I only started blogging about my predictions for literary award longlists relatively recently. Three of my Man Booker Prize predictions last year made it on to the longlist of 13 titles, and two of them also made the final six, which I thought was a pretty good success rate considering the vast number of eligible books.
This year’s longlist is due to be announced on Thursday 27th July and I have once again been thinking about predictions in terms of likely possibilities and my personal preferences. I have read some brilliant books over the past year which I believe very much deserve to be recognised but I think other titles may have a better chance of being longlisted. Some of the possibilities are books I haven’t read yet and as ever, I also have no knowledge of which books have actually been submitted for consideration. Continue reading
Political events across the world continue to move at a whirlwind pace, particularly here in the UK. Here are my recommendations for three recent non-fiction books about British politics.
‘The Women Who Shaped Politics’ by Sophy Ridge offers a broad overview of the female campaigners and Members of Parliament who have shifted the political landscape in Westminster. The first half focuses on historical pioneers such as Mary Wollstonecraft and those involved in the suffragette movement while the second half draws on interviews with a range of contemporary female politicians including current Prime Minister Theresa May. Continue reading
‘Days Without End’ by Sebastian Barry tells the story of Thomas McNulty, a young Irishman who emigrates to Canada and later the United States in the mid-19th century after his family perished in the Great Famine. He befriends and falls in love with John Cole when they are teenagers and they work at a saloon where they dress as women and dance for miners. They later enlist for the US army fighting in two wars and adopt an orphaned Indian Sioux girl who they name Winona. Continue reading
I’ve had a copy of ‘On Beauty’ by Zadie Smith on my shelf for ages but as it is based on ‘Howards End’ by E. M. Forster, I decided to read the latter first about six years ago as I usually prefer to have some knowledge of the source material when reading an adaptation or homage to another book. However, I didn’t get on with ‘Howards End’ at all and consequently I have neglected ‘On Beauty’ for a very long time, but after enjoying Smith’s latest novel Swing Time so much last year, I wanted to try what is arguably her finest book.
‘The Valentine House’ by Emma Henderson is set in the French Alps at Arete, a large chalet built by Sir Anthony Valentine in the late nineteenth century and used as a summer house by the family across several generations. In 1914, Mathilde, a local girl from the valley, is selected by Sir Anthony’s wife Lady Charlotte to work as a servant at Arete on account of her being one of the ‘uglies’ and therefore less likely to catch Sir Anthony’s wandering eye. Mathilde gradually becomes acquainted with the quirks of this strange English family until she is betrayed by Sir Anthony’s granddaughter Daisy. Decades later in 1976, Sir Anthony’s great-great-grandson George is visiting Arete with his cousins, continuing many of the Valentine traditions such as the outdoor physical challenges known as ‘paideia’. With Mathilde’s help, they finally uncover the mystery surrounding the fate of Sir Anthony’s daughter Margaret. Continue reading
‘Men Without Women’ by Haruki Murakami is the renowned Japanese author’s first new collection of short stories to be translated into English in over a decade. Echoing Ernest Hemingway’s collection of the same name, the seven tales in this collection are indeed about men experiencing loneliness and isolation without the women who are now absent from their lives for various reasons. The stories have been translated by Ted Goossen and Philip Gabriel who have both worked on many of Murakami’s previous books.
The official winner of the Man Booker International Prize was announced last night with A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen taking the £50,000 prize split equally between author and translator. The novel about a stand-up comedian going into meltdown on stage has been praised by the judges as “an extraordinary story that soars in the hands of a master storyteller” and “a mesmerising meditation on the opposite forces shaping our lives: humour and sorrow, loss and hope, cruelty and compassion, and how even in the darkest hours we find the courage to carry on.” Continue reading