And so, the long awaited day dawned of the announcement of the Man Booker longlist. I say long awaited – long awaited mainly by those who work in literary publishing and by those who seem to eagerly wait 365 days to complain about it. It dawned two hours earlier for me in fact, as I was in a holiday villa on the coast of Turkey at the time. The world of publishing for once seemed a distant dream, and reading the longlist by an azure pool it was a challenge to pull myself back to those daily realms of literary fiction. Books never let you get away that easily of course. I had stuffed my suitcase with the novels I had missed out on over the past few months (being an editorial assistant leaves a scarily slim amount of time in which to read outside of your own list I have found!). I had also given one very special book to the long suffering boyfriend to carry in his hand luggage, because as I very clearly explained to him as he staggered through security, as there was NO WAY I was letting a proof of David Nicholls’ Us go in the HOLD.
So imagine my delight that unwittingly, I had brought my first longlist candidate on holiday with me – the much anticipated follow up to the literary sensation that was One Day.
Continue reading Us – David Nicholls
Today we’re offering the first Franny vs Perks review post. Although we’ve read many of the same books, The Lowland is the first to be subjected to our critical eyes. We hope that our double whammy of a post will encourage you to read a book that, although has not broken free of the numerous shortlists its been on, is undoubtedly a fantastic read.
Continue reading The Lowland – Jhumpa Lahiri
I am so excited for the 23rd of next month, when all the excitement of the venerated Man Booker will get under way once more and stir up all that delicious controversy it manages to elicit each year. And slowly, I am limping to the finish with these reviews of the 2013/2014 shortlist, soon to be completed with a Franny vs. Perks post on The Lowland.
A Tale for Time Being was no exception to the excellence I have been greeted with so far in this shortlist. It was also an incredibly emotional book to end my reading on. Obviously I don’t want to give an ending to a story away but suffice to say it was pretty emotionally devastating while being on the enjoyable side of genius. There is so much to say about Ruth Ozeki’s masterpiece that I hardly know there to start and I am aware I won’t be able to mention half the things I want to. Early on I should emphasise, you should read this book. Not everyone will love it but if it is your type of literary fiction, it’ll stay with you for a long time past the wonderful ending.
Continue reading A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
The associations we hold with the continent of Africa are impressions that are vastly different from the reality of actually living there. The world speaks of pity and sadness in the context of those countries, while forgetting that it remains the home of millions of people, who may exist in a world fiscally poorer than ours, but by no means devoid of happiness. We Need New Names is a novel that manages to inject some of the true joy and energy of this location into its lines of prose. It opens in Zimbabwe as Mugabe tightens his stranglehold on the country, told through the eyes of Darling, a ragamuffin girl growing up in a slum called Paradise. During the course of the novel, Darling is taken by her aunt to live in America at the age of 10 to grow up in a safer world. It manages to show us a slice of the real Africa – a place where children are hungry, but play and laugh, stealing guavas from the trees of their wealthy neighbours to get by. It also shows us the reality of growing up in America as an immigrant –always grateful but never quite belonging.
Continue reading We Need New Names – NoViolet Bulawayo
Harvest is an insular novel in many ways. I have never read something of the like before, though the general consensus seems to be that Crace’s work often covers similar ground – loss of a way of life, a transition from one age into another. This is one such novel. It centres around one village, unnamed and unmapped at any point in the story. We assume it to be somewhere in rural England around the 17th Century but the time period is also negligible. The narrative revolves around the enforced change of England’s agrarian fields to those used for livestock farming, here signalled by the arrival of the rightful lord of their manor house, Master Jordan. Our protagonist is Walter Thirsk, a man both within and without; he speaks with the collective ‘we’ and ‘us’ when we first encounter him, but it soon becomes clear that twelve years amongst these villagers is not enough to stop him being an outsider to them – an ‘other’.
Continue reading Harvest – Jim Crace