Man Booker Challenge 2014

As is becoming an annual tradition, over the past six weeks I’ve been reading and blogging my way through the Man Booker Prize shortlist. My goal is always to attempt to finish the lot before the winner is announced – however I’ve never actually managed it, and this year has been no exception! I’ve managed five out of the six this year, but having only just started the sixth I’m extremely unlikely to have finished it before the winner is announced this evening!

I’ve been hugely impressed with the shortlist this year. There’s only been one I didn’t enjoy – the rest are all incredibly strong, and I don’t envy the judges needing to pick just one winner!.

Every year when I’ve read the shortlist, I’ve attempted to guess which should be the winner. So far I have a 0% success rate at this – but that’s not going to stop me from trying again ūüėČ

My reviews of each book are up on the Leeds Book Club blog. Links below, along with my brief thoughts on each…

  • J, by Howard Jacobson – wonderful. Important, disturbing and thought-provoking but also witty and human.
  • To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by Joshua Ferris – probably the weakest on the list. Entertaining enough, but not really Booker material!
  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler – bloody marvellous. Had me in tears more than once – I’ve been recommending it to everyone I know!
  • How to be both, by Ali Smith – beautiful! Challenging and experimental, but well worth the effort
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan – gripping and thought-provoking, but let down by the under-developed female characters.

So, thoughts on a likely winner? Well, history suggests it’ll probably be the one I haven’t read yet, so perhaps the smart money should be on Neel Mukherjee’s¬†The Lives of Others! Out of the ones I’ve read though, my favourite is probably¬†We are all completely beside ourselves, or¬†How to be both – picking just one favourite is very hard this year! Picking who I think could/should win is even harder. Out of those two, I think¬†How to be both is the stronger novel, so my fingers are crossed for Ali Smith to be¬†the¬†first Scottish woman to win the prize!

Booker Shortlist 2013

As last year (and the year before, although I didn’t blog them then!) I have been reading my way through the Booker shortlist. My goal was to read all six before the winner was announced, but as that’s tonight and I’m less than 100 pages into the last of them (Eleanor Catton’s doorstop of a book¬†The Luminaries), that isn’t going to happen! But, 5/6 isn’t bad I suppose…

I’ve been blogging them over at Leeds Book Club (links below for the reviews that are up already, I’ll update this post accordingly as more are posted), but thought I’d share my brief thoughts and predictions here, ahead of tonight’s winner announcement.

  • The Testament of Mary, Colm Toibin: LOVED this. A beautifully-written, elegantly crafted novella, I’ll be delighted if this wins.
  • Harvest, Jim Crace: Another very strong contender. Subtle but gripping.
  • A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki: Ambitious, but ultimately left me cold, and not as well-written as I’d expect from a Booker nominee
  • The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri: My favourite so far. A beautiful, complex intertwining of the personal and political. I would really like to see this win.
  • We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo: Good, but not as good as I expected it to be. More like a series of short stories than a novel.
  • The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton: Only just started this one, but very gripping and well-written so far!

I am always wrong when I try to guess the winner, but that’s not going to stop me trying it again! For me, it’s between¬†The Testament of Mary and¬†The Lowlands. I would love it if Lahiri scooped the prize tomorrow, I think it would be very well deserved, but Toibin’s feels slightly more like a Booker winner to me. I’ll be waiting for the results with bated breath!

Update: So, the results are in… and it’s the one I haven’t read yet. Typical. I’m disappointed that my favourite didn’t win, obviously, but very much looking forward to finishing The Luminaries now! Many congratulations to Eleanor Catton for becoming the youngest ever Booker winner (and no, I’m not at all feeling both old and inadequate on realising that she’s a year younger than me… OK maybe just a tad…)

Updates…

I’ve fallen a bit behind lately on updating this blog – I’ve posted very infrequently over the past few months, and just realised I haven’t posted a book review since August! I’ve certainly read some good books since then though, so will try to get a few reviews up shortly.

I have been reviewing elsewhere though! In September/October I read all six of the shortlisted Booker Prize novels, and posted my reviews as a guest of the lovely Leeds Book Club. Here’s the links to my reviews:

  • Umbrella¬†– Will Self – Dire, couldn’t finish it!
  • Bring up the Bodies¬†– Hilary Mantel – LOVED this, but surprised it won
  • The Lighthouse¬†– Alison Moore – Intriguing, will look out for more from this author
  • Swimming Home¬†– Deborah Levy – LOVED this too, really think it should have won!
  • Narcopolis¬†– Jeet Thayil – Icky, but well-written
  • The Garden of Evening Mists¬†–¬†Tan Twan Eng – Nice, but a bit “meh”

I’ve got some great books to read stocked up – including this one that I am particularly excited about:

Black Vodka, by Deborah Levy

Black Vodka, by Deborah Levy

I signed up as a subscriber to ace indie publisher & Other Stories after reading Swimming Home, and this is the first of my subscribers’ books they’ve sent me! Hugely exciting to get this in the post today – especially opening it and seeing my name listed among the subscribers at the back ūüôā

My name in the subscriber list!

And they even sent some lovely postcards, featuring a poem by Deborah Levy, along with it:

Poetry postcard

I was absolutely blown away by Swimming Home, so I can’t wait to read more of Levy’s work. This is probably going to have to wait to January to be read though, but watch out for a review in the new year!

It’s going to have to wait until January because I am desperately trying to complete my Mount TBR Challenge for the year! To recap, I pledged to read 40 of the books from my TBR list by the end of the year. I’m currently at 29 – not bad, but a way still to go! Can I read 11 books in the next 3 and a half weeks?? We shall see…

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