Sunday, October 17, 2010

Booker Prize Shortlist 2010

Jenny's booker-shortlist-2010 book montage


In a Strange Room

The Finkler Question


The Long Song

Parrot and Olivier in America

Jenny's favorite books »

Although the Man Booker Prize has already been selected for this year, I was determined to make my own judgment on who I would have awarded it to. I wish they had more time between announcing the shortlist and announcing the winner!

First of all, I was disappointed by a few that were left off the shortlist, particularly David Mitchell. The Dunmore also sounds interesting, and similar to content often awarded the prize, although I can't speak to its literary merit yet.

Two of the books really rose to the top of the heap this year. Room by Emma Donaghue was the first one I read, and I was amazed by how she used such a limited setting and the confines of a room to create a story with so many layers and unexpected twists. It wasn't as dark and depressing as it could have been, because it was told from the perspective of the young boy who has only known the room.

The other book I would place in this category is C by Tom McCarthy. To be honest, I feel like this book has grown on me since I finished it, and hearing the interview Michael Silverblatt did with McCarthy on Bookworm made a difference there. I thought I was reading traces of other novels throughout the book, and hearing that confirmed just made it all that much better for me. This book made me wish I was more well-read, knew more about history, but what I did catch made the reading experience even better.

Worth the Read, but Not the Award
Two books that were nominated are in my middle-ranked category, still very much worth reading but not necessarily stand-outs. The first is unfortunately the book awarded the prize, The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson. The book is about old men and Jewish identity but it is rather circular and repetitive. I feel I could have jumped in at any point and read a different version of the same story.

Parrot & Olivier in America by Peter Carey is a book I was really torn on. I had to take a break in the middle because it got pretty tedious, but the last 75 pages or so were a fantastic blend of storytelling and social commentary. I just wish he'd gotten to that point sooner. The version of American history told is from an unusual perspective, and that made a big difference too.

I would skip
It seems unfair to put a book in this category, I mean, these were short listed for the Man Booker prize! But I don't see why. In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut is written in such a way, switching between first and third person, that you can't possibly get close to the narrator. And despite the fact that he is traveling through interesting places and meeting interesting people, nothing interesting actually happens to HIM. If it hadn't been nominated for this prize, I would not have bothered finishing it. At least it goes by quickly.

The last one in this category I'm not sure it is fair to rank since I'll admit I couldn't even finish it. The Long Song by Andrea Levy uses that technique of showing characters so uninformed as to be ridiculous, but partnering that with their racism and written dialects, I just couldn't commit to it. I tried two different times and forced the first fifty pages, but that's the only length I'll go to, even for a prize-nominated tome.

What is your favorite Booker?

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