I’ve now read two of the 2015 Booker longlist titles; neither of which I think will be declared the winner. Andrew O’Hagan’s The Illuminations was a far better novel than Anne Enright’s The Green Road in the sense it actually had a message but both were rather straight-forward stories. No real experimentation with form such as we’ve seen from recent winners like Hilary Mantel and Eleanor Catton. Maybe the judges are not looking for that especially but I would expect them hone in on a novel that has a unique quality, one that stands out from the crowd in one respect or another. Neither O’Hagan or Enright did that for me. Maybe my next Booker longlist contender A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara will be more remarkable. It’s the early favourite for this year’s award but the judges have not always followed the popular vote so I wouldn’t put a lot of faith in the betting odds.
Fortunately the disappointing experience with those two titles is overshadowed by the book I’m currently reading: The Snow Kimono by the Australian author Mark Henshaw. It’s his first novel in 25 years and was apparently rejected 32 times before Text Publishing stepped forward. It was a smart move since Henshaw’s novel went on to win the Premier’s award.
From the first page I was enthralled. The novel begins in Paris in 1989 when a retired police inspector receives a letter from a woman in Algiers claiming to be his daughter. Two days later a stranger knocks on his apartment door. Tadashi Omura, former professor of law of the Imperial University of Japan, begins his story of his best friend, a brilliant but arrogant writer and the lives of three Japanese women. That summary doesn’t however do any justice to this wonderfully mesmerising tale that unfolds like a puzzle. What a shame the judges didn’t longlist this novel.