Monday, October 4, 2010

Dylan Thomas Prize Long List 2010 - Novels

I finally finished the nominees for the Dylan Thomas Prize Long List, although not before they announced the short list. Fair is fair, and I don't agree with their long list entirely, so I am still going to share my thoughts on the matter.

The best of the best
My favorite novel of the lot was The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton. Half the story is told inside a saxophone teacher's studio, and the other half is told somewhat from the perspective of a young man in his first year of acting school. Except the narrators are unreliable and it isn't even clear if what is happening is real or part of a play. I almost forgot to eat lunch one day because I was so immersed in it.

Really good and worth the read
An imaginary friend, or a ghost, or a personality? You can decide, but In This Way I Was Saved by Brian DeLeeuw is disturbing and yet I couldn't put it down!!! The narrator kind of doesn't exist and he also doesn't understand everything he sees. I wish the end had been more fleshed out but I continued to think about it after I was done.

The Still Point by Amy Sackville was a journey inside an isolated woman's life to discover the romance of her grandparents in the Alaskan tundra. Impossible to explain but beautifully written.

Interesting reads, but optional
The Girl with the Glass Feet by Ali Shaw is actually one I read before I knew about the prize. It was set on a cold weather island, so I thought it was made for me, but I remember very little of it. It was an easy read, but forgettable.

Desperation and reconciliation plague a family in Ireland, in The Road to the Sea by Ciara Hegarty. It was bleak and not wimpy.

I think a Room by Emma Donaghue is a better book about a child growing up with one parent in an isolated setting, but And This is True by Emily Mackie had some interesting quirks too.

Both Family Planning by Karan Mahajan and Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed have interesting settings and tell new stories, which I imagine is the reason they both made the short list. I personally felt that I would have rathered a different author tell the story, if that makes sense. In Family Planning the story just goes nowhere, although the characters are fascinating. In Black Mamba Boy there is too much crammed into 280 pages, so the entire novel just feels scattered.

So there you go. The selectors agree with me on The Rehearsal for the short list, but we'll have to wait until December to find the verdict.

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