Bookerthon – 2022

❝ The announcement of the long list was an impressive start to the 2022 Booker season. Strong contenders from around the world covered off important real life events or offered evocative interpretations of them. We had already read some of the books and were immediately drawn to others, so continued reading eagerly.

The shortlist was not exactly as either of us would have guessed but we still had some of the final six to go and were intrigued to discover why some of our favourites were omitted from the finalists’ schedule.

What we did find were recurring themes and ideas that suggested to us that events of the world in recent years are really causing us to examine more closely what it means to be a part of humanity and community and what our obligations are to both preserving the past and bettering the future. 

As Mama Z in The Trees demonstrates by chronicling the names of the lynched and predicting one character’s death, it is knowledge of the past that allows us to make sense of the present and foresee the future. 

While we experienced a range of emotions from delight and intoxication to confusion over the individual titles, the essence of the collection was resounding and affecting. 

There were other commonalities amongst the group too, especially in the thematic and structural presentations employed to represent concerns about the past and the future. Satire, politics, history, folklore, ghost stories and religion were present in multiple works. Even Trump appeared more than once! Plus, unlike Bookers of the past, three of the novels were not lengthly, with two of them seeking word perfection with absolute minimal word counts.

Words not only mattered but they were power. Words were muti. Words were weapons. Words were magic. Words were church. Words were wealth. Words were life.

Glory – NoViolet Bulawayo

The Trees, as mentioned, examines historical lynching and modern day racism. The lynched rising from the dead was perhaps the most overt example of the past coming back to haunt us. 

Treacle Walker is very short, using folklore, religion and ethereal figures to produce a pure form of literature which examines the fluidity of the various realities that exist for different people.

The Seven Moons of Maali Ameida is a satire set in the Sri Lankan civil war, featuring a recently passed figure trying to make sense of and clear up his past so that he can pass through into the afterlife. 

Glory is also satirical and set in another conflict, that of Zimbabwe under Mugabe. Its recent historical events calls for closer inspection of what is happening for everyday people under the current regime. 

Small Things Like These recalls Ireland’s religious history in a short, word perfect novel. We loved the main character who only wanted to pass on the love he had had as a child to someone else in need.

Oh William! features the well known character Lucy Barton scrutinising her first husband William, and therefore avoiding self examination, and how this extrapolates into their current friendship and her own present.

Many of these books also highlighted the position of individuals to identify injustices and to speak out. As a community it is easy to not be the one who makes a fuss, but as a collective, that transcends into acceptance and as we have seen from history and from this collection of books, complicity can lead to the most horrendous of acts. 

Bill Furlong in Small Things Like These has the moral courage to affect change without fuss, and if everyone had the bravery to quietly stand up for their beliefs, perhaps some of our histories wouldn’t be quite so worth writing about. 

And as Mama Z asks three times near the end of the The Trees, “Shall I make him stop?” indicating we can stop injustices, the choice to stop exists and each of us as individuals need to make that decision rather than be part of the complicit collective.

Suffice to say, the short list this year was quite an emotive ordeal. It feels like fiction for fiction’s sake is a thing a of the past and the authors of today are maximising this incredible platform to inform, inspire as well entertain. As Suzy says, it was a privilege to be accepted into these worlds and to hear these messages.

❝ I so enjoyed this shortlist. Even the impenetrable mayhem of Treacle Walker had its place as yet another whacky shortlister to add to a long list of whacky shortlisters we have come across over the years.

For me the standout was Glory which was incredibly impactful and so intelligently written. I am truly in awe of NoViolet Bulawayo and what she has done.

The next four books were also stunning and so affecting, and they have sat with me for days after finishing them. The authors have all written with such grace and skill – it has been a privilege to be able to immerse myself in their worlds. – Suzy

❝ I almost want to choose a four way tie for first: Small Things Like These, Glory, The Trees and Oh William! To have Oh William! fourth on my list is not an accurate portrayal of how much I liked it, nor how likely I think it is to win.

In the end I have picked Small Things Like These for the gong. While it offers so much, as the others do, Claire Keegan has shown great restraint to get her message across. Not only in the total word count, but to finish the book at a spot where most would consider it was just getting good. To raise the topic of shameful Irish history without drowning the reader in horrid details and moralistic sentiment, and to use so few words to produce such a huge effect, I think, should be recognised over other important stories that use ten times as many words.

I wouldn’t be unhappy if Glory, The Trees or Oh William won. And even though The Seven Moons of Maali Amedia wasn’t one of my favourites I could understand if it beat the rest. However, I think Treacle Walker winning will be a disservice to the half of the reading population who had no idea what was going on. (That includes me). – Rachel

Suzy’s favourites 
Glory
The Seven Moons of Maali Ameida
Small Things Like These
The Trees
Oh, William!
Treacle Walker

Rachel‘s favourites
Small Things Like These
Glory
The Trees
Oh William!
The Seven Moons of Maali Ameida
Treacle Walker

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