Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Man Booker Prize shortlist announced – and I've read only read one...

Hey readers,

I hope everyone had enjoyable holiday weekend!  I zipped over to Sacramento to bask in the warmth of sunshine and good friends.  Didn't get nearly as much reading done as one might hope.  So, for the calendar watchers among you, I'll note that I'm blowing off this week's Mailbox Monday post.  I skipped Monday this week, and there were only three books, so we'll just add them to next week's list.

No, there's something much more interesting to report on this week...  The race is heating up for the Man Booker Prize!  The longlist of 20 (IIRC) has been winnowed down to the traditional six.  And pundits and book-makers alike have been shocked that the presumed front-runner, Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child, did not make the cut.  Here are the books that did:

The Booker shortlist

Carol Birch Jamrach's Menagerie (Canongate Books)

Author of nine previous novels including Scapegallows and Turn Again Home – longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2003. Jamrach's Menagerie was inspired by the real-life sinking of a whale ship in 19th-century England and charts the fortunes of the charismatic Charles Jamrach, a leading wild animal dealer.

Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape – Random House)

The fourth novel by Barnes to be shortlisted for the Booker prize, yet he has never taken home the award. Focusing on a group of old school friends, this novella is a meditation on the themes of ageing, memory and regret.

AD Miller Snowdrops (Atlantic)

The debut novel by one-time Moscow correspondent of The Economist, Snowdrops is a tense psychological thriller that unfolds over the course of a brutal Moscow winter. The book tells the story of a young Englishman caught up in a corrupt property deal in new Russia.

Esi Edugyan Half Blood Blues (Serpent's Tail)

The second Canadian on the shortlist. Esi Edugyan's second novel is partly set in the aftermath of the fall of Paris in 1940, following the fate of an arrested German, a black jazz trumpeter called Hieronymous Falk, and in Berlin 50 years later as his bandmates retrace his steps.

Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers (Granta)

The second novel by the Canadian-born, Oregan-based author. The Sisters Brothers is a darkly comic western about two outlaw brothers who are hired killers – one reluctant, the other more gung-ho – as they reconcile their relationship during the west coast gold rush in 1851.

Stephen Kelman Pigeon English (Bloomsbury)

After finishing his degree, Stephen Kelman worked as a warehouse operative, a careworker, and in marketing and local government administration, until finally deciding to write in 2005. His first novel is written from the perspective of a seven eleven-year-old Ghanaian boy caught up in Peckham's gangland.

Full disclosure, I stole the book descriptions and photograph above from an article in London's Independent.  The correction in the last write-up is mine.  (Bad job, Independent.  Get your facts straight.)  But I know the character's age because it's the only book on the shortlist that I've read so far.  Click the title to see my review.

I also have a copy of Jamrach's Menagerie in my apartment that I've been wanting to get around to for months.  Well, it just moved up the TBR pile.  Look for a review soon.

However the title that is now the front-runner to win the prize is Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending.  Mr. Barnes has been shortlisted for the Booker three times previously, but has not won yet.  The cognoscenti seem to feel that this is his year.  The novel isn't due for it's U.S. release until late January, but it is now on a lot of people's radar, including mine.

So, readers, have you read any of these books?  It's not a super high-profile list, with the exception of the well-known Barnes.  In fact, Kelman's Pigeon English and Miller's Snowdrops are debut novels.  Do awards and nominations influence your reading?  I don't mind telling you that the only reason I read Pigeon English was because it was longlisted.  I definitely take note of the Booker and the Pulitzer prizes.  The National Book Award and Nobel Prize, not so much.

Well, get cracking if you want to take part in the fun – the winner will be announced on October 18th!


  1. When I saw this come out, I wondered how many you had read. I wonder if I'll be able to check any of these out of the library, because I haven't read any and a couple of them intrigue me (Birch and Barnes, possibly deWitt).

  2. Yeah, it's not a flashy, bestselling shortlist this year, but that makes it more interesting. I'll be curious to hear your thoughts on any of the books you read!