Wednesday, September 05, 2007

great expectations

On the eve of the announcement of the Booker shortlist it seems apt to share my hopes and fears. Over the past few weeks I’ve read my way through six of the titles, and am part way through my seventh.

So far all of the novels have been good reads, none have been appalling or a struggle to finish. At no point have I felt I could be spending my time a better way. Although one or two have lulled me close to a semi-conscious state, it has been a pleasurable one and may owe more to the erratic English weather than the novel itself. But some have stood out as better.

But what does better mean? to me? or to the Booker judges? Quite possibly two different things. At this half way point in my reading I come to realise that my criteria for judging these books is far stricter than for the rest of the books I read throughout the year. Mostly I stumble across books or seek them out from various lists and recommendations, and read them with little or no expectation. But these thirteen arrive under a banner that suggests they are the pick of the crop of English language novels. And I read them as such. Some fall short of that accolade, some make the grade but don’t particularly appeal to me.

My favourite two novels from those I have read so far are The Gathering and Consolation. Both had their flaws, but told a story that engaged me in a style that felt comfortable and appropriate. Both have stayed in mind despite them being my first two reads. As such I would like to see these two make the shortlist.

I think The Welsh Girl deserves a place on the list too - despite it not really capturing my heart - because as I said in my review, I find it hard to point out a fault. And at this stage, unless it takes an unexpected turn for the worse - I would also stick Mister Pip on my shortlist too. However the other three seem a little too holey to continue in the race, perhaps in other years they might have gone further, but this year the competition is too good for anything but the best to get through. But that only makes 4 out of the required 6, so adding on the 2 most tempting titles from my remaining pile gives this as my Booker shortlist -

However, if I had to make a guess at the judges final six, based on my own reading so far, and various quality reviews from other Booker bloggers - it would look more like this -

But then again, looking at these, there is far too much overlap - I am never in that close agreement with the Booker panel, something must have gone wrong in my estimations! Till tomorrow then…

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