I have been reading two of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlisted books ahead of the announcement of the winner this Wednesday. I won a copy of ‘Stay With Me’ by Ayobami Adebayo via a competition on Twitter (thanks, Canongate!) and I recently bought a copy of ‘The Dark Circle’ by Linda Grant.
Set in Nigeria during a period of political turmoil in the 1980s, ‘Stay With Me’ tells the story of Yejide who is married to Akin and has struggled to get pregnant after four years of marriage. Akin’s family decide that he must marry a second wife, Funmi, to bear the children that Yejide is apparently unable to carry. After a long phantom pregnancy, she eventually does conceive but the spectre of sickle-cell disease looms over the family. Years later, Yejide is due to attend Akin’s father’s funeral where she must face further consequences of past events. Continue reading
‘Alias Grace’ by Margaret Atwood is based on the true story of Grace Marks, a servant convicted of the notorious double murder of her employer Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper and mistress Nancy Montgomery alongside stable hand James McDermott in Toronto in 1843 when she was just sixteen years old. After they were caught attempting to escape from Canada to the United States, McDermott was hanged for the crime while Grace was sentenced to life imprisonment at Kingston Penitentiary in Ontario after her death sentence was commuted at the last minute. Despite confessing to the crime at the time, Grace still claims to have no memory of the murders fifteen years later. Her sanity is being investigated by American psychiatrist Dr. Simon Jordan at the invitation of a liberal minister who believes she is innocent.
The Man Booker International Prize shadow panel’s scores are in and we can now announce our own shortlist of six books. They are:
There is a fair amount of overlap between our shortlist and the official shortlist with just ‘Bricks and Mortar’ and ‘Fish Have No Feet’ being favoured over ‘Mirror, Shoulder, Signal’ and ‘A Horse Walks Into A Bar’. My personal preferences lean towards the books by Jacobsen, Stefánsson and Schweblin while other shadow panel members have made strong cases in favour of the more avant-garde titles. We will be deliberating our choices this month and announcing our winner in June.
Told through a chorus of over 160 different voices, ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ by George Saunders follows the aftermath of the death of Abraham Lincoln’s eleven-year-old son Willie in 1862 from typhoid fever during the American Civil War. Willie finds himself trapped between death and rebirth with other spirits in the cemetery who believe he should proceed to the next stage of the afterlife. However, Willie is resistant as he wants to spend more time with his distraught father who regularly visits the crypt to mourn his loss. Continue reading
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
Bricks 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
A couple of weeks ago, I attended a preview screening of the film adaptation of ‘The Sense of an Ending’, based on Julian Barnes’s bestselling novella first published in 2011. The story follows Tony Webster, a divorced, middle-class, semi-retired man living in London where he runs a vintage camera shop. His memories of events in the past concerning his relationship with Veronica Ford at Bristol University and friendship with Adrian Finn in the 1960s and the tragic consequences which followed are somewhat different from how others remember them. When Tony receives a letter from a solicitor regarding a legacy left by Veronica’s late mother, he is forced to re-examine what actually happened so many years ago. Continue reading