Tag: Man Booker Prize

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

Posted December 10, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 2 Comments

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon JamesTitle: A Brief History of Seven Killings (Goodreads)
Author: Marlon James
Published: Oneworld Publications, 2014
Pages: 688
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In the lead up to 3 December 1976 general election, Bob Marley planned to perform the Smile Jamaica Concert to help ease political tension. However seven gunmen from West Kingston stormed his house, although Marley did survive he had to flee the country the next day. Not a lot was said about the fate of the seven gunmen but there are whispers around the streets. A Brief History of Seven Killing is inspired by these events in a fictionalised oral history of what might have happened.

This novel spans three decades, spanning the political tension of Jamaica in the 1970s, the crack wars in the 1980s and the changing Jamaica in the 1990s. It also follows multiple narrators, with very unique narrative styles. One thing I loved about this novel is the fact that each narrator had their own style and you could easily work out who was narrating without looking at the title of each chapter.

A Brief History of Seven Killing is Marlon James’ third novel and has recently won the Man Booker Prize. I read this before the award was announced and I was really hoping it would win. I think there are so many interesting perspectives, exploring ideas of corruption, organised crime and even the CIA trying to control the fate of the country. I was interested in America’s involvement in Jamaica’s politics in an effort to fight the spread of communism.

One of my favourite narrators was Alex, a journalist for Rolling Stone Magazine. I thought he had the right amount of bitterness and sarcasm, making his narrative style stand out. All the other narrators are great as well, and I liked the way I was able to experience so many different angles of the story. There are over seventy different characters that regularly show up throughout the novel; it can be difficult at times to remember who is who, however I think Marlon James did a decent job helping the reader through this.

I have heard people compare A Brief History of Seven Killing to The Wire, but I compare Marlon James’ style as doing something similar to James Ellroy. I hear that HBO have brought the rights to make this into a show; this is the people who developed The Wire. I am glad to see that this novel is getting the attention from winning the Man Booker Prize. I really enjoyed the experience of reading this novel, even though this is anything but brief. I am curious to see what Marlon James’ other novels are like.

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

Posted November 26, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Satin Island by Tom McCarthyTitle: Satin Island (Goodreads)
Author: Tom McCarthy
Published: Jonathan Cape, 2015
Pages: 173
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Tom McCarthy has a unique approach to fiction; Satin Island is an avant-garde novel that explores the philosophical implications of corporate anthropology. A career path that I never thought existed but makes a lot of sense if corporations were using anthropologist for an extra edge. Rather than researching people for science, a corporate anthropologist would try to predict best possible scenarios to leak bad news, or which marketing strategies would have the biggest impact on the public.

Satin Island was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and it sounded very different to the other novels. I knew I had to check it out and see what it was all about; the back of the book gave nothing away. This is a post-modern novel and I am actually surprised to see it also making the shortlist for this year’s Man Booker. Normally the novels that are vastly different and experimental never make it past the longlist. Making the shortlist might mean that more people will pick up Satin Island and that can only be a good thing.

The protagonist for this novel is U. and it is pretty obvious that Tom McCarthy expects you to see yourself from this point of view. The book has no real plot or character development, leaving the reader to focus on the moral and social implications of corporate manipulation. The concept of a corporate anthropologist can be both fascinating and terrifying and McCarthy wants people to be aware of this fact.

For a book that is 173 pages long, this is in no way a short novel. The depth and complexity found in Satin Island would keep you thinking about the book for a while. I really appreciated what Tom McCarthy did in this book, it really opened my eyes to so many issues. Now that I am aware of the concept of corporate anthropology, I cannot help but see the way it could be used in marketing. Satin Island is experimental and if you are willing to try an avant-garde novel, it is well worth your time and effort.

My Thoughts on the Man Booker Changes

Posted September 30, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

man booker 2013People are talking about the changes to the Man Booker Prize and I thought I would weigh in as well. I’ve already talked about My Thoughts on the Man Booker and the love hate relationship I have with this award but I want to express my thoughts to this outrage. I follow the Man Booker and sometimes I’m impressed but I do not like the changes to the Man Booker Prize next year, and it’s not because of the inclusion of Americans.

The major change to the Man Booker is that this award will include all English written novels and I know people are upset with this. The only major English speaking country that wasn’t included in the Man Booker Prize before was America and people are upset that someone like Jonathan Franzen could win the award but I have to ask, what about the other American authors? I look at this year in American literature and I think books like The Son by Philipp Meyer, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra and All That Is by James Salter could have be nominated and I’d be happy to see them make the long list.

The major problem I have is with the change in the submission guidelines. Originally each publisher and imprint could nominate two books to be put forward for the prize but now to make room for other countries they have dropped it down to one submission each, it gets a little more concerning with the wildcard nominations. All publishers and imprints that get a book included in the longlist over the past five years get extra submissions.

  • 1 submission – publishers with no listing
  • 2 submissions – publishers with 1 or 2 longlisting(s)
  • 3 submissions – publishers with 3 or 4 longlistings
  • 4 submissions – publishers with 5 or more longlistings

The concern I have with this is the fact that some publishers will have a chance to grow and the little indie publishers might struggle. The Man Booker Prize is a huge money maker. The Nielsen Bookscan have released a list of the sale jumps for the Man Booker winners for the past 10 years, books like Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel and The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes see a jump in sales of over 450% but the other books had a boost of about 700-2000%. This means that the Man Booker sales boosts can potential help a publisher with four books in a longlist while some of the little publishers could struggle to make one on the list.

Apart from worrying about the small publishers, I think the submission guidelines could mean some publishers can put forward more obscure book choices and some will only have one chance to make it onto the list and the worry is that they will submit the most popular book rather than an unknown book that deserves the attention. I know Folio is starting a new literary prize because the Man Booker Prize has become too readable (whatever that means) so they might be the one to watch in future years. What do you think of the changes? What are your concerns?

My Thoughts on the Man Booker

Posted September 7, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

man booker 2013The shortlist for the Man Booker Prize will be announced soon (September 10) and I thought I might talk about my feelings towards this prize. While I have a love/hate relationship with literary awards in general I seem to really like the longlist this year, but this hasn’t been always the case. My problem with literary prizes is that they feel more like popularity contests rather than judging books on their literary merit. Don’t get me started with the Stella prize because that is an argument that might give you the wrong idea about me (I do have similar problems with all awards that are exclusive). I digress and need to get back to the Man Booker Prize.

This prize is weird and I can’t get my head around it, some years there are a few books in the longlist that are so popular they you can’t help but know they would win; example Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies and then other years (like this one) the longlist is so unusual and surprising that you have no idea what to expect. I don’t want to care about the Man Booker but really can’t help but get wrapped up with the hype. There have been some winners that were surprising and I ended up loving; Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending is a great example of this. But I tend to be less interested in the winner and more interested with the longlist, I have a goal to one day read the entire longlist in that year. I don’t know if this will ever happen but I think it could be fun to try.

I’ve found some really interesting books in the long or shortlist; I personally think Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home was more deserving of the award last year than giving it to Hilary Mantel again. Last year’s longlist had some surprising books as well.   The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman was completely unexpected and I knew it was one I had to read, completely bizarre and full of unlikeable characters but brilliant. This year is no different, a mixed bag of books; I suspected TransAtlantic by Colum McCann and The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton might be favourites but I’m more interested in the unusual books like The Kills by Richard House, We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo and A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.

I have no idea what will make the shortlist or what the favourite is for winning. I also don’t know how many of the books from the long list I will read as; of the announcement I had only read one. and now two. I would love to know what people have read and what they are predicting for appear in the shortlist or even to win. I still have no idea how I feel about the Man Booker Prize, I will continue having mixed feelings of it being a popularity contest, joining in on the hype and getting excited about the unusual books that make the list but never win. I know I didn’t really answer the question of how I feel about the Man Booker because I really don’t know but I will love to hear some arguments for and against this award.

This year’s Man Booker prize longlist

  • Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw
  • We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • Harvest by Jim Crace
  • The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris
  • The Kills by Richard House
  • The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Unexploded by Alison MacLeod
  • TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
  • Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson
  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  • The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
  • The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Posted March 17, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo IshiguroTitle: The Remains of the Day (Goodreads)
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Published: Faber & Faber, 1986
Pages: 272
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

England 1956, Stevens is a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall who decides to take a motoring trip through the country. Partly for work and partly for personal reasons, but this six day outing becomes a trip into the past as he remembers not only two world wars but an unrealised love between himself and his housekeeper. The Remains of the Day is an incredible novel of meditation, a changing England and missed love.

Stevens is an old fashion butler, always keeping to the rules and holding himself to a higher standard particularly when it comes to dignity. Throughout the novel he reflects on what it takes to be a truly accomplished butler; often referring to the Hayes Society, an elite society of butlers in the 1920s and 1930. The notion of “a dignity in keeping with his position” being the main ingredient to making a truly great butler. As he reflects on the idea of dignity, he also reflects on how he upholds himself as well as the changed world. Lord Darlington has passed away and an American, Mr Farraday is the new owner of Darlington Hall. This means a whole new way of doing things and as Stevens masterfully adjusts to the new way, he notices that he is doing too much as well as lacking in the ability to communicate the way his new employee wishes. Stevens takes his job too seriously so he struggles to be able to banter with his employee in the way Farraday wishes. He agonizes over his need to offer some witty banter and all attempts fail. He fails to realise that it is his delivery that is lacking and yet he keeps on reflecting on this.

The reason I wanted to talk about dignity and banter, is while Stevens’ is such a great character, he spends all his time reflecting on how he can be the best butler to his that he completely misses the opportunity of love. As this novel progresses and Stevens reflects on his time at Darlington Hall you can see a relationship blossom between the housemaid Miss Kenton and himself. The further you read, the more her feelings develop, while he is blissfully ignorant. Stevens does eventually realise but it is far too late.

The Remains of the Day is such a beautiful novel; while it does remind me a little of Downton Abbey (which I adore) this novel has other elements in it which make it worth exploring. It’s a book of loyalty and politics, love and relationships as well as memories and perspective. I don’t think I’ve seen the movie adaptation of this book but I’m struggling to see how it would work in that format. Does anyone know if the movie is worth watching?

I do recommend this book to fans of Downton Abbey, but I also want to recommend it to people looking for a stunningly elegant to read. Kazuo Ishiguro masterfully crafted this book and it paid off, winning the Man Booker Prize as well as Guardian’s “Books You Can’t Live Without” and the “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die” list as well as a whole lot more. I’m so glad I picked up this book, it was short but it did so much. I would have to add it to a list of essential readings.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Posted July 30, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Life of Pi by Yann MartelTitle: Life of Pi (Goodreads)
Author: Yann Martel
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2001
Pages: 356
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

This month’s book club book was Life of Pi by Yann Martel and it seems to be one of those books that is hyped up so much that you don’t know whether to believe it or just groan at the thought of reading it. The book tells the story of Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, an Indian boy growing up and exploring spirituality at a very young age. Pi finds himself in a shipwreck which leads him to be stranded on a boat with a Bengal tiger.

The book starts off with Pi’s early years; with his dad working at a zoo, Pi discovers a lot to do with zoology and animal psychology. This aspect of the book would really appeal to animal lovers and people interested in the animal behaviour in general. Then we see Pi exploring religion and deciding he was Hindu, Christian and Islamic, which really bugged me. I really never understood why he would embrace all religions apart from the fact that he “just wants to love god.” This took up the first half of the book and I personally wanted to get past this and really get into the core part of this book; the part involving the boat and the tiger.

When the shipwreck finally came, I was expecting the book to pick up but it decided to focus more on philosophy and while I’m interested in this aspect of the book, I felt the Life of Pi had already tried to do too much already and adding this to the book was the last straw for me. There were plenty of aspects in the book that were interesting but as a whole it tried to do so much and I never felt like it achieved anything.

This book reminds me so much of The Alchemist in the sense it was very basic and it tries to talk about religion and philosophy but turns out to be incredibly overrated. I know a lot of people like both books (Life of Pi and The Alchemist) but I never connected with either, I was expecting a lot more from this but I was left waiting. It’s interesting to see books like this that seem to be either well-loved or well hated but not much in the middle. Life of Pi won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2002 and a string of other awards but for me, I felt the literary aspects were minimal, the religious and philosophical parts overdone and the book in its entirety, over hyped. I know many people love this book and if you do decide to read it, I hope you enjoy it more than I did.

2012 Man Booker Long List Announced

Posted July 26, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary News / 0 Comments

The 2012 Man Booker long list was announced today. Here is what the judges thought were the best books of the past year;

  • The Yips by Nicola Barker (Fourth Estate)
  • The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman (Sceptre)
  • Philida by André Brink (Harvill Secker)
  • The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (Myrmidon Books)
  • Skios by Michael Frayn (Faber & Faber)
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (Doubleday)
  • Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (And Other Stories)
  • Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate)
  • The Lighthouse by Alison Moore (Salt)
  • Umbrella by Will Self  (Bloomsbury)
  • Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil (Faber & Faber)
  • Communion Town by Sam Thompson (Fourth Estate)

How many of the books have you read so far? I haven’t read any of them.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Posted June 18, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

Wolf Hall by Hilary MantelTitle: Wolf Hall (Goodreads)
Author: Hilary Mantel
Series: Wolf Hall #1
Published: Harper Collins, 2009
Pages: 651
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Told through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, Wolf Hall is a wonderful take on Tudor history. Hilary Mantel sets out to write a fictionalised biography of the rise to power of Cromwell, as well as the fall of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Henry VIII’s desire to divorce and the opposition of Thomas More. Mantel puts her take on the characterisation of these historical figures and went to painstaking lengths to make sure her version of the story lines up with the historical events as accurately as possible.

Just for the sake of understanding the history behind the book, I did a bit of research before reading this book. I believe this book is set between 1500 and 1535; King Henry VIII has no heir and his chief advisor Cardinal Wolsey is trying to secure his divorce which the Pope refuses to grant. Thomas Cromwell, the son of a blacksmith rises to power by becoming Cardinal Wolsey’s clerk and then later his successor. Wolf Hall takes a look at the history and the morality behind the English Reformation; the English church’s break with the Catholic Church in Rome.

With the success of The Tudors TV show and The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, I’m not surprised how popular this book was but I’m a little surprised that it ended up winning the Man Booker prize in 2009. However, this book is a beautiful read and I found it fascinating that Hilary Mantel gave Thomas Cromwell a real sense of humanity when most recordings seem to vilify him. I’m a little confused why this book was called Wolf Hall when Wulfhall was the manor that was the seat of the Seymour family and yet there wasn’t much in this novel to do with Jane Seymour.

Fans of historical fiction, especially of this period of history, this is the book for you. Don’t be too worried about the sheer size of this novel, you won’t be disappointed. For anyone that has no interest in the period then, I’m not sure if you would want to read this. Personally I don’t have much of an interest in the Tudor’s dynasty but I’m interested in books that tackle morality and that drove me through this book but I did end up developing an interest in the history. I’m keen to read the next book in this planned trilogy; Bring Up the Bodies which only covers 1535 to 1556 and centres around the downfall of Anne Boleyn.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Posted May 13, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

The Sense of an Ending by Julian BarnesTitle: The Sense of an Ending (Goodreads)
Author: Julian Barnes
Published: Jonathan Cape, 2011
Pages: 150
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Hardcover

Buy: Amazon (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When I see a book that is only 150 pages, I automatically think the book won’t have much to offer, but then I remember some great novellas like, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and now Julian Barnes’s A Sense of an Ending. Winner of this year’s Man Booker prize A Sense of an Ending is the story I always wanted an angsty book about the teenage years to be like. I think back to Catcher in the Rye and think The Sense of an Ending is everything that classic should have been, all Catcher left me with was the need to slap Holden repeatedly.

The book follows the story of Tony Webster forty years later who receives an unexpected letter which leads him to remember his life forty years ago. The obsession with girls he had, his very first relationship and the memories of talking about philosophy, classical music and literature with his friends. This book is beautifully written, it was a real pleasure to read; it was intelligent, witty and I’d highly recommend it to everyone.