Earlier in the week I asked for help in working out which of the remaining 8 Booker titles from my list I should read next. And also was there a standout novel with which to end.
Thanks to everyone who weighed in on this. As I expected, opinions were divided, proof if ever any were needed that reading is a highly personal experience.
Some clear trends did emerge however.
G. the 1972 winner by J Berger got zero votes of confidence which is not surprising since it had been read by only one person: Susan at A Life in Books. Only one other person seemed to be aware of Berger’s work: Kelly at Kellysbookishramblings has G on her TBR shelves..
Also not universally recommended is the 1974 winner The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer. Lisa of ANZitlovers gave it a resounding vote of confidence calling it “a brave book written by a brave woman who exposed the day to day reality of apartheid to the international stage” and Bookbii described it as an “excellent, if challenging book.” Countering this however is Alison, a blogger from South Africa who commented : Nadine Gordimer is a Sacred Icon in South African literature, but I’ve always found her books very heavy going.”
Local connections certainly played a part in reactions to James Kelman’s 1994 winner How Late It Was, How Late “Don’t be put off Kelman,” said Weezelle at BooksandLeaves. My (Scottish) husband says that the criticism aimed at him comes from certain parts of the British Isles who were educated in certain institutions that may or may not have a particular elitist view of the world. Even for me as a non-Scot, I loved this book.” Col, a Glaswegian, loved the book but admitted to maybe a little bias since it is set in her home city and the language is thus very familiar.
The jury delivered a minority verdict on Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre. Some of you really enjoyed it, calling variously “a riot’ and “bonkers” but others declared they hated it and Paul Fulcher thought it “lightweight and completely unworthy of the prize.”
What did you recommend?
Top of the poll was Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, the 1993 winner by Roddy Doyle with nine votes in favour and no negative reactions. Kim at Reading Matters described it as “one of my all time favourites. ” Many of you commented on its readability – a description that would have pleased the judges of the 2011 prize but was dismissed by many of the literary great and the good asa sign of dumbing down of the prize. But what’s wrong with saying a book is readable? I’m more than confident that people reading this blog don’t mean these are “simple” books or superficial. Maybe we mean they are less challenging in form or subject but still require engagement of the brain.
Also described as an easy and very readable book is The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst which won the Booker Prize in 2004. It attracted 6 votes, a draw with The True History of The Kelly Gang by Peter Carey.
The novel that had me most curious to hear your reactions was the most recent winner on my list: the 2015 winner A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. Although it attracted only 4 votes in its favour there were none against which surprised me because I’ve seen many other reviews commenting on how complex a novel this is structurally and how tough it can be to tune into the Jamaican dialect. Yet one commenter said it was “An astonishingly good book, that stays with you long after you’ve read it. Yes, there is extreme violence, some of the dialect is hard to understand, and the politics can be confusing. It is not an easy read – but worth the effort.
Where does this take me?
I’m going to save The Line of Beauty and Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha until the end since they were so highly recommended. It would be tempting to leave one of the least favourite novels to the end but I really do not want to mark the completion of this project by reading something I don’t enjoy. I’m going to make The True History of The Kelly Gang by Peter Carey by next choice given it has had a positive reaction. After that I’m going to let my mood dictate what I choose, trying to space out the more challenging reads where I can.
Thanks for all your help.