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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.

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