The Booker goes bonkers

No, it doesn’t really. I was just trying to get your attention. Mean Bookie!

So, the 2010 Man Booker Prize longlist of 13 titles has been announced and the … nominees… are (dundahdahDAH!):

Peter Carey Parrot and Olivier in America (Faber and Faber)

Emma Donoghue Room (Pan MacMillan – Picador)

Helen Dunmore The Betrayal (Penguin – Fig Tree)

Damon Galgut In a Strange Room (Grove Atlantic – Atlantic Books)

Howard Jacobson The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury)

Andrea Levy The Long Song
(Headline Publishing Group – Headline Review)

Tom McCarthy C (Random House – Jonathan Cape)

David Mitchell The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet  (Hodder & Stoughton – Sceptre)

Lisa Moore February (Random House – Chatto & Windus)

Paul Murray Skippy Dies (Penguin – Hamish Hamilton)

Rose Tremain Trespass (Random House – Chatto & Windus)

Christos Tsiolkas The Slap (Grove Atlantic – Tuskar Rock)

Alan Warner The Stars in the Bright Sky
(Random House – Jonathan Cape)

Oh my! I haven’t read any of these! And I call myself a book reviewer … PAH! Though, in my saving grace, I do have a copy of the book that should win and yes I’m saying that even though I haven’t read it yet, but come on y’all it’s David Mitchell and that man is a fricken genius writer and one of the best of our time, and I have no problems stating that categorically, at all.


I have been holding off on reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet because I know it’s going to be brilliant and once you’ve read it… you’ve read it. You can’t ever read it for the first time again. Ever! And I’m waiting for just the right moment when I can sink into it and splash around like a duckling in a rain puddle on a summer’s day.

Plus the cover of the edition I have – she is gorgeous. I have reproduced it below in all it’s colour glory, but, oh! I cannot reproduce the way it feels, the slight gloss on the blue, the smell, the anticipation! I love this book like it’s an actual living, breathing thing… and that’s before I’ve read it. (Get that, e-book pushers? Yeah, you heard me.)

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet cover

Award winners

Some announcements overnight regarding award winners:

The NZ Post Children’s Book Awards winners were announced last night – full list here. Have to admit to being slightly surprised The Wonky Donkey missed out on the judged awards – but no surprise it took out the Children’s Choice!

And the Lost Man Booker for 1970 goes to Troubles by J.G. Farrell – anyone read it?

Book Review: The Gathering by Anne Enright

Usually, as you know, I title these “What’s BookieMonster Reading?”, however due to all the events of the past fortnight I’d have to title this particular post “What was BookieMonster Reading several weeks ago that she’s only now gotten around to writing about?” – which frankly is far too long. So I’ve gone for the obvious. :)

The Gathering was the winner of the Man Booker Prize of 2007 – one of several recent winners to be rather excoriated by both the press and the public. I’ve also heard it described as dismal, depressing and unreadable – all of which helped to make me keen to read it. Being contrary is a good thing, because The Gathering was a worthy read – challenging, funny, sad (but not dismal) and real – the characters are so expertly drawn that I fully believed in this story.

The language makes this book, and it’s no surprise it won the Booker. The language is so utterly beguiling, and in parts almost totally overwhelming but I can say it’s also no surprise it got the criticism it did. In parts it’s almost too much, too overblown and I have to admit that when I got to

Nugent feels it stir deep in the root of his penis; the future, or the beginning of the future.

I feared I was going to veer from literary swoon into downright hysteria, and this is what I found challenging and funny about The Gathering – it takes you into places you don’t wish to go, pulls you back, pushes you around – thank god Enright is so talented a writer otherwise this could have been a total disaster.

Plot-wise The Gathering is about just that – a gathering of the surviving offspring of a large Irish family for a wake for one of their brothers – a brother whose life has never been properly lived, who was generally rather unlikeable to his family and who was the centre of an unpleasant family secret. This really won’t come as a huge shock to most readers – it’s fairly well signposted what is going on here. But that’s not really the heart of the book. The heart is relationships – familial, love, sexual – and how complicated and  simple they are. Enright takes a universal story and makes it rather unique. Very glad indeed that I finally got around to reading this one.

A link to the Slate Audio Book Club’s discussion of Wolf Hall

Slate Audio Book Club’s latest podcast is an erudite and fascinating discussion of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel - the readers obviously thought of highly of the book as I did.

Highly recommended listening – as are all of the Slate podcasts!

What’s BookieMonster Reading? Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

You know there’s something unique about a book when you start waking up in the middle of the night and realise you’ve been dreaming about its world and characters. When a book has become almost so unbearably vivid and you’ve become so immersed in it that you feel exhausted by the time you finish it.

Am I about to write a totally over-the-top I’d-give-this-book-my-first-born review?

Why, yes. Yes I am.

The winner of the Man Booker Prize for 2009, Wolf Hall treads well-worn territory – King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn? Who hasn’t seen the TV series, the movies or read the inevitably trashy and anachronistic “historical” fiction that has told the Tudor tale again and again? But with Wolf Hall, Mantel has literally rewritten this landscape of historical fiction.

Wolf Hall is the story of the man Thomas Cromwell – a man who happens to have been a courtier and advisor to Henry and Anne, a capricious man, a man constantly up against the constraints of his class, constantly overturning the rules of his age – and constantly weaving a rather tricky path between the various, often life-threatening, vagaries of the times and world he lives in.

So, no cookie-cutter historical character charade here – this is a true delve into the mind and life of an historical figure. And make no mistake – this is no codpieces down, corsets up beach-reading romp. This requires thinking and concentration, though this reader had no problem concentrating. If anything I had a bigger problem letting this world go every time I had to put the book down. There is just so much detail here that you feel you’re living every day of the 8 years of Cromwell’s life that are covered with him. It is quite an astonishing feat of scholarship and imagination, and reading it can at times feel like an equally astonishing feat.

Mantel’s quirk of referring to Cromwell only as “he” (particularly when assigning dialogue) can also throw up some roadblocks and requires a fair amount of “Wait, who said that?” re-reading. But when you’re re-reading writing this good, who cares? (Well, apparently some people do but fie I say, fie to them.)

The language here is sparse but no less effecting for that – the passages after Cromwell loses his wife are not overdone but remain incredibly moving and there’s a good dollop of humour spiced with nastiness served up throughout. The many characters can often have a floating peripheralness but Mantel gives those central to the moment more earthiness with sometimes just one sentence or line of dialogue, and as the book continues those such as Henry and Anne become more substantial and more real to us. And Cromwell, ah Cromwell… we are absorbed in his mind, as well as his story.

I loved Wolf Hall. I loved its difficulties, I loved its quirks, I loved its utter commitment to the world it portrays. Wolf Hall is supposed to be the first in a trilogy …the idea that there is more of this to be had is just awesome.

Voices murmur. Sunlight outside. He feels he could almost sleep, but when he sleeps Liz Wykys comes back, cheerful and brisk, and when he wakes he has to learn the lack of her all over again.