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?

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?

2009 Chunkster Historical Fiction

The Children’s Book – A. S. Byatt

I had a love-hate relationship with this book and have to admit that there were several points, especially in the middle, where I nearly gave up on it.

The Children’s Book is set in England in the last few years of the 19th Century and ends in during the first world war. The book follows a vast number of characters, mainly children, as they grow up in this often forgotten period of history.

The book is packed with detail about the news events of the period and the lifestyles they led, but it’s richness was also it’s downfall for me. The book was very long (the hardback I read was 600+ pages of tiny type) and the descriptions so detailed that it lacked momentum. I had to become immersed in the beautiful writing  of each paragraph and try to forget that I still had 400+ pages to go, and I didn’t really know where the story was going. It focused on the minute details of their lives, which although interesting, often failed to engage me and led to my mind wandering. I’m still not sure whether I made the right choice in finishing this book. It took a very long time to read, and although I now know a lot more about that period in history I do not feel I have gained much. It didn’t really entertain me, and the ending didn’t merit the build-up.

I’m sure that lots of people will love this book, but although I enjoy a bit of detail this went a bit far for my tastes. It is a beautifully crafted book though, and will probably win this year’s Booker prize. So if you fancy being transported back to the early part of the 20th century – give it a go.



This is the first book written by A. S. Byatt that I have read, although I vaguely remember giving up Possession after just a few pages.

Do you enjoy reading books written by A. S. Byatt?

Which of her books is the best?

2009 Orange Prize Recommended books

The Wilderness – Samantha Harvey

Short listed for the Orange Prize 2009

The Wilderness is written through the eyes of someone with Alzheimer’s disease. I shouldn’t like this book, as on the surface the plot is identical to Gilead – old man looking back at his life in snippets, revealing the wisdom he has learnt, but this book is in a league above Gilead. It captured my heart from the very first sentence:

In amongst a sea of events and names that have been forgotten, there are a number of episodes that float with stiking buoyancy to the surface.

When reading a book I note down quotes which may be suitable for my review. After noting down five different quotes within the first few pages I realised this was an exceptional book, and the bar for quote-quality was raised significantly higher!

This book is heart-breakingly sad. The central character is Jake, an Alzheimer’s sufferer, who is struggling to remember the details of his life. He can remember certain things as vivdly as when he was there, but others things, especially those that have happened recently are very elusive. As the book progresses his condition deteriorates, and even the most important things in his life fail to come to him:

She sits at the kitchen table beating eggs. Embarrassing, but he cannot remember her name. So desperately embarrassing because he sleeps with her, he knows her, she is not a stranger.

The Wilderness really opened my eyes to the suffering of old people. They are subjected to embarrassing situations as their bodies begin to fail them, but their minds are just as alert  as they were when they were younger. I think one of the reasons that this affected me so much is that this situation is almost certainly going to happen to me, and everyone else I know. This isn’t about the suffering of war, which however shocking, is unlikely to directly affect me. Old age and it’s degrading loss of dignity is going to happen, and this realisation hit me with a shocking intensity.

I’m not sure I want to recommend this book to you, as it is so heart-breaking that it will proably make you cry. I was unsure if I could give my highest rating to a book which I struggle to recommend to people, but in the end the power of this book cannot be ignored. I couldn’t find any faults with it. It gripped me from beginning to end, and left me a changed person. My money for the Orange Prize 2009 is on this book.

Highly recommended.



Who do you think will win the Orange Prize 2009?

Have you read this book? Did it change your opinion of the elderly?

Do you recommend depressing books to other people?

2009 Mystery Recommended books

The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters

The Fingersmith is my second favourite book of all time (after A Fine Balance), and so I was so excited about the release of Sarah Water’s new book that I ordered a copy from America, just so I could read it a few weeks before it’s UK release.

The Little Stranger is a Gothic, ghost story set in rural Warwickshire just after WWII. The central character is Dr. Faraday, who one day is called to  a crumbling mansion to treat a maid who is so scared by things she has seen in the house that she wants to leave. Dr. Faraday is intrigued, by both the house and the Ayres family who live there, that he makes an effort to return to Hundreds Hall as often as he can. Increasingly strange events occur in the house, frightening and mystifying everyone who witnesses them.

The Little Stranger is very different to Fingersmith in both the style of writing, and plot development. The plot was linear, very easy to follow and structured like a fast-paced  thriller. The quality of  Sarah Water’s writing is still high, but I think that this book will be much more accessible to the general public, and slightly disappointing to her old fans. The Little Stranger has much more in common with books like The Thirteenth Tale or The Seance, both of which I really enjoyed reading too, but don’t require as much thought as Water’s earlier books.

I was slightly disappointed with the ending, as although it wasn’t predictable, it didn’t have any of the clever plot twists that she is famous for. I shouldn’t really complain though, as the book had me captivated throughout . All the characters were well developed, and the storyline was reasonably plausible. It was a gripping, spooky tale – perfect for a cold, dark Autumn night.