A combination of announcements about some of the leading literary prizes and a some browsing of favourite bloggers’ sites resulted in a bit of a splurge on the book buying front this week.
First up are two authors who came to my notice when they were named last week as finalists for this year’s Man Booker International Prize.
The Way of the Women by Marlene van Niekerk
Van Niekerk is a South African author who has been feted in her country in 2011 for her outstanding intellectual contribution to literary arts and culture through her poetry, literature and philosophical work. The Way of the Women was originally titled Agaat but renamed when the English translation was published. It went on to be shortlisted for the 2007 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. The novel is set on a farm in the Western Cape of South Africa whose aged occupant Milla de Vet lies dying from a wasting disease. Paralysed she has to depend on another woman Agaat Lourier with whom she has a close but ambiguous relationship forged over half a century of apartheid in South Africa.
The recent announcement of the Folio Prize for 2015 was responsible for my third purchase: Family Life by Akhill Sharma
The Folio Prize was the latest accolade for Akhill Sharma’s novel — last year it was selected as one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2014. It’s a semi-autobiographical work that documents the young life of Ajay Mishra, a child in a young middle-class family in Delhi. His father decides the family must leave the uncertainty of a country living under emergency rule for the prosperity of the West. Settled in New York the family struggle to cope with a personal tragedy and the challenge to their idea of the American Dream.
Prize announcements aside, my final two purchases were prompted by a guest post I published last year about Australian literature. Whispering Gums mentioned many authors but I chose just two to begin with: David Malouf and Patrick White.
Remembering Babylon by David Malouf
This novel won the inaugural IMPAC Award in 1993 and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Miles Franklin Award. Its the story of an English cabin boy who is cared for by Aborigines when he becomes marooned in the far north of Australia. Sixteen years later me moves back to the world of the Europeans, relatively new settlers who find their new home an alien place. What attracted me to this book was how its themes of living on the edge and of Australia as a fearful land reflect some of the ideas in the course on Australian literature I started a few weeks ago.
Voss by Patrick White
Whispering Gum called Voss her “absolute standout” novel from her youth, a novel which “had it all for a teenage girl – outback drama, romance (of a cerebral and spiritual nature), and angst about life and society.” I’m long past my teenage years but this sounds like one of the classics from Down Under. The publishers’ blurb made it sound too good to miss:”Set in nineteenth-century Australia, Voss is the story of the secret passion between an explorer and a naïve young woman. Although they have met only a few times, Voss and Laura are joined by overwhelming, obsessive feelings for each other. Voss sets out to cross the continent, and as hardships, mutiny and betrayal whittle away his power to endure and to lead, his attachment to Laura gradually increases. Laura, waiting in Sydney, moves through the months of separation as if they were a dream and Voss the only reality.”
That little haul should keep me quiet for a while…..