Wednesday, August 08, 2007

booker thoughts

Quite an interesting Booker longlist this year, and certainly a very unexpected one. In recent years the judges have seemed overly keen on rewarding established authors for prior oversights, rather than picking the best book on the list, so it's a pleasant surprise to see that of the 13 named authors this year only two - AN Wilson, and Ian McEwan - are that well-known, and a couple are from small publishers. McEwan's 'On Chesil Beach', which I reviewed here, has been installed as the favourite. It won't win.

My instincts lead me towards three books, all of which are worth a shot and definitely worth reading. Anne Enright's 'The Gathering' is dark and brooding, but beautifully written, and 'What Was Lost' by Catherine O'Flynn is an enjoyable, very original read. I've not yet read Nicola Barker's 'Darkmans' but the reviews have been excellent and it looks fiercely intelligent and challenging. But it's surely a bit too directionless and vivid to be a Booker winner. I'm backing Enright at this stage, although I'll surely change my mind as I become more familiar with the other longlisted books.

Elswhere, a few years back I was outraged (well, as outraged as I can be about such trifling matters) to see Peter Carey's awesome 'Jack Maggs' (which reimagined Dickens' 'Great Expectations' from an Antipodean perspective) excluded from the Booker shortlist. This year I'm pleased to see another book, Lloyd Jones's 'Mister Pip', which takes its inspiration from the same source, make the longlist. This time the action takes place on a South Pacific island. Another one for my reading list, then.

No regrets, then, at the absence of the likes of Doris Lessing, Mark Hadden and Graham Swift, although I expected the rather excellent 'A Curious Earth', by Gerard Woodward, and the new David Peace book, which has had good notices, to make the cut. Whatever, it seems that the current judges are evaluating books fairly and on their own merits and what we're left with is a meaty, satisfying longlist. It'll be interesting to see which six books make the next stage.

Here's the longlist in full.

Darkmans by Nicola Barker (Fourth Estate)
Self Help by Edward Docx (Picador)
The Gift Of Rain by Tan Twan Eng (Myrmidon)
The Gathering by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape)
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (Hamish Hamilton)
The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies (Sceptre)
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (John Murray)
Gifted by Nikita Lalwani (Viking)
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, (Jonathan Cape)
What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn (Tindal Street)
Consolation by Michael Redhill (William Heinemann)
Animal's People by Indra Sinha (Simon & Schuster)
Winnie & Wolf by AN Wilson (Hutchinson)

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