Although I have been following several major literary awards for the past few years, I have never written a blog post specifically outlining my predictions for the Man Booker Prize… until now. Famously dubbed “posh bingo” by 2011 winner Julian Barnes, predicting which 12 or 13 titles will be on the longlist has always been notoriously difficult. Until 2014, the Prize was previously only open to authors from Commonwealth countries but the eligibility criteria have since been extended to allow any work of fiction written in English and published in the United Kingdom to be entered for the Prize. This only makes the annual guessing game even more challenging.
Jean Lucey Pratt was born in October 1909 and began writing her journal in 1925, filling up 45 exercise books until her death in 1986. Her diaries have been edited by Simon Garfield in the collection ‘A Notable Woman: The Romantic Journals of Jean Lucey Pratt’. As a young woman, she lived with her widowed father in Wembley before going on to study architecture and pursuing a career in journalism in London. She moved to a cottage near Slough in 1939, taking a job in the publicity department at a metals company during the Second World War and later ran her own bookshop. However, it was her ongoing search for a husband which preoccupied her the most throughout much of her adult life. Continue reading
Winner of the Booker Prize in 1997, ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy tells the story of twins Esthappen and Rahel and their extended family living in Ayemenem House in Kerala, southern India including their mother Ammu, their uncle Chacko, grandmother Mammachi, great aunt Baby Kochamma and Chacko’s daughter Sophie Mol. The plot focuses on multiple family tragedies, the most significant of which are the mystery surrounding the death of Sophie Mol and the family’s disapproval of Ammu’s lover Velutha because he is an Untouchable. Continue reading
‘Blood Wedding’ by Pierre Lemaitre and translated from the French by Frank Wynne tells the story of Sophie Duguet, a nanny who is becoming increasingly forgetful and paranoid. When the child in her care Leo is found brutally murdered, she has no recollection of what happened and goes on the run fearing that she killed him during one of her frequent blackouts. However, it soon becomes clear that something very sinister has been causing Sophie’s alarming behaviour and changing her identity won’t be the solution to her problems. Continue reading
‘The Muse’ by Jessie Burton tells the story of a young Trinidadian woman Odelle Bastien who lands a job as a typist at the prestigious Skelton art gallery in London in 1967, five years after she moved to the city. Odelle’s new boyfriend Lawrie has recently inherited a painting rumoured to be the work of Isaac Robles, a talented young Spanish artist who mysteriously disappeared during the Civil War in the 1930s. The painting causes quite a stir at the Skelton and Odelle’s enigmatic boss, Marjorie Quick, appears to have a personal interest in the painting as well as a professional one. Odelle sets out to uncover the true origins of the lost masterpiece whose secrets lie with the wealthy Anglo-Austrian Schloss family who employed Isaac’s sister Teresa as their housekeeper in Malaga at the beginning of the war. Continue reading
I really enjoyed reading Night Waking by Sarah Moss which told the story of Dr Anna Bennett, an academic living on the Scottish island of Colsay with her husband and young children, who sets out to uncover the mystery behind how the bones of an infant came to be buried in her garden. Her narrative is interspersed with letters written by May Moberley, a maternity nurse sent to the island to investigate the high infant mortality rate during the 1870s. ‘Bodies of Light’ is a very loose sequel which picks up the historical strand of the story focusing on other members of the Moberley family living in Manchester during the 1860s and 1870s. The novel is a coming-of-age tale of May’s older sister Ally who becomes one the first female students to read medicine in London. However, while their mother Elizabeth is a progressive social campaigner devoted to helping the destitute in the slums of Manchester, she is also a deeply repressed woman who offers no warmth at all towards her husband Alfred or her daughters. Continue reading
Howdy, do you speak American? Or do you prefer conversing in Estuary English with some Cockney rhyming slang thrown in? The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once observed that “England and America are two countries separated by the same language”. If the modern publishing industry is anything to go by, then this sentiment certainly applies to the large numbers of books edited in both British and American English.
Book marketing and editing often reflects the assumption that British and American readers have different tastes. One of the most famous examples of a book being edited specifically for an American audience is ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ by J. K. Rowling which was published as ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ in the United States to be “more suggestive of magic” than its original title. Numerous other words in the main text were also changed so that Harry and his Hogwarts chums (sorry, friends) ate candy rather than sweets, studied for their exams instead of revising for them and went on vacation rather than holiday. Continue reading