Back Booker 2005

2005We decided to sneak in another Bookerthon before our regular Bookerthon in 2008. Can you tell this is our new favourite pastime?!

This time we took on 2005 as we’d recently read two of the shortlisters, plus heard great things about the other four finalists.

Our thoughts?

There seemed to be quite a hark to classics or classical styling in these novels. Tried and tested themes or links to popular works of literature were apparent. These features eased us into these new works and allowed us to accept the brave twists and new paths the authors took. The start of each new book felt like slipping into something tried and true, something reassuringly comfy. But by the time each was completed, we realised we had been challenged thematically and opened up to new stylistic points of view.

Arthur & George reveals a section of the life of Arthur Conan Doyle who created Sherlock Holmes, the world’s most famous detective. It includes the time he took on a case of mystery himself, fighting for a pardon for a man named George Edalji who was charged and imprisoned for mutilating livestock.

On Beauty is Zadie Smith’s nod to the E M Forster classic Howard’s End. Set on both sides of the Atlantic, it is an honest analysis of family life, the institution of marriage, intersections of the personal and political, and a study of the deceptions that loved ones can act out upon one another.

The Accidental takes the time-honoured plot driver of a stranger entering the lives of a family or community and through their actions or just presence forces the inhabitants to closer inspect their own lives or relationships. In this, a barefoot woman shows up at the door of the Norfolk cottage the Smart family is renting for summer. She talks her way in. And she stays.

The Sea is said to recall such masters as Proust, Beckett and Henry James in its prose as it tells of a widower retreating to a familiar place in which to remember his wife. It is a book about memories but more about memories that could be lost if effort is not exerted to ensure they stay present.

Never Let Me Go is set at Halisham, an exclusive English boarding school in the country. This familiar setting and sense of ease is soon smashed when readers realise the students are part of an organ harvesting operation that caters to the rich and ill-treats the vulnerable and different in our society.

A Long, Long Way deals with the realities of war. In 1914, 18-year-old Willie Dunne leaves Dublin, his family and girlfriend to enlist and face the Germans on the front lines. Dealing with personal struggles and the overwhelming consequences of war this book details a horror of violence no solider could ever have imagined.

In the end we came to love this selection of reading material, though we found The Sea, while clever and with charming characters, a bit contrived and neither of us would have guessed it would win had we Bookerthoned that year.

As with the last Back Booker, we were swayed by our pre-existing attachment to one of the contenders. In this instance it was Never Let Me Go for its dystopian/science fiction nature but also its foundations in realism that made us feel like this very thing could happen. We were surprised this did not get the nod!

Best book 1-6: Rachel:

Never Let Me Go
A Long Long Way
On Beauty
Arthur & George
The Accidental
The Sea

Best book 1-6: Suzy:

Never Let Me Go
The Accidental
Arthur & George
On Beauty
A Long Long Way
The Sea

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