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Snapshot September 2015

I’m rather late this month but this is what I was up to on the first day of September. It was day six of our holiday and we were in Dresden, Germany.

Dresden – after the 1945 bombing raids

Reading

I had two novels on the go on September 1, 2015.  As holiday reading companions I had two paperbacks plus of course a fully loaded e-reader. My plan was to begin with The Quest for Christa T by the East German author Christa Wolf which I though appropriate since our first port of call would be East Berlin followed by Dresden and Leipzig (all of which

Dresden - 2015. A city restored to former glory

Dresden – 2015. A city restored to former glory

are mentioned in the novel). But I found it hard to get into, so switched instead to my e-copy of A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara. Not the kind of book if you’re one of those people who like cosy novels as holiday companions but I found it difficult to put down.

Of course I couldn’t resist the temptation to browse in a few bookshops in Berlin and Dresden. The selection of books available in English was rather limited – the usual crime fiction and best sellers, a few of last year’s Booker shortlisted titles plus four different editions of  All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. But not a single English translation of a German fiction classic. I’d been hoping for a Thomas Mann at least but drew a complete blank.

Listening

Talking of All the Light we Cannot See, this was on my iPod during my trip. Shortly after starting it, I learned that President Obama had also selected it as one of his holiday reads. Presumably he chose it (or had it chosen for him?) because of its status as a Pulitzer prize-winner and winner of the Carnegie Medal for Fiction. What the leader of the free world made of this novel set in World War 2 I haven’t been able to discover. For me it’s rather slow going. I keep thinking sometime soon something will happen ….

Man Booker Prize longlist 2015

I admit defeat. I am clearly not skilled in the art of book prize predictions. When the Man Booker prize judges announced their 2015 longlist today I found that none of the titles that came up in my crystal ball yesterday made the cut. Not one. I had floated briefly with nominating one of the titles that did get chosen: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Not that I’ve read it yet (I’m planning to take it with me on holiday in a few weeks) but it has been getting a lot of exposure recently and sounded like the kind of novel the judges would choose.

My reactions to the list are rather mixed.

On the plus side I was relieved that Kazuo Ishiguro and Kate Atkinson were not listed but disappointed that Colm Tóibín didnt get get selected.

On the plus side I’m delighted that the list contains so many authors that are new to me. But the diversity seems to have dissipated. Last year there were no long listed titles from the Commonwealth countries but five from USA. This year we have five USA authors again but only one each from Jamaica, New Zealand and India.

  • Did You Ever Have a Family (Jonathan Cape) by Bill Clegg, a literary agent from USA. This is his debut novel
  • The Green Road (Jonathan Cape) by Anne Enright. The Dublin-born author is a previous Booker Prize winner with The Gathering in 2007
  • A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications) by Marlon James, born in Kingston, Jamaica
  • The Moor’s Account (Periscope, Garnet Publishing) by Laila Lalami, born in Morocco and now living in USA. This novel was shortlisted for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize
  • Satin Island (Jonathan Cape) by Tom McCarthy, a Londoner
  • The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press) by Chigozie Obioma, Nigerian born now living in North America. This is his first novel
  • The Illuminations (Faber & Faber) by Andrew O’Hagan, the Scottish born author is a previous Booker shortlisted author with Our Fathers, in 1999
  • Lila (Virago) by Marilynne Robinson, winner of the Pulitzer prize in 2005 for Gilead
  • Sleeping on Jupiter (MacLehose Press, Quercus) by Anuradha Roy, born in Calcutta, India
  • The Year of the Runaways (Picador) by Sunjeev Sahota, born in Derbyshire, UK.
  • The Chimes (Sceptre) by Anna Smaill, a New Zealander. This is her debut novel
  • A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus) by Anne Tyler, American born, previously nominated for a Pulitzer prize
  • A Little Life (Picador) by Hanya Yanagihara, the second novel by this American author

Im not sure I’ll get to read many of these before the shortlist is announced on October 13.  My interest is leading towards The Year of the Runaways, The Illuminations and The Fishermen. 

For other views on the list take a look at:

PJE’s Booker Blog

Clare at Word by Word

 

 

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