crack on with this for our discussion on the 26th of this month with ‘Spending Sunday with a Classic’. I always forget how big it is till I actually take it off the shelf.
  • C by Tom McCarthy – One of this years Man Booker contenders and one I think I might struggle with but really want to try so will be cracking (though not literally spine cracking) this one open first and seeing, or c-ing ha, how I get on.

So that is what I should be reading over the weekend (not all of them of course but bits of or a few of), what will you be reading this weekend? How many books do you take a way for a weekend vacation? Oh and trains… I was desperately looking for books which are set on trains and other than the Agatha Christies which I have read I couldnt think of any, can any of you help? I do like the idea of a good train journey to read on a train journey.

10 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts

The Man Booker Shortlist 2010

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

  

Will I read the other three?

  

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

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

10 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Man Booker

The Man Booker Longlist 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

38 Comments

Filed under Man Booker