Tag Archives: Man Booker Prize

Their Brilliant Careers by Ryan O’Neill

Their Brilliant Careers Ryan O’NeillI have been reading a lot of non-fiction over the last few weeks, and even the most recent novel I have read masquerades as a series of biographical sketches. ‘Their Brilliant Careers’ by Ryan O’Neill is introduced as a collection of sixteen portraits of Australian literary figures from the 20th century. It is a shame that the blurb and my review are forced by necessity to reveal that everything from the dedication to the index is invented, but O’Neill’s highly amusing pastiche more than makes up for this. Continue reading

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The Overstory by Richard Powers

The Overstory Richard PowersShortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2018 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, ‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers brings together nine stories in which the characters grow to realise the extent of the ecological crisis, particularly where trees are concerned. It is difficult to elaborate further on the plot in which the structural concept is, according to the blurb, based around “concentric rings of interlocking fable” which sees the various strands gradually become interlinked. The diverse cast of characters includes a war veteran, a biologist, a childless married couple and a college student who has a near-death experience. The first part ‘Roots’ reads more like a collection of short stories in which trees feature in one way or another. However, links between the characters start to emerge in the second part ‘Trunk’ and the narrative finally starts to read more like a novel.  Continue reading

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The Booker Prize 2019 Longlist

The Booker Prize 2019 LonglistThe Booker Prize 2019 longlist was announced on Wednesday. The 13 titles are:

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry
My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
The Wall by John Lanchester
The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma
Lanny by Max Porter
Quichotte by Salman Rushdie
10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World by Elif Shafak
Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson

I posted a list of predictions last Sunday – part personal wish list and part those I thought might be successful based on trends from past longlists. In the end, I got four right: ‘Lost Children Archive’ by Valeria Luiselli which was also on the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist, ‘Ducks, Newburyport’ by Lucy Ellmann which looks set to be the indie publishing hit of the year, ‘The Wall’ by John Lanchester and ‘The Testaments’ by Margaret Atwood. Overall, there are fewer surprises than usual in a longlist dominated by established names and previous prizewinners. My prediction about historical fiction hasn’t really transpired in the actual longlist which appears to be more focused on contemporary settings and issues, but I will still be looking out for the books I listed last week. Continue reading

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My Books of the Year 2018

Is it possible not to have a good year for books? Thankfully, I don’t think this has happened to me yet, so here is a list of the books I enjoyed the most in 2018.

To Be A Machine Mark O’Connell

The Secret Barrister Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken

Strangers Drowning Larissa Macfarquhar

With the End in Mind Kathryn Mannix

 

 

 

 

I have read more non-fiction than ever this year, partly due to shadowing the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist in March and April which I hope to do again in 2019. To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell won the official prize and was also our shadow panel winner – it’s a fun, informative and pretty terrifying book about transhumanism. , Yet while transhumanists are trying to avoid death at all costs, With the End in Mind by Kathryn Mannix explores the practical side of dying and what a “good” death can look like from her work as a palliative care consultant and this was a stand-out title for me this year. Another book I would happily press into the hands of everyone I meet is The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken which is an eye-opening account of the inner workings of the criminal justice system in the United Kingdom. And Strangers Drowning by Larissa MacFarquhar is a book I am still thinking about regularly months after I finished it mostly because the stories of extreme do-gooders are actually more unsettling than uplifting in many cases.  Continue reading

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The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

The Mars Room Rachel KushnerThe winner of this year’s Man Booker Prize was announced last month. While ‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers and ‘Washington Black’ by Esi Edugyan appeared to be the favourites to win among bloggers I follow, ‘Milkman’ by Anna Burns triumphed in the end. I’m undecided about whether or not to read it. There has been a lot of focus on the experimental prose style and the question of its “readability” with its unnamed characters and paragraphs without breaks. However, when chair of the judges Kwame Anthony Appiah said “I spend my time reading articles in the Journal of Philosophy so by my standards this is not too hard”, I wasn’t sure he really succeeded in selling it to a wider audience. On the other hand, it should be noted that the actual sales figures since Burns’ win tell a different story and it will be interesting to see how it is critically received in the long term. Do let me know what you think of ‘Milkman’ if you have read it. Continue reading

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Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People Sally Rooney‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney tells the story of teenagers Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron who go to school together in the small rural town of Carricklea in the west of Ireland and later move to Dublin to study at Trinity College in the early 2010s. Marianne is a loner from a well-off family while Connell is popular at school and their romance is kept secret from their classmates. However, Marianne finds friends easily among their privileged contemporaries at university whereas Connell feels alienated, and this sudden reversal in their social status complicates their relationship.  Continue reading

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Snap by Belinda Bauer

Snap Belinda BauerThe opening chapter of ‘Snap’ by Belinda Bauer presents a chilling premise based on the unsolved murder of Marie Wilks. On a hot day in the summer of 1998, eleven-year-old Jack Bright is left in a broken-down car by the side of a motorway with his two younger sisters, Joy and Merry, while their pregnant mother, Eileen, goes in search of a telephone for help. However, she never returns and her body is eventually found stabbed to death. 

Three years later and abandoned by their father who was unable to cope, Jack turns to burgling houses to provide for his sisters and escape being noticed by social services. On the other side of town, a young pregnant woman, Catherine While, discovers a knife next to her bed with a note that reads “I could have killed you” but she decides not to tell her husband about the break-in or report it to the police. Elsewhere, DS Reynolds who does everything by the book and DCI Marvel who takes a slightly more unorthodox approach towards detective work are investigating multiple burglaries and the identity of Eileen’s killer who still hasn’t been caught and are in a race against time to solve both mysteries. Continue reading

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The Man Booker Prize 2018 Longlist

Man Booker Prize 2018 Longlist

The Man Booker Prize longlist for 2018 has been announced today (officially this time – it seems it was accidentally leaked by the Guardian yesterday afternoon). The 13 books are:

Snap by Belinda Bauer

Milkman by Anna Burns

Sabrina by Nick Drnaso

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

The Overstory by Richard Powers

The Long Take by Robin Robertson

Normal People by Sally Rooney

From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan Continue reading

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The Man Booker Prize 2018 Longlist: Predictions, Possibilities and Preferences

The Man Booker Prize 2018The Man Booker Prize longlist will be announced on Tuesday 24th July and the annual guessing game of “posh bingo” commences once again. When considering which books could make the cut, I have been thinking about predictions in terms of likely possibilities and my personal preferences – some I have already read, and some I haven’t. I doubt I will better my predictions last year in which I correctly guessed six out of the 13 “Man Booker dozen” longlisted titles including the eventual winner Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. As ever, I have no knowledge of which books have actually been submitted for consideration so my predictions could just as easily be entirely wrong this time.

I would be surprised if the longlist was as dominated by established authors as it was last year. However, Winter by Ali Smith remains a stand-out preference for me, even if the judges decide to plump for something different following Autumn being shortlisted just last year. Another possibility is The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst about a sex scandal involving students at Oxford University during the Blitz and the consequences this has for their families years down the line.  Continue reading

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Man Booker Prize: The Best of the Shortlists

Man Booker Prize shortlistsThe Man Booker Prize is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with a “best of the best” Golden Man Booker Prize due to be awarded next month. However, while the winning novels have often been met by a mixed response, many of the shortlisted and longlisted titles have been well received and in some cases go on to be better known than those taking the prize that year. So if the past winners don’t inspire you, then here is a selection of “the best of the rest” to consider.

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet – shortlisted in 2016, this is a brilliantly original historical crime novel which blurs the line between fiction and non-fiction with outstanding results. Published by Saraband, a small Scottish independent press, I doubt I would have discovered this if it hadn’t been for the publicity generated by the Man Booker Prize. Continue reading

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Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

Hotel du Lac Anita BrooknerI haven’t read many of the early winners of the Booker Prize but ‘Hotel du Lac’ by Anita Brookner is one I have been meaning to read ahead of the Golden Man Booker Prize celebrations later this year. It tells the story of Edith Hope, a novelist of romantic fiction who is staying at a hotel near Lake Geneva in Switzerland by herself. A keen people-watcher, she has some unusual encounters with various eccentric guests including a rich widow Mrs Pusey and her daughter Jennifer, as well as Monica and her dog Kiki. However, it is Philip Neville, a divorced man also staying at the hotel who makes the most significant impression on the other guests.  Continue reading

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4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

4 3 2 1 Paul AusterShortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year, ‘4 3 2 1’ by Paul Auster consists of four different versions of the life of Archibald Issac Ferguson, born in Newark, New Jersey in 1947 (the same year as Auster). Descended from Russian-Jewish immigrants, Archie is the only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson and during his early childhood, random events change the path of his life splitting into four different trajectories – in one version his parents divorce, in another they stay together, in another Stanley dies, and so on. The parallel structure means that each of the seven parts is rewound three times before moving on to the next stage in Archie’s life covering his early childhood through to his coming-of-age in the late 1960s. Continue reading

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The Golden Man Booker Prize

Golden Man Booker Prize 502018 marks the 50th anniversary of the Man Booker Prize and the organisers have launched a one-off prize to celebrate the best of the winning novels to date.

Five writers and poets will be choosing what they consider to be the best winner from each decade. The judges and their categories are Robert McCrum (1969-1979), Lemn Sissay (1980s), Kamila Shamsie (1990s), Simon Mayo (2000s) and Hollie McNish (2010s). There were joint winners in 1974 and 1992 hence why there are 51 winning novels to date. The “Golden Five” shortlisted books will go to a public vote between 26th May until 25th June and the winner will be announced at the Man Booker 50 festival at the Southbank Centre in London on 8th July. Continue reading

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Elmet by Fiona Mozley

Elmet Fiona MozleyLast year’s Man Booker Prize longlist was largely dominated by established authors apart from the surprise inclusion of PhD student Fiona Mozley with her debut novel ‘Elmet’ which made the shortlist but lost out to Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders for the overall prize. Set in Yorkshire, it tells the story of teenage siblings Daniel and Cathy and their father Daddy (also known as John) who relocate from their red-brick house in town to secluded woodland where they have built their own home by hand and living according to ethical principles. However, they soon come into conflict with the rich landowners, putting their way of life in danger. Continue reading

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Solar Bones by Mike McCormack

Solar Bones Mike McCormack‘Solar Bones’ by Mike McCormack won the Goldsmiths Prize last year and has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize this year after it was picked up by the UK-based publisher Canongate. It tells the story of Marcus Conway, a middle-aged civil engineer living in a small town on the west coast of Ireland who is sitting at his kitchen table on All Souls Day reflecting on his life with his wife Mairead and their children Agnes and Darragh. Continue reading

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The Man Booker Prize 2017 Longlist

Man Booker Prize 2017 Longlist

The Man Booker Prize 2017 longlist was announced today. The 13 books are:

4321 by Paul Auster

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Solar Bones by Mike McCormack

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

Elmet by Fiona Mozley

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Autumn by Ali Smith

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Continue reading

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The Man Booker Prize 2017 Longlist: Predictions, Possibilities and Preferences

Man Booker Prize 2017I 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

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Film Review: The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending Film Poster

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

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His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

His Bloody Project Graeme Macrae BurnetShortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, ‘His Bloody Project’ by Graeme Macrae Burnet tells the story of seventeen-year-old Roderick Macrae, accused of committing three brutal murders in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands in 1869. Presented as a series of documents “discovered” by the author whilst researching his family history, the first half of the book consists of Roddy’s written statement in which he confesses to the crimes and gives his version of events leading up to the murders followed by an account of the trial and verdict. The identity of one of the victims is revealed at the beginning to be local constable Lachlan Mackenzie while the other two remain a mystery until the event itself occurs. Continue reading

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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves Karen Joy FowlerIt would have been interesting to read ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’ without knowing the twist which is revealed on page 77. However, as Karen Joy Fowler’s sixth novel has been one of the more commercially successful and widely discussed Man Booker Prize shortlisted books in recent years, I assume that the majority of potential readers will already know the basic premise of the story. Although I don’t think knowing about the big revelation beforehand lessened my enjoyment of the novel, if you still don’t want to read any further spoilers, then look away now. Continue reading

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