This year was meant to be the year I completed my self-imposed project to read all the Booker Prize winners. At the start of the year my tally was 28 of the 48 winners and one that I couldn’t finish, leaving me with 19 (I’m not counting the winner of the 2016 prize which has yet to be announced). Since then I’ve read four. so if I keep up this pace I still won’t cross the finishing line by year end. Does that matter? Well not really in the scheme of things. No Booker Prize police are going to come storming my house demanding to know why I didn’t finish by the due date. But equally I don’t want to drag it out for ever.
I put three Booker winners on my list for 20booksof summer as a way of giving myself a kick up the rear end. Which is how I ended up reading the 1996 winner Last Orders by Graham Swift this week. I’m familiar with the story because of the film version featuring Tom Courtenay, Michael Caine and Helen Mirren. It’s actually a rather simple plot: four men spend a day travelling from London to the coastal resort of Margate to scatter the ashes of their friend Jack Dodds, as he requested just before his death. The book’s title comes from the idea that these men are fulfilling Jack’s final request but it’s also a play on the phrase used to signal closing time in the pub, which is where all these men spend a lot of their time.
Three of the men; Ray, Lenny, and Vic; knew Jack for most of their adult lives and come from the same working class part of London. The fourth, Vince, is Jack’s son. As they journey to Margate their histories, thoughts and feelings are revealed in a series of short chapters each told from one of the character’s point of view. So far it’s rather easy reading and I’m wondering why this Swift’s novel was considered better than Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace and Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance which were on the shortlist.
Here’s what I still have left to read. Some of them are going to be more challenging, then others namely How Late It Was, How Late, Vernon God Little and G so I’m likely to leave these to last. Anyone have some recommendations for me from this list of what I should get to earlier?
2015 – A History of Seven Killings (Marlon James)
2010 – The Finkler Question (Howard Jacobson)
2004 – The Line of Beauty (Hollinghurst)
2003 – Vernon God Little (Pierre)
2001 – True History of the Kelly Gang (Carey)
1997 – The God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy)
1994 – How Late It Was, How Late (Kelman)
1993 – Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (Roddy Doyle)
1992 – Sacred Hunger (Unsworth)
1988 – Oscar and Lucinda (Peter Carey)
1986 – The Old Devils (Kingsley Amis) – on my 20booksofsummer list
1983 – Life & Times of Michael K (Coetzee) on my 20booksofsummer list
1974 – The Conservationist (Nadine Gordimer)
1972 – G. (Berger)