Man Booker Prize 2017 – I guess I was wrong

Congratulations to this year’s winner of the Man Booker Prize:

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Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders

So, I did not see that coming; I was sure either Exit West or Autumn would take home the prize. I am okay with Saunders winning; the book has been on my TBR for what feels like ages and now I have the perfect excuse to read it maybe sooner rather than later. I have heard really good things about this and I like books that play with genre and convention so my hopes are high.

How do you guys feel about this win? Did you see this coming? Let me know! I want to talk about this.

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Thoughts and Predictions: Man Booker Prize 2017

This year I tried to read as many books on the Man Booker Prize longlist as possible. That did not work out all that well, to nobody’s surprise. I am such a fickle reader and do really really bad with TBRs. I do, however, have some thoughts I want to share before the winner is announced.

Books I have read:

Swing Time – Zadie Smith

This is my least favourite of the books I read. It’s not a bad book by a long shot but I expected more.

You can find my review here.

The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead

It took me forever to read this book. It is gut-wrenchingly devastating and the matter-of-fact way the story is told made is all the more so. I could only ever take it in small doses. It’s beyond a doubt an important book that deserves all the accolades it got, but I am so very glad it’s over.To be fair, this is what a book about slavery should be like.

4 3 2 1 – Paul Auster

I enjoyed this a whole lot and was very glad to see it on the shortlist. I loved how expansively Auster tells his story – and this in a genre where I usually prefer shorter works.

You can find my review here.

Exit West – Mohsin Hamid

I would read Mohsin Hamid’s shopping list. He has a wonderful way with words and I adored how lyrical his expressions are. In a way this is the direct opposite of “The Underground Railroad” – both use a supernatural way of escaping evil (war and slavery respectively), but Hamid’s work is ultimately optimistic whereas Whitehead’s is … really not.

You can find my review here.

Solar Bones – Mike McCormack

This was definitely my favourite of the bunch and I was super disappointed to not see it on the short list. I adored a whole lot about this book. This is one that I probably would not have read if it wasn’t for the longlist and I am very grateful that I did.

You can find my review here.

Currently reading

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Autumn – Ali Smith

I am about half way through this book and while I enjoy it, I am not quite sure if I understand everything. I adore her musings on Brexit and find this to be an absolute strength of the book. I lived in Scotland for four years and in England for one and I feel close to the country. So Brexit hit me hard; I did not see it coming and I still cannot understand how it happened.

To Be Read

Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders33290527

This is the last book of the longlist that I will definitely read at some point. It might be gimmicky or it might be great, I cannot imagine there will be a middle ground.

 

 

 

Predictions

I think in the end either Ali Smith or Mohsin Hamid will take home the prize, both books are timely and well-written and mostly great. I have my fingers crossed for Hamid because I think we need more fundamentally optimistic books about immigration and refugees.

 

 

 

 

Review: Solar Bones – Mike McCormack

34656398My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Date read: 26 August 2017

Published by Canongate, 2017

Verdict: A wonderful, wonderful look into one man’s life.

Find it on Goodreads.

Marcus Conway has come a long way to stand in the kitchen of his home and remember the rhythms and routines of his life. Considering with his engineer’s mind how things are constructed – bridges, banking systems, marriages – and how they may come apart.

Mike McCormack captures with tenderness and feeling, in continuous, flowing prose, a whole life, suspended in a single hour.

Wonderfully and intricately structured in a way that demanded my full attention this is a portrait of a man’s life told in a single contemplative hour. Mike McCormack tells his story in a single sentence without proper punctuations and in places bending the rules of grammar to the limit – and it works absolutely beautifully. This lends the prose an immediacy and a poignancy that mesmerized me. This quiet novel tells of a quiet man – an engineer thinking about his life and the things important to him: his wife and two children; but also meditating on other things, politics, finance, art, the importance of ritual, and many things more. The flow is disjointed, jumping between times and topics and the result is a portrait of a man that feels complete but at the same time as if there could be so much more to him then even meets his inner eye.

I went into this book only knowing of its structure and nothing about its plot – and I am glad I did. I loved discovering more and more of the man Marcus Conway is and how he became that way.

This quiet but impactful little novel took me completely by surprise with how unpretentious it felt while reading and how much I enjoyed reading it (let’s be honest here: it could have been a pretentious mess in hands less talented). I am so very glad the book is longlisted for the Man Booker Prize because I don’t know if I had read it otherwise.

Normally I would now give you the first sentence. But given that the first sentence is also the only sentence I will end this review with one of my favourite passages that just glows with the love Marcus has for his wife:

coming upon her unawares like that, my wife of twenty-five years sitting in profile with her hair swept to her shoulder and her crooked way of holding her head whenever she was listening intently or concentrating, I saw that
a whole person and their life
cohered clearly around these few details and how, if ever his woman had to be remade, the world could start with the light and line of this pose which was so characteristic of her whole being, drawing down out of the ether her configuration, her structure and alignment, all the lines and contours which make her up as the women she was on that day

Review: Exit West – Mohsin Hamid

34518348My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Date read: 09 August 2017

Published by Random House Penguin/ Riverhead, 2017

Verdict: Prose so brilliant I would read his shopping list.

Find it on Goodreads.

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

This was beautiful, stunning, memorable, and really special; an anti-war and pro-tolerance piece with a human heart. Mohsin Hamid never loses sight of the important factors of his story: his characters and their interactions; he doesn’t stray from the emotional heart of this story to make a point; and he writes with a precision and beauty that is absolutely breath-taking.

This is Nadia’s and Saeed’s story; from their first meeting in an unnamed muslim country on the brink of civil war, to their subsequent journey to places that are hopefully safer. These two form and their ill-timed relationship are the core of this novel.

Mohsin Hamid uses his brilliant premise (what if there were suddenly doors all over the world leading to other places?) to explore the emotional impact of being a refugee instead of the logistical impact. He can ignore the hardships of travelling over land to other countries that are safer, to focus instead of the intimate experience of being foreign – of being a stranger in a strange land without having wanted to be that. I adored this. I thought this focus worked really well and made this story something really special.

He has a unique way of structuring his sentences that I found beyond brilliant. He made me reread sentences and reread passages. This is where this book truly shines: It is unbelievably beautifully written and breathtakingly structured. His command of his story-telling voice is beyond impressive. While I thought his characters were vividly painted and their relationship believable and heartbreaking, they are not what I will keep remembering. But I think that is ok – because while their story humanizes the book, it is both universal and personal in a way that kind of renders the characters irrelevant in the broader scope of the work.

First sentence: “In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak with her.”

Booker Longlist Thoughts:

I think this might be the winner in the end – and I would be perfectly fine with that.

The Man Booker Prize Longlist is here.

Guys, I am so excited for the longlist to be finally here. I do love awards and especially the months leading up to them with first the longlist and then she shortlist and everybody talking about the same books.

The 2017 longlist:

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4th Estate)
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury Circus)
Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)

Unlike last year I have heard of nearly all the books, have read a couple, and have some on my TBR. I am both excited by this and a bit dissappointed because I was hoping for a bit more obscure authors and books to be on it to be discovered in the next few weeks.

Books I have read and reviewed:

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)

I really enjoyed this. For a book this long it is surprisingly not indulgent but every scene feels necessary. It is a book that has stayed with me since I read it in the beginning of the year. I have already pre-ordered the paperback and have gifted the hardback to my stepmother. So yes, I adore this and am glad it is nominated. You can find my review here.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)

I am a bit more ambivalent when it comes to this book. I adored parts but others felt like they would never end. The unnamed protagonist and her lack of personality drove me a bit up the walls, while Zadie Smith’s unflinchingly honest way of describing the world is beyond genius. You can find my review here.

Currently reading:

The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)

I have been reading this book for what feels like months (it has actually been months) and I haven’t made nearly no headway. I don’t know what it is but there is always another book calling my name that I am more excited about. Maybe the nomination will give me the kick I need to finally finish it.

Books that have been on my list for while:

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)

So, yes I am excited for this longlist and for quite a few of the books. I seems to be an awesome mix of different genres and viewpoints and I am there for this.