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Friday, 22 October 2010

Christobel Kent - A Fine and Private Place


I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series and awaited this with eager anticipation. Perhaps it did not compare to the Booker list but I found it quite hard to get into. It did not seem to have such a strong sense of place as A Time of Mourning. However,it was a sort of 'country house style whodunnit' and as such the location worked. I like the character of Cellini, our detective and the unfolding of his home life. Where Christobel scores is in her characterisation, one really connects with her characters. This was quite difficult here as the secondary characters were rather thinly drawn but as most of them were murder suspects I could see why! I liked the plotting and the unfolding of the mystery, and as usual I did not guess the murderer. I look forward to the next in the series.

Man Booker

Well I got that spectacularly wrong! But at least I did like the winning novel, this is a first and probably a testament to how good the book is..........

Monday, 11 October 2010

Man Booker

So the results are out tomorrow. So who do I think will win? Well I would like either In a Strange Room or Room to win. I also wouldn't mind if Parrott and Olivier did too. However, knowing the Man Booker from the past I am sure the one I did not like (ssh C) will probably win!!

Emma Donoghue - Room


I left this book to last as I thought the subject matter might lead to sleepless nights. This is not the sort of book I would normally read. I like my fictional entertainment to be a fantasy or entertainment, anything too much like the horror of real life puts me off.
This book is narrated by young Jack who is just 5. His world is a locked room 11ft x 11ft. he was born into it. His Ma has been there 7 years. He sleeps in the wardrobe, and his mother has a visitor at night. At first I was rather irritated by the five year old's speak but as the book progressed I soon got used to it. The book moves on at a pace and it is very difficult to say much without giving huge spoilers as to the plot. It confounded my expectations. This is a book of hope, a book of coping in extreme circumstances, of the sacrifices that are made by mothers. It is also a book that deserves to win!

Howard Jacobson - The Finkler Question

This book is cleverly disguised as the Jewish question, and is really a very intense bit of navel gazing. The story is loosely based around one Julian Treslove. His best friend from school has been the Jewish Sam (Samuel) Finkler, and both their mentors and lifelong friend is the Jewish Libor Seveik. Both Finkler and Libor are recently widowed. Treslove has never married. Treslove looking at his successful friend Finkler and the successful marriage of his friend Libor, ponders whether this is inherently due to Jewishness. He then begins a relationship with Libor's niece and begins the process of attempting to become Jewish himself.
This book has some very funny moments, some sad ones and a great deal of reflection. For instance if you are Jewish but support Palestine does that make you anti-semetic? The scene in the Groucho club between the ASHamed Jews and the music industry followers of Kabbalah was hysterical.
I enjoyed it but I am not sure that it sadly will have a wide appeal. Of course it will probably win now!

Friday, 1 October 2010

Tom McCarthy- C. Man Booker Shortlist 2010

Oh, I struggled with this one. If I had not been reading it for the Man Booker book group Iwould have abandoned it. I did not understand it. I was unable to fathom a plot and not see the point? What have I missed? A strange young man, Serge Carrefax is born into an even stranger family at the turn of the last century. ( Is he autistic?) His sister perhaps commits suicide. He grows up odd, there is a very strange sojourne in a German spa town as a teenager, he then goes to war in WW1 as an observer in the Air squadron. He is shot down, due to his own idiocy and drug addiction. He becomes a prisoner of war in Germany. He survives, gets sent to Egypt as a spy and dies. In between it is all very odd. Is it meant to be a comedy, the seance was hilarious, is it meant to be satirical? I have no idea! Confounded, Confused and Convoluted!


Damon Galgut - In A Strange Room - Man Booker Shortlist


What a strong list they are this year. This is a small book some 180 pages but my goodness it packs a powerful punch.
The author experiments with punctuation in this novel and we have no speech marks. This normally irritates me. However, here is only serves to increase the dream like quality of the writing. This book is made up of three journeys. The first two are written in the third person, and we get this kind of detached , dreamy voyeurism, that is a little creepy but very compelling. Then in the third section we move from Africa to India and are brought shockingly into the first person and our emotions are put on an emotional ride that is disturbing and effective. This book stayed with me a long time after I read it. I am at a loss as to how to describe the effect it has or how it is achieved, it is not poetic but it compels and binds in the same way.
So far this is the one I think should win - extraordinary.

Peter Cary - Parrot and Olivier In America. Man Booker Shorlist

Well I didn't think I was going to enjoy this one, as it sounded odd from the jacket . It is odd but I really enjoyed it. The characters are completely off the wall and at the beginning I was completely at a loss. The alternating chapters by Olivier and Parrot worked very well as a device and I frequently found myself laughing out loud.
This book is set after the French Revolution. Olivier is a sickly French Aristocrat and his servant is Parrot an English oddball. To escape a potential further round of Aristocratic culling in France Olivier's mother gets him commissioned to write a report on American prisons. It becomes clear that nothing has equipped Olivier for democracy or America and it is left for Parrot to pick up the pieces.
A very funny book and very perceptive. It is Olivier that predicts in his aristocratic way the future of America as he leaves to return in despair to the disappearing Ancien Regime. Whereas Parrot is the success in settling and making a life in America. This is a book that relates to us on many different levels and again will make an excellent book group read.

Andrea Levy - The Long Song - Man Booker Shortlist


This a wonderful lyrical book despite the seriousness of the content. A truly uplifting and empowering journey. It is set in Jamaica in the Nineteenth Century. July is a slave girl on a sugar plantation. This is a time of the last turbulent years as slavery is coming to the end, and 'freedom' begins. In this book we follow her life as she writes it down for her publisher son.
This sounds serious stuff but it is a very funny book, because Andrea brings to life her characters with such vibrancy and spirit that we laugh along as they mimic and comment on their so called masters. We marvel at how strong physically and mentally a woman such as July could be despite such disadvantages.
It is, of course, also sad, as the life of the slave is portrayed in all it's brutality, and we watch as freedom is hard won and still inequitable. I liked the link with the UK and the thought that, can we really know our own DNA and who we are descended from? Can any white English person be free from the legacy of slavery?

I found this book especially interesting to read so soon after The Help and feel they would be valuable to read on consecutive reading group meetings, there would be so much to talk about....

Rose Tremain - Trespass

Having read nearly all of Rose's book I was fairly confident this would make the shortlist. Wrong! However, it is great, it is about the effect of trespass on peoples lives at various levels. The young child from Paris who attempts to settle in to a new school. The selfish brother who invades the cosy world of his sister and her lover in France. His trespass onto land that does not belong to him. The elderly french woman who may or may not have built her bungalow on her brothers land. An invasion of privacy and revealing of long dead secrets unfold, a murder is committed, and then solved. Revenge is fulfilled. As you follow the lives of these intertwined residents of the Cevennes in France , you cannot fail but be entranced by her beautiful writing and sense of presentment.
This would make a superb reading group read.

The MAN BOOKER Prize 2010

As part of the Read South West Reading group we are reading the short list and exchanging views on the excellent Cyprus Well website, which promotes literature for everyone in the South West. Find it here http://www.cypruswell.com/ I have also included a link at the side of my BLOG.

In preparation I had a look at the longlist and made a few educated guesses. As a result the only one I read from the long list that was not in the short list is the following. I have found it a very strong list this year and will add further reviews from the longlist when I have time!