Book Reviews

2013 Booker Talk awards

We’ve had the Booker and the Nobel, the Carnegie and the Pulitzer; not to mention the Costa’s and the Bailey’s. Now comes — what some might consider the most prestigious prize of all — the BookerTalk award. Step forward the 2013 winners.

Most disappointing read

This award goes to Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life. I’ve loved every previous book by her but not this time Kate, sorry. Had to give you up after about 100 pages or so. A good idea but it quickly ran out of steam for me and become repetitive. I haven’t abandoned Ms Atkinson entirely but am hoping the next one will be rather less ‘clever’ and rather more interesting.

Most unusual narrative style

One novel soared into first place in this category  —  Alain Mabanckou’s Broken Glass. It was the first book I read for my World Literature Challenge. It’s written in a stream of consciousness  style but don’t let that fool you into thinking this is a serious Virginia Woolf kind of book.  Humour abounds in the portrayals of the characters who frequent the rather shabby Credit Gone West bar.  This is a novel in which words tumble together with barely a full stop or comma to halt the breathless pace. When you tire of the humour, you can enjoy spotting the multiple literary allusions (said to number 100 plus).

Most Challenging Novel

The runaway winner in this category is  Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Petals of Blood. wa Thiong’o went to  prison as a result of this book in which he criticised the regime in power following Kenya’s independence.  It’s a challenging read at times because there are some facets of the country’s history that are not easily understood by those of us from other parts of the world. But put that aside and you have a richly-textured novel about disillusionment and betrayal that lingers long in the memory.

Bottom of the Bottom 

This prize is shared jointly by Will the Real William Shakespeare Please Step Forward and An Accidental Life. They have little in common in terms of subject, genre or style. But they do both illustrate the importance of having editors and publishers who are not afraid to tell a budding author that they really need to work harder on their writing skills. The lesson for me was to be more judicious when requesting review copies from publishers.

The one that got away

Clearly, the Man Booker prize judges need someone to give them a good talking to. How could they have overlooked Jim Crace’s Harvest for the prize when he had written such an exquisite book?  It’s a thoughtful that looks at the consequences of the pursuit of profit and progress on the long standing traditions of the countryside and the people who make their living from the land. A book to treasure.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

18 thoughts on “2013 Booker Talk awards

  • swright9

    Yeah I’d like to read Harvest, thx for the tip. I enjoyed Jim Crace’s book Quarantine long ago and think he’s a great talent.

  • I just stumbled upon your blog and have really enjoyed hopping around and reading your posts.

    I’m in the pro Life After Life camp, but I can see what a marmite book it is. I really feel as though I should read Harvest, but I’ve so disliked the Jim Crace I’ve read in the past that I’m scared to try it. His book The Pesthouse was one my worst reads of 2010 and I swore off him after that. I’ll have to dip my toe back in cautiously. 🙂

    • Well I suppose I was lucky then to come to Crace only with Harvest so I had no preconceived idea of his style and whether I would like it. Glad you stumbled here Victoria – look forward to hearing more of what you enjoy reading

  • I bought Life after Life and despite reading very mixed reviews, I’m still looking forward to it. It will be my first Atkinson novel. Which of her others would you recommend?

    • Behind the Scenes at the Museum is fabulous and I think her best. The Jackson Bodie ones are interesting (crime fiction)

  • I agree re Harvest. It was excellent, and worked on so many levels too. Happy reading in 2014.

    • We should start a pro-Harvest campaign group! Karen Heenan-Davies


  • You have reminded me I really want to read Harvest – I have it on kindle 🙂

  • I loved most of ‘Harvest’, but felt it fell away at the end – the last 70 pages or so. My personal Booker winner is Toibin’s ‘Testament of Mary’ closely followed (to my own surprise) by Bulawayo’s ‘We Need New Names’ which I’m finding is still simmering within my head weeks after finishing it. Haven’t read two of the shortlist yet though – ‘The Luminaries’ or ‘The Lowland’…

    • I didn’t fancy the Toibin but have e-versions of Bulawayo and The Lowlanders – just when I will get to them is another matter

  • Wow, those two books on the bottom must be really bad. I thought for sure I’d see Deliverance Dane on there!

    • I know it seems hard to believe but Deliverance Dane would be ‘great literature’ in comparison to these two!

  • Well, I agree about ‘Harvest’ but have to disagree strongly about ‘Life After Life’. But then life itself would be very dull if we all liked the same books, wouldn’t it?

    • It would indeed. I knew I was treading on dangerous ground by declaring Life after Life tedious – it had so much praise from other bloggers. Maybe it was my state of mind at the time …

  • I am right in the middle of Harvest and I totally agree with you, it is a stunning and beautifully written book. I love Jim Crace (particularly his Digested Read column) and hope he was joking when he said he was retiring from writing fiction!

      • So funny, check out the Guardian website, they are all on there. He does a digested read of a book in the media so you don’t have to read it. Incredibly witty.

        • Found it – and listened to the one on Malcolm Gladwell already. I am a fan immediately. thanks so much for the tip

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