Booker Prize Other

Who will make the 2011 Booker Short List?

I have now attempted to read all the books on this year’s Booker long list and am sad to report that I haven’t had much luck with them. I only found two books I really enjoyed; the rest were a mixture of average reads and ones that irritated me.

Predicting a short list is an almost impossible task so I decided to summarise my thoughts by ordering the long list a) according to my preference and b) in the order I think reflects their relative literary merit (writing quality, re-readability etc).

Bookers ordered to my preference:

(all links go to my thoughts on each book)

  1. A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards
  2. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
  3. The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuinness
  4. Half Blood Blues by Esi Edgyan 
  5. On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry
  6. The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst
  7. Far to Go by Alison Pick
  8. Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch
  9. Derby Day by DJ Taylor
  10. The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers
  11. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
  12. Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
  13. Snowdrops by A.D. Miller

Bookers in order of literary merit:

  1. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
  2. On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry
  3. Snowdrops by A.D. Miller
  4. Half Blood Blues by Esi Edgyan
  5. Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch
  6. The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst
  7. Derby Day by DJ Taylor
  8. The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuinness
  9. A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards
  10. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
  11. Far to Go by Alison Pick
  12. The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers
  13. Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

In each case the top six titles (in bold) would make it to their respective short lists. The exception being :

  • The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
  • On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry

where I think the books are too similar for both to be put through to the short list together. I think The Sense of an Ending is the slightly stronger book and so I predict it will go through at the expense of On Canaan’s Side. I’m hoping that the books are selected on literary merit and so therefore predict that the Booker short list revealed on 6th September will be:


The Stranger's ChildSnowdropsDerby Day

Half Blood Blues: From Berlin to Paris. Two Friends. One BetrayalThe Sense of an EndingJamrach's Menagerie

 Which books do you think will make it onto the Booker short list?

2011 Booker Prize

The Last Hundred Days – Patrick McGuinness

The Last Hundred Days Long listed for 2011 Booker Prize

Five words from the blurb: Romanians, danger, corruption, destroy, Ceausescu

The Last Hundred Days explains what life was like for Romanians in the final months of Ceausescu’s reign. The story is told through the eyes of an English student who arrives in Bucharest after being given a job, despite not turning up for the interview. From the perspective of this outsider we see the destruction of the city, the corruption required to get everything from food to medical supplies, and the violence that regularly occurs.

The book was very well researched, giving a vivid snapshot of life in Bucharest during 1989. The problem was that it read like a non-fiction title. The detail will prove fascinating to anyone interested in researching the city, but is too much for the average reader.

I also found the writing to be quite detached. I couldn’t connect to any of the characters and so failed to form an emotional response to any of the scenes in the book, no matter how disturbing the content. The fact that the narrator was from England also added a level of detachment to the plot. As a newcomer to the city he couldn’t fully explain the pain that the residents felt seeing their city destroyed and there was always the knowledge that he could leave and return to his normal life at any point.

Unlike the majority of the Booker long list, this book did have a plot. The problem was that I didn’t really care about it – things happened, but I had no real interest in the outcome.

Despite these criticisms this book did engage me enough to read to the end. I learnt a lot about life under Ceausescu, including the fact that having a miscarriage was a crime.

A ‘celibacy tax’ was imposed on women who could have children but did not, while officials were sent to interrogate women about their sexual habits. ‘Anyone who avoids having children is a deserter,’ proclaimed Ceausescu, announcing the ‘Mama Eroica’ scheme to reward mothers with five or more children. But there was no milk, no food; it was impossible to find sterilised feeding equipment; electricity was now as random and inscrutable as Acts of God had been for ancient civilisations.

The book does a fantastic job of teaching the reader about this period of history, but if you like to form an emotional connection to the characters/plot then it probably isn’t for you.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

McGuinness has done an awe-inspiring job of capturing the sordid, decaying and disjointed “communist way of life” in Bucharest during the summer of ’89. Permanently Uncached

…factual mistakes started accruing at an alarmingly fast rate…. Fantasy Book Critic

I’d say the major flaw here was the disjointed nature of the story telling and the philosophical musings. Chazz W



August Summary and Plans for September

August Summary

My August reading has been dominated by the Booker long list. I only have two more left to try and am looking forward to finishing them and writing a brief summary for you. The Booker reading has reduced my overall reading enjoyment for the month, but I’m still pleased I made the effort to try them all – I wouldn’t have discovered the wonderful, A Cupboard Full of Coats, without it.

Book of the Month

A Cupboard Full of Coats

Books Reviewed in August

A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards 

The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah 

The Housekeeper and The Professor – Yoko Ogawa 

The Twin – Gerbrand Bakker 

The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt 

The Proof of Love – Catherine Hall 

The Testament of Jessie Lamb – Jane Rogers 

The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes 

Titus Alone – Mervyn Peake 

Two Abandoned Bookers: Derby Day by DJ Taylor and Far to Go by Alison Pick

What else have I been doing?

August has been a very busy month for me. My boys have been off school and so I’ve been entertaining them locally and on a camping trip in Yorkshire.


I have also been celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary. My husband and I enjoyed a luxurious few days without the children in Whatley Manor, including the best meal we’ve ever eaten. An expensive treat!

Ayla continues to grow. She now weighs 20kg and is starting to loose her puppy fluff. She can now look handsome as well as cute!








Plans for September

I will be continuing my Gormenghast read-along with the fourth book in the series, Titus Awakes.

I will be trying The Stranger’s Child and The Last Hundred Days, the last two books of the Booker long list and will let you know my thoughts on the rest.

I also hope to finally have the time to finish the wonderful Shantaram. I am loving every word, but it is a long, heavy book and I’ve struggled to find enough time to read it comfortably (ie. not travelling, in the bath etc!)

I also hope to read the following books:

Caribou Island by David Vann

Everything You Know by Zoe Heller

How to Forget by Marcus Brill

Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris

The Fat Years by Chan Koonchung

Hen’s Teeth by Manda Scott

My youngest son starts school at the end of September (time flies!) so I’ll have much more free time then. Hopefully this will mean I’ll be able to research a few more interesting topics for you – let me know if there is anything in particular that you’d like me to investigate.

I hope you all have a wonderful September!