Two Literary Prizes

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The 2013 Women’s Fiction Prize Shortlist

The shortlist for the 2013 Women’s Fiction Prize was announced this morning. I wasn’t surprised to see any of the books on the list, as all are strong enough to justify their place, but I was sad that the list consisted of so many well-known authors.  Many of the longlisted books by lesser known authors were equally good, if not better, than those selected and it is a real shame that they don’t get a chance in the spotlight.

I was especially disappointed that The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber didn’t make the cut as her novel, written entirely in verse, is an amazing achievement that deserves more recognition.

Here are the six lucky books that made the shortlist:

Where'd You Go, BernadetteNWMay We be Forgiven

 

Bring Up the BodiesFlight BehaviourLife After Life (Signed, Limited Edition)

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Five words from the blurb: genius, Microsoft, child, charismatic, comic
Wonderfully entertaining and quirky – I recommend this to anyone looking for something a little different.

NW by Zadie Smith

Five words from the blurb: Londoners, estate, moved, different, lives.
The writing in this book is fantastic, but its disjointed nature won’t be to everyone’s taste.

May We Be Forgiven by AM Homes

Five words from the blurb: quiet, life, family, strange, finding
Engaging book, packed with satire. Lots of people love this one, but I’m afraid the plot twists were a bit too unrealistic for me.

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Five words from the blurb: Thomas Cromwell, rise, destruction, Anne Boleyn, Catholic
Over the years I’ve come to realise that Mantel isn’t for me, but it is no surprise to see her on the shortlist.

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

Five words from the blurb: Appalachian Mountains, mother, discovers, nature, miracle
Global warming is an important subject and this book has many fantastic passages, but I’m afraid it was a little preachy for me.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Five words from the blurb: turbulent, events, chances, past, moments
This is the book that everyone is raving about. It didn’t work for me, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it win the big prize. I think this is Atkinson’s year.

What do you think of the shortlist?

 

The 2013 Pulitzer Prize

The Orphan Master's Son

WINNER: The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

Five words from the blurb: North Korea, kidnapper, spy, glory, love

The first half of this book was outstanding, but unfortunately I found it became unrealistic and silly as it progressed. I’m surprised to see it winning the Pulitzer – especially since the prize is supposed to go to books dealing with American life. This ones seems far too rooted in North Korea to be eligible, but what do I know!?

 

The Snow Child

FINALIST: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Five words from the blurb: Alaskan, wilderness, snow, girl, magical

I loved this book. It was like a modern day fairy tale and was gripping throughout. I’m surprised to see it on this prize list though. I found it hugely entertaining, but didn’t think it had the depth to justify a Pulitzer. Those judges are doing strange things this year!

 

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

FINALIST: What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander

Five words from the blurb: comic, dark, vision, universe, questions 

I’m not a fan of short stories so I haven’t tried this one, but I’ve heard lots of great things about it. Were the judges right to select it?

What do you think of the selection?


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24 Comments

  1. David says:

    I like that Women’s Prize shortlist, not least because having only read ten of the longlist, five of them made the shortlist! Which means I only have ‘May We Be Forgiven’ (which appeals to me anyway) left to read. Much as I liked the Maria Semple, I’m surprised to see it on the shortlist – I’d rather have seen ‘The Forrests’ there, though I appreciate it is a bit of a love it or loathe it book. I’m going to be terribly boring and say that ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ is my favourite so far – I just think it is in a different league to the others.

    I don’t know what to make of the Pulitzer this year – I haven’t read the winner (honestly, it doesn’t appeal to me), but there was a huge amount of buzz around it when it came out early last year and I was surprised by its absence from the finalists for the National Book Awards. But it is the two runners-up that puzzle me: I haven’t got around to ‘The Snow Child’ yet but I just got the impression it was quite a light read rather than very literary. And the Nathan Englander collection is okay but not half as clever as it thinks it is – I read it feeling I was supposed to think it was Great Literature because many of the reviews seemed to tell me that is what it is, but I don’t know… they’re good stories in the main, but nothing earth-shattering. I read far better American collections last year. At any rate I wouldn’t recommend it as a way of getting over your short story aversion!

    1. Jackie says:

      David, I agree about Bernadette – I didn’t think it would make the shortlist either. I didn’t put it in the top half of the longlist in terms of literary merit and would have put ‘The Forrests’, ‘The Marlowe Papers’ and ‘Honour’ above it as my preferences for the shortlist. But I don’t mind its inclusion – as the list stands it is my favourite and it is nice to see something a bit quirky on the list.

      I’m glad I’m not the only one puzzled by the Pulitzer this year. It is a bit sad to know that even the Englander isn’t as good as it should be.

      Yes, you are right in thinking ‘The Snow Child’ isn’t very literary. I’d love to know why the judges picked the books they did this year.

  2. I think it is a solid Women’s shortlist from a varied and interesting longlist. I’d only read 3 from the longlist and loved them all. Honour was my favourite and raised some complex issues especially regarding the East/West divide and the definition of respect for women. I’d like to see someone win who hasn’t won it before – so it’s Mantel all the way for me ;)

    Quite excited about the Pulitzer winner as I bought it on a whim on Sunday. I was attracted by the North Korea setting and had no idea it was in the running for a Pulitzer.

    1. Jackie says:

      Liz, It is good to hear that Honour is your favourite too – such a shame it didn’t make the shortlist as I’d love to see those complex issues discussed by a wider audience.

      I had no idea ‘Orphan Master’ was up for a Pulitzer either – in fact I still don’t know why it was! I hope you enjoy it more that I did. If you’re after a fantastic book set in North Korea I recommend Nothing to Envy.

  3. Lucybird says:

    I loved Life After Life so would be happy if that won, although I haven’t read any of the other Woman’s Prize choices.

    1. Jackie says:

      Lucy, I think a lot of people would be very happy if it won :-)

  4. Sandy says:

    Hey I’m just thrilled that I’ve actually READ a couple of these! I’m usually clueless. As you know I loved Bernadette. And I also loved The Orphan Master’s Son. Although it was very much about North Korea, there were many references to the US and actually some of it took place there. So maybe that was it? Don’t know, but I enjoyed it because I am fascinating with the mess that is North Korea.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, Yes, I know that some of ‘Orphan Master’ took place in the US, but I didn’t think it was enough to justify a Pulitzer – I guess it managed to sneek through the blurred edges of the guidelines.

      It’s good to know that you are finding yourself reading more of these prize winners before the announcements – perhaps you’ll have read 3 next time?!

  5. Mystica says:

    I do so like your five word descriptions! succinct and to the point.

  6. JoV says:

    “Lucky” is the right word. There are many good longlist that deserves the merit to be here. I am disappointed Honour is not here.

    I tried White Teeth, it was disjointed as well, so not sure I will read NW yet.
    For Mantel, that got me curious, so I’ll start from Wold Hall to begin with.
    Read AM Homes, “This book will save your life” abandoned it half way, so needless to say I don’t want to read this one on the shortlist.
    That’s left the other 3 which I will explore. I tried Lacuna before and in my experience it was hard to get absorbed with Kingsolver. Hope this is better.

    I don’t care who wins, but I don’t want to see the same winner winning the prize twice nor I want Bringing up Bodies to win. It is enough what she bagged, the whole world knows the literary entertainment merits of Bringing up Bodies, now can find a new winner please? :)

    I would like to read the Orphan’s Master Son.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jo, It sounds as though you are having a similar experience to me with the list. I recommend forgetting about it and moving on to other books that actually appeal to you – the short list is esecially wide of our tastes.

      I look forward to your thoughts on ‘Orphan Master’ It will be interesting to see if you enjoy it more than I did.

  7. JoV says:

    I mean, Can we find (or have) a new winner please? :)

  8. Charlie says:

    That is a pity there weren’t lesser known authors chosen, and to continue what Jo’s said, Mantel again? It might be good, but give others a chance! Still, I loved NW and it’s pretty original, and Life After Life sounds like it might be very good, so at least they are popular books.

    1. Jackie says:

      Charlie, I’m not bothered if the books are popular or not – I’d prefer the ones with the best writing to win. Hopefully their inclusion on a shortlist would then lead to more sales. Shame the lesser known authors didn’t get a chance this year :-(

  9. Laurie C says:

    I haven’t read a single one of either shortlist, so can’t really comment! Only just read Wolf Hall recently. Purchased N-W when it came out and never cracked it open. Have read all Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie novels but not Life after Life. Snow Child, Bernadette, Orphan Master’s Son, and others all on TBR list, but not read. I enjoyed reading your take on these prize lists!

    1. Jackie says:

      Laurie, I’m glad you enjoyed my thoughts. I hope you get the chance to read some of them soon.

  10. stujallen says:

    seems a fair shortlist ,I ve read nw and have the semple only other one I may read is life after life ,the pulitzer winner appeals to me had heard about it via books on the nightstand ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, I think you might be annoyed by the Pulitzer winner too – I’d love to find out though. Happy reading!

  11. Jenners says:

    I really enjoyed Bernadette but it doesn’t seem to have the “weight” to win a prize, if that makes any sense. And I really must read Snow Child soon.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, Yes – I agree about Bernadette. I’d be very surprised to see it win, but I’m sure it will do well in the book charts. It is a very entertaining book!

  12. Hannah says:

    I’ve not read any of these yet, though Life After Life is next in my TBR pile! :) I liked On Beauty by Zadie Smith, I think, but can’t really remember much more other than thinking that it was alright, so I don’t think I’ll bother with any of her other work. Hilary Mantel I am put off because I’ve never really been into historical stuff… I’ll probably check out at least another couple of these though, and have been intending to read The Snow Child for aaaages now!

    1. Jackie says:

      Hannah, I thought The Snow Child was a wonderful read – I hope you find it as magical as I did!

  13. cbjames says:

    I’ve never heard that about the Pulitzer Prize before. I thought it just had to be a book by an American author or published by and American publisher. Lots of non-fiction winners have been about topics outside of America.

    But, what do I know. ;-)

    I enjoyed Nothing to Envy myself, but I think that’s enough about life in North Korea for me for now.

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