1990s Booker Prize

The Essence of the Thing – Madeleine St John

‘The Essence of the Thing’ was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 1997. It is set in London’s Notting Hill and it gives an accurate portrayal of the breakdown of a modern relationship.

The characters were vividly described and had realistic emotions, but not a lot happens. The majority of the book is just gossip between the friends of the former couple, which although accurate, had no real substance.

It was OK, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

2000 - 2007 Booker Prize Chunkster

The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood


‘The Blind Assassin’ won the Booker prize in 2000. It tells the tale of two sisters and the secrets that lead to one of them committing suicide.


This is the first book by Margaret Atwood that I have read. Reviews of her books always seem to be very positive, so I was expecting a good book. Unfortunately I was very disappointed. The plot was predictable and uninspiring. The characters had no special qualities, and came across as boring people. The writing was OK, but not particularly atmospheric. I was expecting much more, from a prize winning book by a critically acclaimed author.



Many reviews state that this is a hard book to get into, and confusing, as it skips around so much. I didn’t find this to be a problem, as there was a good read before the book skipped time frames (although perhaps I’m just comparing it to ‘Beloved’, which I read recently, and is very complicated) I also found it quite easy to get into. The book flowed along well throughout it’s 600+ pages, but at the end I felt let down. I’ll have forgotten about this book in a few days, as there was nothing special about it.


Very average.


Also reviewed by Belle of the Books, Care’s Online Book Club


Book Awards Reading Challenge

To try to find more great authors, I’ve decide to take part in the ‘Book awards reading challenge’



Read 10 award winners from August 1, 2008 through June 1, 2009.

You must have at least FIVE different awards in your ten titles.


The first 6 books I’m going to read are:

1.       The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood (Winner of Booker Prize, 2000) completed 29th October 2008

2.      Out Stealing Horses – Per Petterson (Winner of IMPAC Dublin Prize, 2007) completed 20th November 2008

 3.    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Micheal Chabon (Winner of Pulitzer Prize, 2001) completed 27th November 2008

4.      The Fingersmith – Sarah Waters (Winner of the CWA Ellis Peters Dagger for Historical Crime Fiction) completed 14th December 2008

5.      We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver  (Winner of Orange Prize, 2005) completed 14th January 2009

6.     Blindness – Jose Saramago (Nobel Prize, 1998) completed 5th March 2009

7.     Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Winner of Orange Prize, 2007)

8.     The Secret River – Kate Grenville (Winner of Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, 2006) 

9.     Theory of War – John Brady (Winner of Costa/Whitbread Award, 1993) 

10.   Peace Like a River – Leif Enger (Alex Award, 2002) 

I’ll do a bit more research into other prizes, and come up with the remaining book soon.





The Arcanum by Janet Gleeson

‘The Arcanum’ tells the true story of the invention of European porcelain.  At first I found it very interesting, but I didn’t like the non-fiction writing style – it was like reading a text book. I like to see some emotion in the characters I’m reading about. I got bored by the continual facts and figures, so didn’t make it to the end. It would have made a great basis for a historical fiction novel – I’m hoping someone else picks up and the story, and adds some life to it. 

1980s Pulitzer Prize

Beloved – Toni Morrison


‘Beloved’ is the story of a woman haunted by the ghost of her baby. Set in post-Civil war Ohio it is the story of how former slaves,  psychically and emotionally crippled by years of labour, attempt to deal with their past. 

I found the first half of the book very slow. It was confusing, as it skipped around so much, and as I didn’t have a clue what was happening, it had no forward momentum. I found certain aspects of it the book very irritating. Why did there have to be 3 characters called Paul? Why was the Grandma also called a baby?  And why did all the female characters seem to have male names? This all increasing my frustration with the book.  

The second half was much better. I began to work out what was happening, and could cope with the changing of narrator/time period. As it neared the end I was totally hooked. Some scenes were very moving, and will stay with me for a long time. 


Recommended, if you’re able to get past the first 100 pages. 




Orange Prize Recommended books

Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

‘Purple Hibiscus’ started off with the disadvantage of trying to follow ‘A Fine Balance’. I started reading it on the same day I finished Mistry’s masterpiece, and my mind was still buzzing with images from his amazing book. To begin with ‘Purple Hibiscus’ seemed very simple, and flat in comparison, and I was feeling very disappointed in it. Then, about half way through the book, I started falling for it. The simplicity became the main positive, and the message came across very powerfully.


I loved the flawed characters in this book. I had great empathy for the main character, Kambili, as she dealt with her controlling father. The political situation in Nigeria was sensitively covered; it was not described directly, but it’s affect was clearly visible through the way it changed the lives of the family.  


Overall, this was a great book. Quick and easy to read; but with a vivid portrayal of African lifestyle, religion and politics.


Highly recommended.