My favourite book award, The Man Booker International Prize, announced their long-list today and it is, as usual, an incredibly diverse list, geographically and thematically. We have books from Iceland to China, Argentina to Albania. I remember loving Albanian Ismail Kadare’s psychological thriller The Successor when it came out 10 years ago, so I’ll start with his new book The Traitor’s Niche. A pretty dark book by the sounds of it telling the story of a courtier in the Ottoman Empire responsible for transporting the severed heads of the Sultan’s enemies. Nice to see Roy Jacobsen, one of Norway’s most revered authors, on the list, although The Unseen is not considered to be his best, that accolade goes to Child Wonder. I was disappointed that The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis didn’t make it. Wonder why… In any case, there’s plenty to choose from here. Which one would you like to read?
Well, here’s something utterly different. A book with a cacophony of 166 different voices portraying the Bardo (a temporary state in between death and re-birth in the Buddhist faith) of President Abraham Lincoln’s 11-year-old son Willie. It’s an unusually structured and challenging book, and a moving portrayal of death and grief (and you’ll never walk through a cemetery at night in quite the same way).
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The historian Simon Sebag Montefiore is well known and highly respected for his award-winning non-fiction bestsellers such as Jerusalem, The Romanovs and Stalin. However, this gripping historical novel also proves his expertise as a writer of fiction. A quicker, slimmer read than many of his other works, it is just as involving and darkly exciting.
Hisham Matar’s (author of The Return and In The Country of Men) article in The New York Times perfectly encapsulates why I love reading. I think he’s spot on when he says: ‘the most magical moments in reading occur not when I encounter something unknown but when I happen upon myself, when I read a sentence that perfectly describes something I have known or felt all along […] And the more foreign the setting, the more poignant the event seems. For a strange thing occurs then: A distance widens and then it is crossed.’ A great article.
I’m absolutely thrilled to tell you that Kirstin has joined Bookstoker as a childrens’ book reviewer. Kirstin worked for many years as a children’s bookseller in a large bookshop in Notting Hill and now works for an Oxfam Bookshop. She has a contagious enthusiasm for children’s books and knows what she’s talking about, helped by advice from her two children who are also avid readers. Kirstin has already written some reviews for us which you can find in our Young Readers Section.
Bookstoker Young Readers
What better day to publish The Bailey’s Women Prize for fiction long-list than today, International Women’s Day. With a list of 16 books by established authors and a few newcomers there’s plenty of choice. But which one to choose? I enjoyed Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, a love story set in Victorian England which is beautifully written, but at times a bit slow. Perry is definitively an author to look out for, though. I was less keen on Rose Tremain’s The Gustav Sonata, a post-WW2 story about a boy growing up in Switzerland which seemed to have too many loose threads at the end. I’m quite curious about The Power, especially on a day like today, which presents an alternative world where women have all the power…
I’ve always been curious about the concept of The Great American Novel. What is it? Who made it up? Which ones are they? There’s something sweeping, weighty, grand about this notion, isn’t there? I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that it helps to be a white, male to make into this category. Looking at Literary Hub’s excellent article confirms my suspicion. Let’s hope that will change in the future.
Of the books on the list, I’ve read The Great Gatsby (one of my favourites, ever), To Kill a Mocking Bird (wonderful), Underworld (that 50 page baseball game did me in), Beloved (great), Freedom (fabulous), Rabbit Run (gave up…) and The Flame Throwers (good, but not sure it belongs here). And this article makes we want to read more of them, Mason & Dixon and Grapes of Wrath have joined my reading list as of now. I’m surprised Philip Roth didn’t make it. But, hey, arguing about which ones belong there or not is half the fun, no? Which ones would you add?
Wow! What a punch of a book. Eddy Belleguele grows up in a dirt-poor working class family in the north of France. Realising early on he’s gay, Eddy spends the rest of his youth trying to hide his sexual orientation from the macho, homophobic, misogynist and racist environment he’s born into. The End of Eddy is an extraordinary autobiographical novel of survival and courageousness and a truly magnificent book.