So the latest Booker Prize is announced tonight and so we thought we would pull together all our reviews of the shortlisted titles for your delectation. Thanks to Fran Slater for working overtime, and to Pete for reading the books in question.
“To this reader, reading To Rise Again at a Decent Hour felt a little like reading Operation Shylock (in that it felt like a book by a writer you like that you thought didn’t quite match up to the rest of their work) or the latter portions of James Lasdun’s Give Me Everything You Have (where you think – I was with you and enjoying myself but now I’m not with you and not enjoying myself).”
“Each character in the novel is believable, sympathetic, and intriguing. Despite the true sadness that sits behind the words on every single page of the book, Fowler manages to write one of the most wryly amusing novels of the year. And if you want to see a grown man cry on his own in bed at night, give him the last forty pages of this book.”
“J is a novel that relies heavily on obscuring the facts. WHAT HAPPENED? We don’t know. In part, it seems this is what is supposed to provide the tension, but it doesn’t. The world we see in J is hardly horrible enough to have us screaming and crying, desperate to know what could have caused this chaos. A few people live in a nice village and drink in pubs but they’re not allowed to listen to Ray Charles. Oh, the horror. It’s the start of a great idea, chopped off at its roots.”
“Ali Smith’s latest novel was longlisted for the Booker before it was even published. Earlier this week, it was announced that How to be Both had made the shortlist, the third of her novels to do so. It should come as no surprise. Like most of her work, it has the individuality and uniqueness that the Booker is meant to represent.”
“Whilst Flanagan’s prose is frequently beautiful, and the reader doesn’t take long to establish which time and which character we are with, it is nevertheless disorientating. If I was to sit down opposite you and you were to tell me that you’d started it and it wasn’t for you, I would completely understand because there were points early on where I felt it wasn’t for me. But I persevered and I am glad that I did because I think The Narrow Road to the Deep North is really rather good.”
“This subject will be familiar fodder to anyone who read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Booker shortlisted The Lowland last year, and it should come as no surprise that the judging panel have deemed similar themes worthy of nomination once again. This is weighty, and apparently trendy, material. But does The Lives of Others deliver beyond that?”
Working on the principal that our least favourite book more often then not proves to be the winner, and given that this is the first year in which the doors have been thrown open to the rest of the world, we think Joshua Ferris is probably the winner. But we’ll have our fingers crossed that either Ali Smith or Richard Flanagan scoops the big prize.