2010 Pulitzer Prize

Tinkers – Paul Harding

 Winner of 2010 Pulitzer Prize

Tinkers surprised everyone by winning the Pulitzer Prize earlier this year. It’s a debut novel from a tiny publishing house so few people had heard of it before its Pulitzer win, let alone predicted that it would scoop the biggest prize in American literature. I’m trying to read all the Pulitzer winners, so naturally Tinkers went straight onto my wish list.

Tinkers begins with George Washington Crosby lying in a hospital bed with eight days left to live. He starts to hallucinate and through a series of flashbacks we come to learn about George’s life and his about his father, Howard.

The book is very short (190 well spaced pages) and contains many beautifully written passages, but I think I might have given up on this book had it been any longer. I felt that most of the scenes were over described:

It was a dim, murky scene, lit perhaps by a single candle not visible within the frame, of a table on which lay a silver fish and a dark loaf of bread on a cutting board, a round of ruddy cheese, a bisected orange with both halves arranged with their cross sections facing the viewer, a drinking goblet made of green glass, with a wide spiral stem and what looked like glass buttons fixed around the base of the broad cup. A large part of the cup had been broken and dimly glinting slivers of glass lay around the base. There was a pewter-handled knife on the cutting board, in front of the fish and the loaf. There was also a black rod of some sort, with a white tip, running parallel to the knife.

There were so many lists of objects in this book that I began to laugh whenever I spotted one – not a good sign for a supposedly serious book.

George used to repair clocks and I did learn a few interesting facts about tinkers, but it isn’t the most exciting profession in the world! Numerous quotes from The Reasonable Horologist by the fictioanl Kenner Davenport were sprinkled through the text and I thought that the best quotes from the book all came from these sections.

Chose any hour on the clock. It is possible, then, to conceive that the clock’s purpose is to return the hands to that time, a time which, from the moment chosen, the hands leave and skate across the rest of the clock’s painted signs and calibrations and numbers. These other markings on the face become irrelevant in themselves; they are now simply clues pointing in the direction of the chosen time.

This is one of those books that takes a look at the deeper things in life. If you enjoy slow, thoughtful books then you’ll probably enjoy it, but if you like a book to have some plot then stay away!


Tinkers is receiving very mixed reviews:

….a book to divert but not necessarily to detain. Asylum

I have never read a book like this, and will not forget it. Page247

….a combination of beautiful and flowery writing, with a boring memory based story. Bibliophile by the Sea

Harding’s mastery of language and character are mesmerizing. Nomadreader

Pulitzer Prize

Gilead – Marilynne Robinson

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize 2005

Gilead  is entirely made up of a letter from an old man, nearing death, to his young son. The letter aims to let the boy know about his life, and to teach him all the important lessons that he would like his son to know.

I’m afraid this is one of those quiet, observational books which I do not enjoy. It is beautifully written, but there is no plot, and as the old man’s thoughts meandered around I quickly lost interest.

I remember a slice of moon, no more than that. It was a very clear night, or morning, very still, and then there was such energy in the things transpiring among those trees, like a storm, like travail. I stood there a little out of range, and I thought, It is all still new to me. I have lived my life on the prairie and a line of oak trees can still astonish me.

I also found the first person narrative to be quite annoying – don’t ask me why – it is just one of those things which I dislike when reading!

The book is packed with religious quotes. The old man was a preacher, and so almost all of his thoughts are backed up with quotes from the bible. If you like reading Christian books, then this will be an added bonus for you, but I’m afraid it was an added irritant for me.

Overall, I’m afraid this just wasn’t for me.

If you enjoy reading gentle wisdom, in beautifully written prose, and don’t mind when books have no plot, then you’ll love it.


I read this in preparation for reading Home, which has been short listed for the Orange Prize this year. Is the writing style of Home similar to this?

I think this is the most disappointing Pulitzer winner I have read so far. Which Pulitzer winner have you found disappointing?

Pulitzer Prize

Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout





Winner of the Pulitzer Prize 2009


Olive Kitteridge is described as a “novel in stories”. I’m not a big fan of short stories, and so wasn’t convinced that I’d enjoy this book, but as it won the Pulitzer prize I thought I’d give it a try.

I think the emphasis on this being a collection of short stories is misleading, as it is essentially just a novel about one woman, Olive Kitteridge. The story is told through the eyes of various people who knew her, capturing the important moments in her life,  in what at first, are seemingly random snippets. The use of small-town gossip, to tell much of the story was a clever medium, which I haven’t seen used before.

The book begins quite slowly, and I have to admit that for the first few chapters I didn’t know what to make of it. The writing was very vivid and powerful, but the large number of characters meant that I wasn’t sure who, or what, was important. About a third of the way through things began to fall into place. Olive’s character became prominent, and I felt that I understood what was happening. I don’t want to give anything away, but I think it is important that you know that the overwhelming emotion I felt on completing the book was that of heartbreak. This book is incredibly touching, and packed with feelings of sadness, and loss. It questions which things are important in life, and examines the relationships between family members who have forgotten how to love each other. Olive’s emotions are powerful and realistic. All mothers will sympathise with her feelings of isolation, as her only son distances himself from her.

Overall, I found this to be an insightful, touching novel on the reflections of an old woman nearing death. It is a great book, and I think it is worthy of the Pulitzer prize, but I’m not sure it will stand the test of time. I think it will probably end up on that list of ‘the most forgotten Pulitzers’ in 50 years time. Do you think this is a worthy winner of the Pulitzer prize?

Recommended to anyone who has the patience to piece together a great story.


This is the first of Elizabeth Strout’s book s which I have read, but I am tempted to read more.

Have you read any of her books?

Which one did you prefer?

I look forward to hearing your opinions!


Chunkster Pulitzer Prize Recommended books

Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell

I have finished! I think that this is the longest book I have ever read, and even though it was a pleasurable, easy read, the length felt like a heavy commitment. It took me nearly six weeks,  but I am pleased to have finally finished all 1000+ pages.


Gone with the Wind follows Scarlett O’Hara through the years of the American Civil War. She battles through fear, hunger and loss; but also against her love for the unobtainable Ashley, and the uncompromising Rhett Butler.

Scarlett is an amazing character; she was just so entertaining to read about. I loved her naive decisions, and her determination to succeed as a woman, despite the pressures on her to behave in a more ladylike manner.

The complexity of the story was it’s major plus point. The book’s length meant that the lives of all the side characters could be developed properly, and this led to a very satisfying book, in which I felt that I knew everyone that Scarlett did, and how they’d react to the ever changing circumstances.

The horror of the war was fully portrayed, without the need for graphic descriptions. The never-ending line of injured soldiers, the fear Scarlett felt, and most importantly, the compassion fatigue she experienced as the suffering continued, brought it all home to me vividly. I’m ashamed to admit that this book is my only source of knowledge on the American Civil War. I have just started reading Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Penguin history)and Tara Revisited: Women, War and the Plantation Legend to gain a greater understanding of what actually happened. I’ll let you know what I thought of these books soon.

I loved the first half of Gone with the Wind (Volume One), but some sections of the second volume really grated on me, and I didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much. I think my main problem was the severe racism present in it. Margaret Mitchell clearly sympathises with white supremacists, and portrayed many of the black characters as being not much better than animals. I know that this is a product of the time it was written, and that thankfully times have changed, but the mention of the Ku Klux Klan just ruined my opinions of many of the characters. How could a character as seemingly lovely as Ashley end up being a member of the Klan?  All my empathy for him evaporated instantly. Did you have any objections to the extreme rascism?

I haven’t seen the film, so was totally shocked by the ending. The blurb on the back of my book describes GWTW as “the greatest love story of all time”. I was expecting everything to fall nicely in place, and for Scarlett and Rhett to finally come to their senses and realise how good for each other they could be. How wrong was I?!! The loss of Melanie, and then Rhett’s refusal to return to Scarlett, left me shocked, and almost beyond words. Once I managed to lift myself above the horror of it, I realised that this was probably the best ending that could have occurred. Throughout the book Scarlett comes across as a selfish, spoilt child, and for her to finally lose everything that actually meant anything to her was a fitting end.

I am keen to read  Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind”, as I’d love to know what someone else thinks should happen to the couple next. Has anyone read Scarlett? Is it worth reading?

Despite its flaws, Gone with the Wind is the best piece of historical fiction I have ever read. I highly recommend it to anyone who has the time to read such a long novel.

Many thanks to Matthew from A Guys Moleskine Notebook for hosting the Gone with the Wind read-along.

Did you enjoy reading Gone with the Wind?

What did you like about it most? Least?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Booker Prize Other Pulitzer Prize

Which prize do you prefer – Pulitzer or Booker?

I love reading prize winning books, and often try to compare them, to decide which prize produces the best novels.

The Pulitzer v. Booker prize is probably the most debated combination, and it has added rivalry of being American authors against Commonwealth ones.


There are many different ways to analyse the prizes, but I thought it would be interesting to compare the winners for each year. I have listed them for the past ten years, and highlighted my favourite of the two in bold. I have to admit that I haven’t read all twenty of the books below, so where I haven’t read both books I have awarded it to the one I think I’d prefer.

1999 – Michael Cunningham v. J.M. Coetzee
2000 – Jhumpa Lahiri v. Margaret Atwood
2001 – Michael Chabon v. Peter Carey
2002 – Richard Russo v. Yann Martel
2003 – Jeffrey Eugenides v. DBC Pierre
2004 – Edward P. Jones v. Alan Hollinghurst
2005 – Marilynne Robinson v. John Banville
2006 – Geraldine Brooks v. Kiran Desai
2007 – Cormac McCarthy v. Anne Enright
2008 – Junot Diaz v. Aravind Adiga

The results show that I prefer the Pulitzer in seven of the ten years, and in the three years that the Booker produced the best one, I think the result was so close, that if asked the same question on another day I might change my mind! Looking back further into the history of the awards it appears that the Pulitzer generally seems to be the more interesting book, although I have read less of them, so it is harder to tell.

I think the reason that I have found the Pulitzer prize winners so much better is that they tend to have more complex plots, and often a powerful social theme underlying them. It is this thought provoking moral message that often leads me to remember the book vividly months, or even years after I have finished reading it.

In many cases I have found the winner of the Booker prize to be very disappointing. The Bookers tend to be less plot driven, and more character based. The language appears to be given a higher priority than any storyline, so they often have beautiful sentences, but the book as a whole is disappointing, and instantly forgettable.

The main problem with all the prizes is that they are so subjective. Unless you find a prize where the judge has the same taste in books as you, and this judge doesn’t change each year, then you are always going to find that the winners will vary in how much you love them.

My favourite book is A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. This was short listed for the Booker prize in 1996, and I’d love to hear an explanation from the judges as to why it didn’t win. A Fine Balance did win the Giller Prize, but looking through the list I haven’t read any of the other Giller winners. Perhaps the Giller Prize is the best one out there, and it just hasn’t had enough publicity. I’ll have to read a few of them to find out!

Do you prefer the Booker or the Pulitzer prize?