Wednesday, July 29, 2009

the pick of the crop

Slap bang in the middle of an English summer, clouds in the sky, and the Booker longlist announced yesterday.

AS Byatt - The Children's Book

JM Coetzee - Summertime

Adam Foulds - The Quickening Maze

Sarah Hall - How to Paint a Dead Man

Samatha Harvey - The Wilderness

Jame Lever - Me Cheeta

Hilary Mantel - Wolf Hall

Simon Mawer - The Glass Room

Ed O'Loughlin - Not Untrue & Not Unkind

James Scudamore - Heliopolis

Colm Toibin - Brooklyn

William Trevor - Love and Summer

Sarah Waters - The Little Stranger

My initial impression was one of pleasant surprise that there were quite a few books already on my ‘want to read’ list. In particular How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall. Her Electric Michelangelo was one of my Booker highlights in 2004 and last year I read her earlier Haweswater and it was my book of the year. I can’t wait to see how this one measures up.

I’ve picked six titles to start with, I’ll see how I get on with those and if I’m still hungry I’ll come back for a second helping. I already had my eye on the Colm Toibin and the Samantha Harvey, so they were easy choices, and I decided to try again with Sarah Waters, as while I’m never that sure about the strength of her writing, she usually writes a pretty good story. The Quickening Maze appealed as I’ve liked fictionalised realities of poets in the past. I’m pushing my boundaries by choosing to read Me Cheeta, it sounds simply bizarre, but Booker reading is about self-challenge, reading things I otherwise might pass over, so that had to go in the virtual basket.

Overall it seems to be a very appealing longlist. If I was asked to read all 13 there is no single title that I would be eyeing with dread. Although for the moment I’m skirting around those two hefty volumes! It seems a varied selection as far as setting and story and time. And with possibly less political agenda that in previous years. A notable absence of an Indian novel too. Quite a few titles that focus on artists, writers. A few that interweave fact with fiction. All in all I’m looking forward to my first batch of books arriving. Let the summer commence!

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