Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Man Booker Longlist



Book bloggers around the world were surprised when the longlist for the 2011 Man Booker Prize for Fiction was announced yesterday. The predictions and favorites of many bloggers were far off the mark. The 13 books on the list include: a former Man Booker Prize winner; two previously shortlisted writers and one longlisted author; four first time novelists and three Canadian writers. Personally, I've only heard of three novels on the list. The other authors and novels are all new to me.

The Booker Longlist:
Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape - Random House)
Sebastian Barry On Canaan's Side (Faber)
Carol Birch Jamrach's Menagerie (Canongate Books)
Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers (Granta)
Esi Edugyan Half Blood Blues (Serpent's Tail - Profile)
Yvette Edwards A Cupboard Full of Coats (Oneworld)
Alan Hollinghurst The Stranger's Child (Picador - Pan Macmillan)
Stephen Kelman Pigeon English (Bloomsbury)
Patrick McGuinness The Last Hundred Days (Seren Books)
A.D. Miller Snowdrops (Atlantic)
Alison Pick Far to Go (Headline Review)
Jane Rogers The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Sandstone Press)
D.J. Taylor Derby Day (Chatto & Windus - Random House)

I must say that at first glance there wasn't one book on the list that grabbed my attention. But after some research on the internet, some of them became more interesting, particularly the following:

Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch
It's 1857 and. Jaffy Brown is literally saved from the jaws of death by Mr Jamrach, an explorer, entrepreneur and collector of strange creatures. Soon, Jaffy finds himself on board a ship bound for the Dutch East Indies, on an unusual commission for Mr Jamrach. An epic novel that brings alive the smells, sights and flavors of the nineteenth century.

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
The story of Harri Opuku, an eleven-year-old immigrant from Ghana living in London with his older sister and mother. Together with his best friend Dean, a pair of camouflage binoculars and detective techniques learned from TV shows like CSI, Harri tries to solve the murder of his classmate.

Snowdrops by A.D. Miller
A riveting psychological drama set in Moscow. A young Englishman's is seduced by the new Russia: a land of hedonism and desperation, corruption and kindness.

Derby Day by D.J. Taylor
A gripping novel of romance and rivalry, gambling and greed set in the Victorian era.

Far to Go by Alison Pick
A powerful and moving story about one family's epic journey to flee the Nazi occupation of their homeland in 1939, and above all to save the life of a six-year-old boy.

The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers
In the near future, women have been infected by an airborne contaminant which causes maternal death syndrome (MDS). Anyone who becomes pregnant will automatically develop a form of CJD which ultimately kills them. Jessie Lamb, a teenage girl, has a chance to save the human race.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Four school friends age and lose contact with one another. But one of them, Tony, cannot forget the memory of a particular weekend with his friends at his ex-girlfriend's home. An unexpected lawyer's letter leads Tony on a search through the murky past.


I highly doubt that I'll be able to read all these books by September 6th, which is when the shortlist will be announced. I'll start with Jamrach's Menagerie and Pigeon English, both of which I now have on my Kindle and are the ones that sounded the most interesting to me. Have you read any of the books on the longlist? Which ones do you recommend? Which ones do you plan to read?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Odds and Ends

I realize I haven't posted a blog entry for more than a month. I have a good excuse - I recently came back from a family holiday in Spain and the Netherlands. I forgot to mention it before I left but I had hoped to post from there as I've done in the past but there's a big difference between traveling with one child and two children, one of whom is a five-month-old baby. Our hands were literally full...but in a good way! I also didn't get much reading done. It took me over two weeks to read the supposedly 'unputdownable' Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson. To be honest, I thought this novel was just ok. I actually didn't find it so thrilling. It has an interesting premise - a woman who lives a perpetual Groundhog Day life because she wakes up everyday with no memory of the days before. In my opinion, it was predictable. I could see the end coming a mile away. So far, I haven't read any negative reviews so I wonder who else felt this way about Before I Go To Sleep?  I also finally finished Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. While definitely not a literary novel, it is fun! I plan to read the second book sometime this year.





With regards to book buying (not counting children's books), I've been very good and only bought two books for myself. Since I took my Kindle, I decided to only buy books that are not available as e-books. It's funny but while usually I can't wait to get to the local bookshops as soon as I land in any country, this time I wasn't that fussed at all. I think the Kindle has changed all that. Now, I can buy a book with just one-click and have it instantly and usually it's even cheaper than the bookshop price especially in the Netherlands where English books tend to cost between 15 to 20 euros! And that's not even a hardbound edition. I was still excited to visit the Waterstones in Amsterdam just to check out their recommendation displays which is always fun plus they have an excellent selection of children's books.

So the two books I bought are:


Gillespie and I by Jane Harris - I've just started reading this and so far it's very good. A spinster in her 30s gets embroiled in the lives of a strange family with tragic results.

Imperium by Ryznard Kapuscinski -I don't usually read these type of books but my youngest brother highly recommended this work of non-fiction by the late Polish journalist Kapuscinski. It's a travelogue account of the Soviet Union detailing the writer's travels and experiences with the people of this very vast and interesting country.



Books aside, I discovered this hilarious British sitcom while in the Netherlands, Miranda starring Miranda Hart. Oh my god, it's laugh out loud hilarious! I love it and I luckily managed to get a hold of both seasons. This is the type of show that is reminiscent of beloved Brit sitcoms such as Fawlty Towers and Keeping Up Appearances.  Miranda is over 6 feet tall and desperate to fit in and get a date. Her mother constantly tries to find her a husband but Miranda just keeps getting herself into embarrassing situations with her friends and acquaintances not to mention her 'crush,' Gary the chef. As Miranda's mum would say, 'such fun!'

On a personal note, during this holiday my five-year-old discovered an old favorite of ours, Tintin (known as Kuifje in Dutch). Ok, so he's not actually reading the comic books. He loved looking at the pictures and listening to us read to him every night. It's fun for us to reread them too and to make up voices for Captain Haddock and Bianca Castafiore. Reading the books now as a grown up, I suddenly realize that Hergé is a genius.



Have you read any of the books I mentioned or seen Miranda? Let me know what you think. I'm curious to see what you've all been reading so I'm off to check out my Google Reader now...
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