2019 Bookerthon

Wow, what a year! The books on the Booker shortlist in 2019 are gigantic, in every expression of the word. There are books of many pages, books written by literary giants, books that deal with the huge topics of today. There’s the effects on every day people of racism, sexism, Trumpism, exclusion and climate concern. The underclass, the undesirables, those who are devalued by the majority all have a voice in this shortlist. Yet it is not as miserable as it sounds. There is much hope, fulfilment, upliftment and laughter amongst the stark realities.

“Is it a coincidence that one of these books is named An Orchestra of Minorities? For really, this is an apt description of this shortlist, a collection of minority groups given a voice in societies that seem to devalue difference and freedoms. These books represent views, whether realist or satirical, on our contemporary fake-news, what-is-truth culture, where the concept of reality itself is becoming eroded.

An Orchestra of Minorities is about a Nigerian chicken farmer attempting to win over his girlfriend’s wealthy parents only to succumb to prejudices and trickery of the upper classes; 10 Minutes & 38 Seconds In This Strange World recalls the abusive life a dying Turkish prostitute and the effect on her five closest friends who are considered outcasts.

The Testaments details the downfall of a totalitarian state where women are kept hostage as the baby bearers of the regime’s commanders; Quichotte follows the delusions of an Indian man and his imaginary son as they cross the country in search of a drug-addicted celebrity who works in the unreliable media.

“The housewife in Ducks, Newburyport who worries about Trump, gun control, her children, climate change and much more, actually reveals how normal she, and everyone like her, is; Girl Woman Other tells the story of 12 black, gender-diverse women and their normal lives in modern day Britain.

“Big topics, big storylines big characters – they really are full frontal punches in the face of reality. These authors are capturing today in very different ways, for us, the reader, to digest and consider. None attempts morality but they do open the realms of possibility so we may form our own opinions and react accordingly.

“It was a tough call for us this year. Often we quickly form an idea of where each books sits in our favourites rank but this year we appreciated, enjoyed and valued them all, for different reasons. What each has done to represent society at this moment and how each will be remembered as a fragment of this age is valid.

“So, while in exclusion at Westhaven, in the exquisite Kahugrangi National Park, how did we rank the shortlisters?

The Testaments – while we revere Margaret Atwood and the creation of Gilead, we wondered: does this book fare as a stand alone concept, or does it rely on The Handmaid’s Tale for greatness? Hmmm. The rest we honestly couldn’t fault but had to rank them in some order and pick a top dog. And we both agreed, Ducks Newburyport performed its job as a take on the modern world as well as the others, but its unique format made it refreshing and completely absorbing and therefore a step above the rest.”

Suzy (favourites in order 1-6)
Ducks, Newburyport – Lucy Ellmann
An Orchestra of Minorities – Chigoze Obioma
Quichotte – Salman Rushdie
10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World – Elif Shafak
Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo
The Testaments – Margaret Atwood

Rachel (favourites in order 1-6)
Ducks, Newburyport – Lucy Ellmann
Quichotte – Salman Rushdie
An Orchestra of Minorities
– Chigoze Obioma
10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World – Elif Shafak
Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo
The Testaments – Margaret Atwood

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