Don’t bet on me for the Booker

Clearly I am not much use at spotting prize winning books. Last year I was rooting for Jim Crace’s The Harvest to win the 2013 Man Booker Prize. I got it completely wrong since the prize went to the (in my view) much less impressive The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.

This year I was 100% sure that Ali Smith would grab the prize. I was even flirting with the idea that I might put a flutter on her (except the last time I went into a book maker’s establishment I was seven years old so the routine might have changed a bit). Just as well I didn’t since those devilish judges turned their backs on Ms Smith in favour of Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North which is set during the construction of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in World War Two. Darn it, I have read three of the six shortlisted novels this year but wouldn’t you know it, I hadn’t got as far as this one.

I’m not familiar with Flanagan’s work but this sounds like a fascinating read even though it’s likely to be harrowing at times given its subject matter.

So Scotland misses out but at least the title goes to an author from the Commonwealth thus confounding everyone who signalled the demise of the prize when they ‘let in the Americans’.



About BookerTalk

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

Posted on October 14, 2014, in Book Reviews and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I’m with you, I’m SO bad at predicting prize novels (mostly because I RARELY read them before they’re listed). But even when I do read them, I usually like the runners up better.

  2. I was originally rooting for The Bone Clocks. When it didn’t make the shortlist, I went for The Lives of Others because it felt like the most “convenient” choice. When I listened to a podcast about How to Be Both, I rooted for it instead because of the structure. And when I listened to yet another podcast, this time on The Narrow Road to the Deep North, I changed my mind for the last time because it feels like a very personal novel.

    Yes, I am very flimsy.

  3. For the first time in living memory (i.e. my memory) I forgot all about the award until I woke up this morning and saw the result. I’m also glad it’s stayed within the Commonwealth although because of the subject matter I won’t be reading it.

    • I have a vague recollection that a family member of yours was a prisoner involved with the railway so it’s understandable the subject would be rather painful

  4. I was surprised by the winner too. I haven’t heard much buzz about the book in the States, but that doesn’t mean much. Will you be reading Flanagan’s book soon?

    • I’m hoping I can get it via the library since I baulked at paying hard cover prices. But if not then I’ll have to wait until the paperback comes along. Unless pf course some kind person buys it as a Xmas gift …

  5. I was rooting for The Narrow Road, not only because it was the only one that seemed very interesting to me, but also because I felt that it’s the type of book that the Booker would choose.

  6. I knew The Narrow Road was going to win as soon as I saw the shortlist. I won’t be reading it though because I can’t stand reading war novels. This one I hear is particularly graphic. i still have the rest of the shortlist to read. I got sidetracked with other reading. What will you read next from the list. I knew the winner wouldn’t be American although I thought Siri Hustvedt and Karen Joy Fowler were excellent choices to join the shortlist.It seems as if many British are unhappy with Americans being allowed to integrate the prize so maybe next year things will go back to normal.

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