On Monday I explained why I love debut novels and so it will come as no surprise that I was interested in Waterstone’s new initiative to highlight debut literary fiction.
Last week they revealed the first Waterstone’s 11: a selection of 11 debut novels which will be published in 2011.
A panel of Waterstone’s staff read around 100 submissions and chose their favourites for inclusion in this list. The fact the selection process was so similar to that of a book award panel gives me confidence that their plan to
identify the future Man Booker nominees
will have a real chance of coming true.
I was really impressed with the list and immediately drawn to several of the titles. When I spotted that the first chapter of each book was available to download from the Waterstone’s Eleven site I decided to read them all and record my impressions.
Here are my thoughts on the first chapter of each Waterstone 11 book:
The Free World by David Bezmozgis
Five words from the blurb: Rome, refugees, escape, Communism, Canada
Very good writing. I can see myself enjoying this book, but I want to wait for others to read it first to ensure that the plot is satisfying enough for my needs. I wouldn’t be surprised if it made the Booker long list.
The Registrar’s Manual for Detecting Forced Marriages by Sophie Hardach
Five words from the blurb: immigration, wedding, safe, investigation, suspicions
Vivid and gripping from the start, but I worry that I’ve read books covering the same themes many times before. I’m sure it is a fantastic read, but it isn’t jumping out at me.
City of Bohane by Kevin Barry
Five words from the blurb: future, Ireland, gang, henchman, visionary
Could well be fantastic once you’ve got used to the dialect, but in my brief reading it was too much hard work and so I didn’t feel enough engagement to want to read on. Not for me.
22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson
Five words from the blurb: war, survivors, boy, home, accept
I don’t think the blurb would ever have persuaded me to pick up this book, but I loved it from the first sentence. I already want to hug that little boy and I really want to know what happens to him next. Look out for this book on the Orange list!
Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka
Five words from the blurb: cricket, Sri Lanka, secret, Tamil Tiger warlord, dying
Cricket? Urgghhh!! It was a struggle for me to make it to the end of this brief extract.
Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
Five words from the blurb: Ghana, London, knifed, investigation, innocence
The Coincidence Engine by Sam Leith
Five words from the blurb: improbable, chaotic, chase, imaginary, America
The first chapter left me very confused. I’m sure it is all explained later on, but I worry it might be trying to be too scientifically clever at the expense of any emotion.
The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht
Five words from the blurb: tiger, Germany, The Jungle Book, war, devastated
Reads almost like a fairytale, but the reality of war creeps in to give this book a unique style. I think this could go either way for me, but I’m so intrigued I have to read the rest when it is released.
The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud
Five words from the blurb: haunted, Vietnam, father, senility, love
Beautifully descriptive writing, but I suspect the plot will be too slow paced for me to fall in love with it.
The Collaborator by Mirza Waheed
Five words from the blurb: Kashmir, war, poignant, shocking, family
Gritty, dark and raw. I was surprised by how gripped I was after reading such a small section. I will definitely be reading this one on its release.
When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
Five words from the blurb: childhood, innocence, eccentricity, love, loss
There is a lot going on in this book! In the first chapter themes of religion, war and paedophilia were introduced. I’m fascinated to know where this book goes, but I do worry that too much is going on for any of them to be handled thoroughly.
See the full blurbs and download the first chapter of all these books at the Waterstone’s Eleven page.
I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a list of books where I love so many of the selection. I will be ensuring I follow the Waterstone’s 11 each year and I look forward to finding out if the books are as good as their first chapters.
What do you think of the Waterstone’s 11?