2009 Booker Prize

Love and Summer – William Trevor

 Long Listed for the Booker Prize 2009

Love and Summer begins with a funeral. A mysterious stranger arrives and starts to photograph the mourners. A few of the guests spot him and are wary, especially because the deceased is said to own half the town. The plot builds slowly, through the observations of several members of the village.

I’m afraid that this was another one of those gentle books which failed to grab my attention. The character observations were amusing in places, but lacked the emotion I need to enjoy this sort of book. It was all too ordinary for me.

Unhurried in the wood, not wanting to hurry, Ellie reached out for these crowding memories. Cloonhill was gone now, closed down three years ago, the nuns gone back to the convent in Templeross. But you didn’t lose touch with a place when it wasn’t there any more; you didn’t lose touch with yourself as you were when you were part of it, with your childhood, with your simplicity then.

This book came across more as a portrait of an Irish village, than the story of any one person. There were a large number of characters, which further distanced me from each one.

The ending was quite satisfying, but the journey there was too slow and meandering.

There are a lot of similarities between this book and Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín, also long listed for the Booker Prize this year. I am sure that if you enjoy reading one, then you will love the other. Both books are observations of Irish life and leave more unsaid than is described on the page.

I know that a lot of people will love this book, but it just wasn’t for me.



Do you enjoy William Trevor’s writing?

Have you read any of his other books?

2009 Booker Prize

Not Untrue and Not Unkind – Ed O’Loughlin

 Long listed for the Booker Prize 2009

Not Untrue and Not Unkind follows a group of foreign correspondents covering breaking news stories in Africa. Their work is dangerous, but brings a camaraderie not normally seen between people with such different personalities.

This is a very good book and I can see why it made it on to the Booker long list. The writing is vivid, shocking at times, but always clear and easy to follow. It lost some momentum towards the middle, but picked up again after a few chapters.

The subject matter of the book means that some scenes are disturbing to read. The contrast between the African people and the reporters, who only glimpse the horrors before heading back to their posh hotels, emphasizes the differences between the two groups.

The plot was straight forward, but while it was an interesting insight into the life of a reporter, it didn’t have that special spark I’m looking for in a book. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters and often felt detached from the horrors I was reading about.

Recommended to anyone considering becoming a war correspondent, and fans of Kate Adie’s books, but it isn’t really my sort of thing.


Do you enjoy books written by war correspondents?

Was this book one of your favourites from the Booker list this year?

2009 Booker Prize Historical Fiction

The Quickening Maze – Adam Foulds

 Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2009

The Quickening Maze was shortlisted for the Booker prize on Tuesday, and having read the entire longlist this year I have to say I was very surprised to see it there. I can only assume that this book improves on re-reading – it’s poetic words making much more sense second time round.

The book is set the mid 19th century and centres on a mental asylum in Epping Forest. The two poets, John Clare and Alfred Tennyson, have a strong presence in the book and the historical details of their lives are described as accurately as possible.

I was really looking forward to reading it as I used to live very close to Epping Forest, enjoy historical fiction and find madness a great addition to any story! Unfortunately I was a little bit disappointed, as although the writing was beautiful and individual scenes were captivating, the book failed to fully engage me. The plot had no real forward momentum and the interesting episodes in the book didn’t feel entirely linked.

The large number of characters added to my sense of confusion, perhaps they emphasised the madness present in the mental asylum, but there were so many people fighting for my attention that in the end they just washed past me.

The author is a talented poet, but I’m afraid I’m not a big fan of poetry and so I think much of the beauty of this book was lost on me – it was too quiet.

The wind separated into thumps, into wing beats. An angel. An angel sat there in front of her. Tears fell like petals from her face. It stopped in front of her. Settling, it’s wings made a chittering sound. It paced back and forth, a strange, soft, curving walk that was almost like dancing.

The book was well researched and I loved some of the snippets of historical information. The desire to bury everyone in consecrated ground, leading to sneaking a dead baby into the coffin of a rich gentleman was one such revelation for me. I also loved the descriptions of the forest. The trees seemed to play a more important part in the book than the people.

There was a lot to like in The Quickening Maze, but it didn’t really work as a novel first time round – perhaps a second reading would reveal many more of the subtle layers.

Recommended to poetry lovers or anyone who enjoys quiet pieces of historical fiction.


Booker Prize Other

The Booker long list 2009 has been announced…..

The long list this year is….

The Children’s Book by AS Byatt  stars3h
Summertime by JM Coetzee
The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds
How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall
The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey  stars51
Me Cheeta: The Autobiography by James Lever
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel stars1
The Glass Room by Simon Mawer
Not Untrue and Not Unkind by Ed O’Loughlin
Heliopolis by James Scudamore
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín stars3h (review coming soon)
Love and Summer by William Trevor
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters stars4

I have read 5 of the list, counting Wolf Hall which I didn’t manage to finish.

I have just ordered the rest of the list, so I’m afraid you’ll have to put up with quite a few Booker books on my blog for the next few months.

I am so happy that Wilderness made the long list. I really hope it wins, as it is one of my favourite books of the year so far.

What did you think of the list?

Are you planning to read them all?

2009 Historical Fiction

Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel


I have seen several people tip this book for the Booker prize this year, and so decided to give it a try. Unfortunately this book was even more disappointing than The Children’s Book, which I think will win this year’s prize despite the fact it wasn’t for me.

Wolf Hall is set in Tudor England and tells the story of Thomas Cromwell, one of the lesser known people from this period in history, but a man with huge influence over Henry VIII. The book concentrates on the time around Henry’s divorce to Catherine of Arragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn, a period in history which has been covered many times before, most successfully in The Other Boleyn Girl.

A book has to be outstanding to grab my attention when I know the story already and I’m afraid this book wasn’t. The writing was very clunky and didn’t flow smoothly. I found that I had to keep re-reading sections in order to work out the intended meaning.

One day my brother Tom goes out fighting. As punishment, his father creeps up behind him with a whatever, but heavy, and probably sharp, and then, when he falls down, almost takes out his eye, exerts himself to kick in his ribs, beats him with a plank of wood that stands ready to hand, knocks in his face so that if I were not his own sister I’d barely recognise him: and my husband says, the answer to this, Thomas, is go for a soldier, go and find somebody you don’t know take out his eye and kick in his ribs, actually kill him, I suppose, and get paid for it. 

I also found repetition, which I found irritating:

He hopes you are well. Hopes I am well. Hopes his lovely sisters Anne and little Grace are well. He himself is well. 

and descriptions which didn’t make any sense to me:

A wash of sunlight lies over the river, pale as the flesh of a lemon.

I never think of lemons as being pale. Is it just me?

The more I read, the more I disliked this book. It was getting to the stage where I wanted to throw it across the room, and as this book is 650 pages long that would be a dangerous thing to do. For the safety of my household I decided to stop reading the book after about 120 pages – I just couldn’t face 500+ more pages of it.

I skim read the rest and had a quick look at the ending, but nothing I saw made me regret putting it down.

Recommended to anyone with a Tudor obsession, but I think the writing style and the length of this book will be off-putting to some people.



Hilary Mantel has written several other books, including Beyond Black, which was short listed for the Orange prize in 2006.

Have you read any of her books? What did you think of them?

Booker Prize Other

Who is going to be on the Man Booker Longlist 2009?

The longlist for the Booker Prize is going to be annouced next week.

Here are my predictions for books which will make the list:

The Children’s Book – A. S. Byatt

Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel

Kieron Smith, Boy – James Kelman

The Island at the End of the World – Sam Taylor

The Wilderness – Samantha Harvey

Brooklyn – Colm Toibin

Taste of Sorrow – Jude Morgan

Blackmoor – Edward Hogan

The Winter Vault – Anne Michaels


I really hope that The Wilderness wins the Booker Prize this year, but I have a feeling that The Children’s Book will win.

In many ways I hope that my predictions don’t come true. I’m really hoping that I discover some great new books via the list this year, and it isn’t just packed with previous winners.

Who do you think will win the Booker Prize 2009?

Who else do you think will make the longlist?

The longlist will be announced on 28th July 2009. Are you planning to read the Booker list this year?