Booker Prize

Offshore – Penelope Fitzgerald

Offshore won the Booker Prize in 1979.

From the back-cover:
On Battersea Reach, a mixed bag of the temporarily lost and the patently eccentric live on houseboats, rising and falling with the tide of the Thames.

I actually finished reading this last week, but haven’t written a review until now, as I was trying to think of constructive things to say about it. Despite having had a few days, and the help of the amazingly knowledgeable people over at the Booker yahoo group I am still no further towards my goal. The only positive thing I can say about this book is that it is very short!

This book has to be the most boring one I have ever read! The characters don’t annoy me as they are too dull, the plot is barely existent and the setting is dreary and lifeless. This has to be one of the only books that has failed to elicit any emotion in me other than pure boredom! I read all the words, but I didn’t care about a single one. It is not intellectually challenging, thought provoking or poetic. I can see no reason why anyone would like it, let alone why it won the Booker Prize!


If you’ve read this book and can see any merit in it, then I’d love to know what it is!

Is this the worst Booker Prize winner? Or have I got worse ones to come?

What is the most boring book you’ve ever read? Can it possibly be as bad as this?!

Remember the Comment of the Week Competition! I’m looking forward to reading your comments!

1980s Booker Prize

A Month in the Country – J. L. Carr

A Month in the Country was short listed for the Booker Prize in 1980.

My penguin modern classic copy is only 85 pages long, so this was a very quick read. The book is set just after the First World War, and describes the month Tom Birkin spent in rural Yorkshire one summer. Tom was traumatised by his experiences in the war, and so retreats to the country to enjoy the peace and quiet. He spends his time uncovering a medieval painting on the church wall, and making many friends in the village.

The writing was beautiful, and I enjoyed it initially, but after a while I need more than this in a book. I became bored of the quaintness – it was all too ordinary for me. Perhaps I’d feel differently if  I was 30 years older, but reminiscing about one perfect summer, in which not much happens was a bit too dull for me, so I’m off to read something a bit more exciting! 

I read this for Cornflower’s book group, and everyone else seemed to enjoy it much more than me. You can see their opinions here.


1980s Booker Prize Recommended books

The Bone People – Keri Hulme

The Bone People won the Booker Prize in 1985. It is set on the South Island of New Zealand, and centres around three characters. The first, Kerewin, is a painter, who having won the lottery builds herself a tower by the sea and lives as a virtual recluse. One day, Simon, a young, mute boy turns up at her tower and they begin a strange friendship. Simon’s foster father, Joe, is then drawn towards Kerewin and the three characters begin to discover secrets lurking in each of their pasts.

The book deals with many difficult issues, but domestic violence is the most dominant. Joe beats his foster son, and the delicate line between punishment and cruelty if seen to be very hazy at times. The characters are all really well developed, deeply flawed and incredibly interesting!

The book is very well written, and the writing is almost poetic at times, but at other times it was a ‘stream of conciousness’ and, particularly in the beginning, was very confusing. I fluctuated between loving it, and being irritated by it!

The book was filled with Maori myths and symbolism, some of which went over my head. I think that this book is one which needs to be read several times, in order to appreicate it’s many layers. In many ways it is very similar to Beloved – difficult to understand at first, complex, moving and full of symbolism.

I’m not sure I’d ever recommend this book to anyone, but I’m glad that I read it.

2000 - 2007 Booker Prize

Fasting, Feasting – Anita Desai

Fasting, Feasting was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1999.

The book begins in India, telling the story of Uma, the eldest daughter of a close-knit family. Uma struggles to find a suitable husband, and becomes trapped at home, effectively a slave to her oppressive parents. Although set in a different continent, it reminded me of Purple Hibiscus. The character development was excellent, and all the sights and sounds of an Indian village came to life.

The second part of the book follows Uma’s brother, Arun, as he crosses the world to begin life with a middle-class family in America. Arun observes many of problems associated with the developed world, including materialism and eating disorders. I found this section of the book disappointing in comparison to the parts set in India. The characters failed to come to life, and I began to lose interest as this section progressed.

Many important issues were raised in this book, including arranged marriage and the effective imprisonment of women in a household. Comparisons between lives in the two different cultures were made, but no real conclusions were ever drawn.

Overall, the writing was simple, but beautiful. The book began well, but failed to develop to it’s full potential. It was OK, but nothing special.

Booker Prize

The Accidental – Ali Smith

The book started off quite promisingly, with the meandering thoughts of a 12 year old girl. The writing style was very unusual, but I found it amusing, and although some of the thoughts were a bit too profound for a 12 year old, overall I found it quite convincing. The book continued quite well, with the guilty thoughts of her older brother, but then it went downhill with the introduction of Amber, a stranger introduced into the household. I found her character extremely annoying, and ultimately pointless.

I was then confronted with several chapters of poetry. It wasjust weird, unnecessary, and felt as though the author was just trying to be too clever.

It didn’t improve. The plot disappeared, the characters became more annoying, and the stream of conscious thought became monotonous and dull.

Not for me.

Booker Prize

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha – Roddy Doyle

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha won the Booker Prize in 1993. It is the first Roddy Doyle book I have read, so I didn’t really know what to expect. 

It follows Paddy Clarke, as he grows up in 1960’s Dublin, witnessing the break down of his parent’s marriage

He has a real talent for being able to describe the thoughts and feelings of a ten year old boy:

I prefer magnifying glasses to matches. We spent afternoons burning little piles of cut grass. I loved watching the grass change colour. I loved it when the flame began to race through the grass. You had more control with a magnifying glass. It was easier but it took more skill.

I found some scenes touching, and I managed to read the whole book fairly quickly, but the plot meandered about a bit too much for me, so I didn’t get drawn into it fully. His childhood had very little in common with mine, so this may be another reason I was not as enthralled with this book as others seem to be. I was only born in 1978, so have no nostalgia for the 60s, and I was never a little boy, who had fights and played jokes on my teachers!

It was OK, but I think I’d only recommend it to older people, who would be able to fully appreciate the nostalgia this book has to offer.