Thursday 10 October 2013

This Year's Booker Shortlist...

has been excellent. The best in years! At one point, I surprised the Technical Department by saying that of the five I had read at that point, any one of them would be a worthy winner.  Of them all, the one I read last 'We Need New Names' was probably the weakest of the bunch, although I think even that was only by comparison with the others, rather than on an absolute standard.

 'The Testament of Mary' is a remarkable piece of writing - but I'm not sure I would describe it as a novel, fact, I'm not quite sure in which department on the library shelves it belongs... on that basis alone, I don't think I would choose it as the winner.

''The Luminaries', I loved - I heard one of the judging panel on the radio describe beginning to read this book as like sinking into a lovely, warm bath....and it is! Exactly! Tremendous fun, and completely engrossing. Although, I suspected at the end that I'd entirely missed the author's point in all of her astronomical references, the relevance of which passed me by completely.

Jhumpa Lahiri, with 'The Lowland'  was a tremendous new discovery for me; I so enjoyed the style of this book...wise and four-square and gently fatalistic. And beautifully written. I see she already has several other books to her name, which I will be consuming at my leisure over the winter months.

'A Tale for the Time Being' was charming, and lyrical, and a complete pleasure - I'm not entirely sure about the Schrodinger's Cat concept which evolves at the end, though, as it was unpleasantly reminiscent of some aspects of that appallingly arch, mannered effort 'Sophie's World', which was (incomprehensibly) a great hit about twenty five years ago. In the days before Amazon, now I come to think of it....

And then there was 'Harvest'. About which I have no reservations whatsoever, and so probably, if only by process of elimination, that must be my choice for this year's winner. Or is it 'The Lowland'..?.I don't know. The choice is not easy...
It remains to be seen whether the judges agree with me, at least about it being one of those two - it would pretty much be a first, if they do, and if my past second-guessing performance is anything to go by, then it will be Ms Noviolet Bulawayo who walks off with the cheque!

It was a shame that 'Transatlantic' didn't make it to the shortlist - it certainly deserved to, and I expect we'll see Colum McCann there at some point in the future. I wouldn't have been surprised had Donal Ryan made it also, with 'The Spinning Heart'. But, I do confess to throwing my hat in the air when 'Unexploded' didn't make the final cut, as it must be one of the most irritating, silly, superficial, vapid, witless and uninformed pieces of writing I've ever had to plough through; shame on them for having it let even get as far as the Longlist!

In any event, it has been such a pleasure to work my through them, over the past six weeks or so. Complete congratulations to this year's judges for having done such a splendid job - of the final six, not a duffer amongst them!

I have to run. The Pauli are coming to dinner, in about ten minutes, for a vertical tasting of Foie Gras cooked two ways - one cured in salt, and the other gently poached.

Onward and upward!


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