2014 Bookerthon

2014 BookerThis year marks a big change in the Man Booker Prize. The prize is now open to any novel written in English, published in the UK. This makes a chunk of new US fiction eligible for the honour of being named best book of the year.

The wider net creates more of a global prize but many Brits have voiced their contentment with the prize’s focus being on UK and Commonwealth writers. But the change is made, the brand is growing and the first inclusive longlist was announced with four Americans on it, two of whom made the shortlist.

One of those is We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, which details the life of an average American family, average in all ways but one that concerns the narrator’s sister, Fern. It’s hard to detail the plot without giving everything away, but it was a plot that we both really enjoyed. Its pacing and reveals and emotional pull was great and we both admitted to shedding a tear or two.

The other is To Rise Again At A Decent Hour, which has a very America protagonist. Paul O’Rourke is a dentist, an atheist, a man who has bad habits and loves baseball. When someone begins to impersonate him on the internet, he wonders if online Paul might be a better version of himself. Sounds intriguing but we both admitted that the very American vernacular and humour was not appealing to us.

The other four to make the shorlist are:

How To Be Both by Ali Smith which is a literary response to the influence of art, with two main characters and two ways in which to read the story – it’s luck of the draw on what version you pick up. It was beautiful and clever but an intense read.

The Narrow Road To The Deep North is from Australian Richard Flanagan. It is based on the true story of POWs being used as slave labour on the Burma Railway. It is harrowing and beautiful all at once.

The Lives Of Others is an historical saga set in 1960s Calcutta detailing the lives and shifting hierarchal sands with the Ghosh family. Likely historically accurate, it required more time than we were able to give it to map the people and places and events that were intricately detailed.

J (the year of the longest and shortest titles!) is a well-constructed, dystopian story set in a time where people refer to a catastrophe of the past as “What Happened, If It Happened”. Innovative and moral, but the synopsis made it sound more exciting than it is.

Rachel: This year I’m picking The Narrow Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan. It has everything on its side: readability, emotivity, stunning prose, as well as being plot heavy and character driven – the whole package! I couldn’t put this down and felt like I learnt a lot.

Suzy: Despite struggling with How To Be Both, it quickly became apparent to me that this is a work of pure genius – sigh.  Strongly recommended for people with high IQs! This is my pick for winner this year. Though, The Narrow Road to the Deep North would also be a deserving winner in my opinion.

Best book 1st-6th: Rachel:
The Narrow Road To The Deep North
How To Be Both
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
The Lives Of Others
To Rise Again At A Decent Hour

Best book 1st-6th: Suzy:
How To Be Both
The Narrow Road To The Deep North
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
The Lives Of Others
To Rise Again At A Decent Hour

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