Tag Archives: Book Review

Man Booker International Reviews: Part 4 (and the official shortlist)

Man Booker International Prize Shortlist 2017

The official Man Booker International Prize shortlist of six books was announced on Thursday:

I think this is an interesting selection with some very strong contrasts in genre and style. The shadow panel shortlist will be revealed at a later date as we have decided to allow ourselves a bit more time to finish reading the longlist and deliberate our views. You will have to wait until 9am UK time on Thursday 4th May to find out how many of our collective choices match those of the official judges… Continue reading

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How to Survive a Plague by David France

How to Survive a Plague David FranceI am very pleased to be taking part in the official Wellcome Book Prize blog tour this week to champion ‘How to Survive a Plague’ by David France which is one of six titles shortlisted for this year’s prize awarded to a book on the subject of healthcare or medicine. It follows France’s 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary film of the same name and is a remarkable account of the activists and scientists who campaigned for awareness and funding towards fighting the AIDS epidemic in the United States.
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Man Booker International Prize Reviews: Part 3

Bricks and Mortar Clemens MeyerBricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer is the biggest of the big tomes on this year’s longlist and I have been reading it in between other books on the longlist over the last three weeks. For that reason, I’m not sure if I felt the full force of its power but as the book is so fragmented anyway, I don’t think I felt any more disorientated each time I picked it up again than I would have done if I had read it straight through without distractions. Translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire, it follows a variety of characters involved in the sex trade in an unnamed East German city from the end of the Cold War to the present day exploring the consequences of legalised prostitution, corruption, capitalism, and much much more. Each chapter explores a different character associated in some way with the industry and the chorus of unique voices effectively becomes a collection of interconnected short stories. At the centre of the story is Arnold Kraushaar and his rise “from football hooligan to large-scale landlord and service-provider for prostitutes”.   Continue reading

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Man Booker International Prize Reviews: Part 2

War and Turpentine Stefan HertmansMy Man Booker International Prize shadowing duties continue with two more reviews this week. First up is War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans which has been translated from the Dutch by David McKay. Hertmans inherited his grandfather’s diaries after his death in 1981 and eventually used these personal memoirs to create a compelling narrative of his life as an ironworker, soldier and amateur painter. Born in 1891, the first part of the book focuses on Urbain Martien’s childhood in Ghent in a working class family with his father Franciscus and mother Céline. Hertmans also inserts himself into this part of the story as he unravels his family history in the present day. The second part is a more conventional narrative of Urbain’s experiences in the trenches following the German invasion of Belgium. The final part recounts the post-war years during which Martien sought solace in painting and a secret at the heart of his marriage to Gabrielle is revealed.
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Man Booker International Prize Reviews: Part 1

The Explosion Chronicles Yan LiankeThe shadow panel members have been busy reading the titles longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize. Here are my thoughts about the first four books I have read since the announcement last month:

Yan Lianke’s novel The Four Books was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize last year and was one of the most interesting new discoveries I made last year. Translated from the Chinese by Carlos Rojas, The Explosion Chronicles follows three families – the Kongs, the Zhus and the Chens – who compete to turn their small village into a super metropolis. Lianke’s latest novel to be translated into English is another absurdist satire which criticises corruption, capitalist excess and China’s rapid economic growth with impressive detail and the way in which the story is presented as a history of the town as a sort of miniature account of what has happened to the country in general is done very effectively. Continue reading

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Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar

Spaceman of Bohemia Jaroslav KalfarOut of all of the debut novels which have been published recently, ‘Spaceman of Bohemia’ by Jaroslav Kalfar has one of the most intriguing and original premises. Set in 2018, it tells the story of Jakub Procházka, a Czech astrophysicist turned astronaut on a solo mission to investigate a dust cloud between Earth and Venus and collect samples for analysis. However, his marriage to Lenka is under further strain as she is left behind on Earth and Jakub has plenty of time on his own to reflect on his family’s past. The appearance of a giant Nutella-loving alien spider called Hanuš who may or may not be a figment of Jakub’s imagination only complicates things further.

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Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

Fever Dream Samanta SchweblinTranslated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, ‘Fever Dream’ by Samanta Schweblin tells the story of Amanda, a woman who is critically ill in a rural Argentinian hospital, where David is trying to get her to remember the events which led her there. She recalls encounters with her daughter Nina and David’s mother Carla who once told her how David’s soul was split in two in order to save him after he was poisoned. However, David is not quite the same afterwards, and neither are Amanda and Nina. Continue reading

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