Monday, October 5, 2009

Leading Up to the Booker Prize

The 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction will be awarded tomorrow to "the very best book of the year" (keeping in mind that quite a lot of excellent books do not even qualify to enter the running). See the shortlist here. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, a historical novel about the life and times of Thomas Cromwell, remains the current favorite to win. As always, the Prize garners a lot of attention, particularly in the UK. If you're following the Prize this year, you might be interested in some of these stories.

In a strange article that's half about Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol and half about the Booker shortlist, Robert McCrum in the Observer notes:
A lot of commentary, mine included, has focused on the "historical" nature of the shortlist, from Hilary Mantel's Tudor spellbinder Wolf Hall to Sarah Waters's psychodrama of austerity Britain (and homage to Josephine Tey) The Little Stranger. What no one has said, so far as I know, is that every one of these books is a cracking good read, a novel you can lose yourself in, with the childish gratification that good storytelling provides.
As Michael Prodger, a member of this year's Booker judging panel, notes in an article in the Telegrah, not everyone is happy with the shortlist's historical focus. The judges "have been accused of having a fear of the contemporary ... [b]ecause all six books are set in the past." Others suggest this shortlist is "part of the wider retrenchment brought on by the recession–comfort reading for uncomfortable times." Prodger hopes the Prize this year might go to a "truly significant book":
Statistically speaking, truly significant books – those that will still be read in 20 years time – don't come along every year but re-reading and re-re-reading our shortlist makes me think that we have at least a couple in there that will achieve that status.
Not everyone loves the Booker. Jenny Colgan at the Independent thinks "[t]he sense of sombre worthiness surrounding the awards drags everything down." For Colgan, "the Booker's enduring legacy ... is this: this is Grown-up Serious Reading and would all you little sentimental people who like being entertained please scuttle back to your tawdry little comics, your Katie Prices, threefers and celebrity autobiographies.

And what about those titles that didn't make the list? At the Chronicle Herald, Mary Jo Anderson is "less interested in the results of this year’s Booker Prize" because William Trevor's Love and Summer didn't make the shortlist. Anderson describes Love and Summer as "simply sublime," "spacious and profound," "deeply moving and technically brilliant," and "exactly the sort of novel that made me become addicted to novels and reading." I agree with Anderson's view of Love and Summer (see my review), and I would've liked to see the book on the shortlist.

1 comment:

Zibilee said...

I've never really followed the Booker Prize winners, and have only read a few of the books on various shortlists over the years. I really want to change that, as I feel like I am missing out on some really great reads. Maybe this year I will get around to reading a few of the finalists. I do really want to read Wolf Hall, so I may start there. Great post!