It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!
The Man Booker shortlist has been announced (apologies for the delay in getting it on the blog – I was away last week for my sister’s wedding. More important than books, if only marginally.)
As with the International shortlist, I will be doing my best to get through these bad boys before the winner is announced on 16th October. It may be a tall order as several of them are quite chunky.
By freakish good fortune I’d already picked up two shortlisters so you can get straight to reading my reviews on those ☺
Here’s the list and a little sneak peek into what each one is about.
I’ll be uploading reviews as I go.
This is a completely unique retelling of the Oedipus myth, set on the Oxford canals. In an environment where everything is totally fluid, from gender to reality to mythology to time. We begin with Gretel, a lexicographer, attempting to deal with her difficult relationship with her estranged mother Sarah. We then delve deeper into her isolated upbringing on the canals and one particular summer, where a mysterious drifter named Marcus came to visit then disappeared without trace. All is not as it seems.
Not one for those who love cuddly, optimistic books, this is the story of Romy Hall. Recently incarcerated for two life sentences (plus six years), Romy attempts to deal with the prospect of spending her entire life in jail and separated from her young son Jackson. She reveals her past and what led her to Stanville women’s prison, also offering illuminating and uncomfortable insights about the inevitability of her life’s path.
Milkman by Anna Burns
Potentially the most Irish novel that has ever been written ever, Burns’ novel is set during ‘the troubles’ although you’ll never hear it mentioned. Nor will you find out the narrator’s name, or anyone else’s for that matter. The fact is, where the narrator lives, revealing anything about who you really are and what you really think is enough to get you into trouble. That’s why, when ‘Milkman’ starts sniffing around, she has plenty of reason to be worried.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
Sounding ambitious in the extreme, Powers’ book is about trees, and how they bring people together. It appears to be a collection of nine separate but interlinked stories, and I get the sense that the structure is also going to reflect the structure of the trees themselves (with subdivisions titled roots and leaves). Moreover, the author’s website has promised me ‘concentric rings of interlocking fables’, which is more than enough to pique my interest.
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Coming in strong on the ‘books I would have picked for myself’ list is ‘Washington Black’. This year I have noticed myself developing a slightly morbid tendency towards novels of slavery, purely because I’ve read two outstanding books on that theme (Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’ and Marlon James’ superb ‘The Book of Night Women’). The titular Washington is a young slave boy who escapes from servitude with the aid of his abolitionist master. It appears that his adventure will take us right around the world, from Barbados to Morocco. Could be a corker, but my bar for this genre is set high.
The Long Take by Robin Robertson
Also an attractive truffle to my book-snout is ‘The Long Take’, which sounds at first hearing like a Raymond Chandler novel, but actually looks to be more like a journey narrative following a veteran with PTSD as he travels across the States. According to the Booker site, we can expect his own dark and troubled voyage to be a comment on the state of modern America. Metaphorical political comment tends to be a winner in prize circles, making this novel a contender for me – even if in synopsis alone.
One of the joys of committing to a reading list chosen by other people is that you are forced to read outside of your natural choices. However, there’s really nothing on here that I am immediately alarmed about (unlike the International Shortlist, containing ‘The World Goes On’ by my now life-long nemesis Laszlo Krasznahorkai).
With the exception of Milkman and The Overstory, I might have quite naturally chosen them all (and indeed did choose two of them already!).
Super-duper-ooper excited to read these and talk to you guys about them. Drop me a comment if you’re reading the shortlist too and have any first thoughts!