2009 – Bookerthon

2009 BookerWhat a substantial stack of books on the Man Booker longlist this year! And we don’t just mean in size, but in scope, in ambition and punch. The ideas and importance as well as the number of pages seemed huge and overwhelming to us at first. What an initiation for Jo who decided to join us in Bookerthon fun this year!

A quick calculation informed us we had to read 80 pages per day for six weeks to get through the shortlisters in the allotted time. This might have been a breeze if the content was light and easy. But alas these books had depth, history and characters galore, they took on Tudor royalty, World War I horrors, persecution of the Jews, post war English gentry, South African ethics, incarceration at a mental asylum … see what we mean! #brainexplosion!

We’ll admit it was a struggle to get the pages completed in time with the right amount of commitment and attention and we had to prioritise what we were most compelled by. But despite the huge reading expectations of the judges this year, we got there and had some interesting thoughts on each and every one of them.

(Though, PS: Jo never Bookerthoned again!)

The Glass Room is about an architectural home in Czechoslovakia where the interior room is made entirely of glass. Based on a real villa, this home was abandoned by its original owners when the Nazis were approaching. The book is about the home’s life and all who occupied it. The house as a character is just as appealing as any (most!) of the two legged variety.

There’s another house as a character, this time a dilapidated Victorian mansion which haunts the English gentry that live there. What is really going in The Little Stranger kept us all captivated and we had indepth discussions about all the possibilities for some time!

The Quickening Maze is about a mental asylum run by Matthew Allen at High Beach in the late 1830s and 1840s. The dignity and empathy with which the characters are built, studied and brought to life is quite something and we all agreed it seemed like a book which would remain a part of history.

We were also able to agree Wolf Hall was difficult to read, understand or enjoy. We acknowledge that the story about Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to Henry VIII is an important one to document and probably wilding appealing to Brits, but understanding little of this history in advance, all of us struggled with this one.

The Children’s Book was a massive, multi generational tome set in the lead up to WWI, studying the lives of the many children in the Wellwood family and all their triumphs and woes and secrets. This was one we reacted differently to: Rachel revelled in its complexity, Jo found it tediously long with too many characters and Suzy sat somewhere in between!

Summertime raises the question of why it’s okay to be so obsessed with one man, a writer of fiction, when there are so many ethical and racial problems still rife in South Africa. Coetzee has written a book about a biographer writing a book about Coetzee. A wonderful premise that had us spellbound.

In the end Suzy picked The Quickening Maze as her favourite because of its emotive ability to touch the soul.

Rachel chose Summertime by J M Coetzee, saying no one can phrase a sentence like this man can. “Coetzee takes something ordinary and makes it beautiful and meaningful, and for that reason he deserves what would be his third Man Booker win.”

Jo is going for The Little Stranger because of “the beautifully crafted tension and the author’s ability to keep the reader guessing right to the end”.

Best book 1-6: Jo:
The Little Stranger
Summertime
The Quickening Maze
The Glass Room
The Children’s Book
Wolf Hall

Best book 1-6: Rachel:
Summertime
The Children’s Book
The Glass Room
The Little Stranger
The Quickening Maze
Wolf Hall

Best book 1-6: Suzy:
The Quickening Maze
The Glass Room
The Little Stranger
The Children’s Book
Summertime
Wolf Hall

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