The Man Booker Prize Shortlist Readings

Last night, I went to the Southbank Centre to listen to the shortlisted authors for this year’s Man Booker Prize give readings from their nominated novels.  I really enjoyed a similar event for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in June so I bought a ticket for this one as soon as possible.

The shortlist is as follows:

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Harvest by Jim Crace
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth L. Ozeki
The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín

So far, I have read ‘The Testament of Mary‘ by Colm Tóibín and ‘A Tale for the Time Being‘ by Ruth Ozeki.  I definitely preferred the latter and hope it has a good chance of winning the overall prize.  I have also read Jhumpa Lahiri’s short stories and first novel ‘The Namesake‘ and will soon be reading ‘The Rehearsal’ by Eleanor Catton who was shortlisted for ‘The Luminaries’.  I am particularly interested in reading ‘The Lowland’ and ‘The Luminaries’ in the future.  I might also seek out ‘Harvest’ and ‘We Need New Names’ but I am not in a hurry to do so right now.

Anyway, this is what the South Bank looks like on a rainy Sunday in mid-October (the light and my photography skills are both very poor, by the way).

There was a cheese and wine market behind Royal Festival Hall.  I didn’t buy anything, but here is a picture of some cheese.

This is the Southbank Centre.  Again, my photography skills and the light are both pretty poor but, let’s face it, unless you’re a fan of Brutalist architecture, the building itself still isn’t exactly stunning to look at either.

Upon arrival, I found a free bookmark and shiny programme on my seat.  The programme included lots of interesting facts about the history of the Booker Prize.  Did you know that Kingsley Amis announced that he planned to buy new curtains with his prize money when he won in 1986 for ‘The Old Devils’?  Well, now you do.

Man Booker Prize programme

Taking photographs during the event and the signings was prohibited for lowly audience members like myself but you can see some official pictures on the Man Booker Prize Twitter page.  A recording of the event itself is also available to watch here on the Man Booker Prize website (you will need to fast forward about 28 minutes before it finally starts). For those of you who use Twitter, #ManBookerLive is the official hashtag for the event.

Introduced by James Runcie and presented by Mark Lawson, the event saw the six authors give readings from their shortlisted books and answer a range of questions about their work.  Jim Crace missed the beginning of the event but turned up just as he was due to give his reading, telling the audience to “Never try to drive from Dorset to London in an hour and a half”.  NoViolet Bulawayo and Jhumpa Lahiri discussed themes of identity in their work while Ruth Ozeki explained how she finished the original draft of ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ about three years ago and then rewrote it following the tsunami in March 2011.  

Eleanor Catton and Colm Tóibín were inevitably asked about the length of their novels (over 800 pages and 100 pages respectively).  Catton’s novel ‘The Luminaries’ has a very particular structure with 12 sections in which each section is half the length of the previous one resulting in a very long novel.  Tóibín explained that the reason why ‘The Testament of Mary’ is so short is because the tone of it could not have been sustained for any longer (if you have read it, then you will realise why that makes sense).  

As I read a library copy of ‘The Testament of Mary’ and an eBook of ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ I couldn’t get either of them signed by the authors. Although I would like to read ‘The Lowland’ and ‘The Luminaries’, I can’t really afford to buy new hardback books at the moment (being unemployed sucks, by the way) so instead, I bought second-hand copies of ‘The Rehearsal’ by Eleanor Catton and ‘My Year of Meat’ by Ruth Ozeki from Oxfam.

And here are my signed copies…

The winner will be announced tomorrow.  Who do you think will win and who do you want to win?


Filed under Books

15 responses to “The Man Booker Prize Shortlist Readings

  1. Oh you lucky lucky thing having an evening out at the South Bank! I didn’t even know a Booker reading event existed. Maybe I will go to one one day in the future. It sounds really fun. If I hadn’t read this I’d have assumed it was really serious and dry.

    I couldn’t get on with Testament (am more open minded these days than when younger) but really did decide life was too short. Ozeki is on my To Read list (thanks to your review). Apart from that, woefully behind in my Booker reading.


  2. Sounds like a great event. I’m quietly rooting for Eleanor Catton.


  3. I love writer/book events and getting my books signed too. I hope Eleanor Catton wins, I think the Booker has tended to favour small, elegant novels rather than those with epic scale (Wolf Hall may be a recent exception).


  4. So far I’ve read Harvest, We Need New Names and The Testament of Mary and my favourite is definitely Harvest. I enjoyed We Need New Names when I was reading it but I’ve found that it hasn’t really stuck with me since then. I just finished The Testament of Mary and I actually liked it but I think Harvest deserves to win (out of these three anyway!) Crace’s writing is amazing and I’ll be checking out his previous work now.


  5. Fictionquest

    I am green with envy… sounds like it was a fabulous evening. I am presently reading A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki… and enjoying it thoroughly. Can I be forgiven for cheering on a fellow Canadian? (greedy I know, in the year that Alice Munroe won the Nobel Prize for Lit) 🙂


  6. I was at the South Bank myself, but at a very different event! The London Film Festival is on and I am seeing two films or sometimes three a day. I have collected the Booker Prize winners since it began. The novels included have changed massively over the years, or maybe nobody writes intellectual novels these days, I have been reading the Long List since it was published. Love Ruth Ozeki but I am rooting for Eleanor Catton. Only caught up with The Rehearsal recently, not sure why I missed it. The best thing about the Man Booker is that I have read lots of novels that I would never have picked up in a bookshop, NoViolet Bulawayo, for example. I didn’t like the look of her book and then loved reading it. Don’t judge a book by its flyleaf springs to mind. I think Jim Crace will get the prize though because he has said that this is his last novel and, although it is most certainly not his best by quite a stretch, his body of work had not been recognised by the Man Booker, so this might be their only chance. If you have only just discovered him go back to the earlier books, read Quarantine ( a sort of mid-life Crace) and The Gift of Stones (early) and All That Follows (2010) and yes, do read Harvest because it is a very good book.


  7. I’m SO jealous! It looks as such a lovely, enriching evening! I hope I could move to London only for the bookish events. Oh and that free bookmark, those are the best 😀

    I’ll be reading The Luminaries soon. Can’t wait.


  8. I haven’t read ANY of these yet! Is it bad that I only want to read the ones on this list written by women? There’s no way I’ll get to them all before the prize is awarded, so I have to narrow it down somehow!


  9. Harvest is a great novel; I strongly recommend it.


  10. I went to the event as well. It was great fun and I was the first audience member to ask Catton a question. I’m really happy she’s won and, like you, I really want to read her first novel. Ruth Ozeki came across as so sweet and intelligent, don’t you think?


  11. Pingback: The 2013 End of Year Book Survey | A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

  12. Pingback: My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki | A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

  13. Pingback: The Man Booker Prize Shortlist Readings 2014 | A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

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