I’m back in Melbourne! I had the best time in Italy but I’m glad to be home.
So. I completely forgot that the Booker Prize winner was going to be announced this week, so in a panic, I wrote this post. I read the Booker shortlist and here are my thoughts on them! Overall, a pretty great shortlist. I was slightly disappointed in it but I had quite a lot of fun reading outside of my comfort zone and picking up books that I didn’t anticipate would become absolute favourites.
What did you think about the shortlist? Who do you think should win? Let me know!
DISCLAIMER: all these are obviously my very own subjective opinion. Please be nice!
𝒐𝒉, 𝒘𝒊𝒍𝒍𝒊𝒂𝒎! 𝒃𝒚 𝒆𝒍𝒊𝒛𝒂𝒃𝒆𝒕𝒉 𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒐𝒖𝒕
From the beginning, I was suprised at how this was written. For some reason, I was not expecting it to be a first person narrative, from the perspective of the ex-wife of William. Lucy Barton is a novelist – and I’m pretty sure readers have been introduced to her before as oh, william! is technically a part of a series but you can read it as a standalone. I hope.
William is around seventy-two years of age, and on wife number three (who is twenty-two years younger than he) but both he and Lucy remain friends, years after their separation and divorce. See, William was Lucy’s first husband. She divorced him after twenty years. Lucy and William met when Lucy was in college and William was the teaching assistant for her biology class. William is…not the most likeable man but you do feel empathy for him. In a way, Lucy is humanising him but not glossing over his flaws and frankly, terrible personality. But Lucy is also flawed and self-absorbed. It’s an interesting aspect of the novel.
One of the aspects of the novel that surprised me was the reflection on and of classism and money. Lucy “comes from nothing” and William came from everything.
I will say this, 𝑶𝒉, 𝑾𝒊𝒍𝒍𝒊𝒂𝒎! does reference information that was revealed in the earlier novels of this series – like, ‘oh i’ve already spoken about this’ or ‘i have already written about this’ which can kind of be frustrating as a reader (only if you’re like me, and didn’t read the other books in this series) which begs the question, should books in a series be nominated for literary prizes? I would like to know if the judges read all the books in the series?
I think I would consider this an extended character study of William through Lucy, but also of Lucy and her relationship with William and her daughters. Lucy’s voice is engaging and I enjoyed reading her reflections; on family, age, classism, life. Not my favourite book I’ve read this year, not even one that I enjoyed very much but it was a solid read. I think possibly reading this as a standalone did it a disservice and did Lucy’s character a disservice, but that’s hindsight!
“He was proud that he walked more than ten thousand steps a day. William felt (almost) invulnerable, is what I’m saying here”p. 12
I actually read this last (technically), so having read this after reading the rest of the shortlist, I am kind of wondering why it was shortlisted? I’m being petty.
𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒏 𝒎𝒐𝒐𝒏𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝒎𝒂𝒂𝒍𝒊 𝒂𝒍𝒎𝒆𝒅𝒊𝒂 𝒃𝒚 𝒔𝒉𝒆𝒉𝒂𝒏 𝒌𝒂𝒓𝒖𝒏𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒍𝒂𝒌𝒂
This is the one I’m most disappointed in saying that I DNF’d.
I could not read this book. I tried. Oh, how I tried. If I had to put a finger on it, it was the main character. Which is very rare of me to say. The second pov didn’t really bother me at all – I actually love reading novels that play a little bit with narrative structure and writing. The story itself just didn’t grab me and I’m so sad about it? I think I am going to try and reread this in the future, when I have time to sit with the story. I tried reading this when I was on holiday, so that possibly effected my ability to read it.
What I can say – the premise? So creative and different. The premise of this novel was what originally excited me in reading this novel – a man dies and ends up in the afterlife. Kind of. He has seven days to finish up his business and then…well, I guess the afterlife actually happens? It sounded incredibly awesome. I just didn’t vibe with it and I’m hoping to read it again in the future.
I won’t compare it to the others I read as that would not be fair!
𝒕𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒄𝒍𝒆 𝒘𝒂𝒍𝒌𝒆𝒓 𝒃𝒚 𝒂𝒍𝒂𝒏 𝒈𝒂𝒓𝒏𝒆𝒓
Speak of the devil.
I’m just going to come outright and say it: I am too unintelligent to understand this novel.
I hate this book. Most likely because I didn’t understand it but I detested the reading experience and I have no idea why this was shortlisted. 𝑻𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒄𝒍𝒆 𝑾𝒂𝒍𝒌𝒆𝒓 is a folkloric type of tale which (I think) is a sort of meditation of life and death and our very absurd reality? Was it?
I think it references British myth and stories that I have absolutely no idea what they are/were about. I think there was a disconnect between me and the story because I wasn’t aware of these type of contextual aspects of the novel which would have possibly enriched my reading of it.
From other reviews I have seen, opinions on this book are divided. I think if you have the ability to have that sort of contextual information and understanding, 𝑻𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒄𝒍𝒆 𝑾𝒂𝒍𝒌𝒆𝒓 would feel like a cozy, chaotic dream of a story.
𝒔𝒎𝒂𝒍𝒍 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 𝒍𝒊𝒌𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒔𝒆 𝒃𝒚 𝒄𝒍𝒂𝒊𝒓𝒆 𝒌𝒆𝒆𝒈𝒂𝒏
Oh, this book.
I think I have said before, either on instagram or tiktok, that this is a very small book about very big things, and I think that still holds. Immediately after having finished this book, I gave it five stars. But then I revised that rating and instead gave it 4 stars. Only because I felt that after a week or two, the story didn’t really stay with me as intensely as other books in this shortlist (and longlist, to be honest). But 𝑺𝒎𝒂𝒍𝒍 𝑻𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 𝒍𝒊𝒌𝒆 𝑻𝒉𝒆𝒔𝒆 was truly wonderful. Written from the perspective of Bill Furlong, this novel sits with Bill as he goes about his day-to-day life. But it is so much more than that. This novel packs a punch. Through Bill’s eyes, we see the hold of religion on his small town in looking away from the happenings at the local convent/school. Bill’s heroism is quiet but it is strong and I loved him. His love for his family was genuine but his morality and principles? Resulted in him making a decision that most likely forever changed his life.
I have never read anything from Claire Keegan before, and I am so excited to read more from her in the future. The way this was written?! I don’t know how she was able to condense such emotional intensity to a novel that is 114 pages. The fact that she did proves her mastery over writing.
If you didn’t know, this book is about the Magdalene Laundries. If you’re like me and didn’t quite know much about it, I implore you to do some research.
Another reason why I revised the rating of this novel was in the aftermath of reading the other two novels from this shortlist. I personally felt that, in the wake of Glory and The Trees, Small Things Like These fell slightly in my rankings.
𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒕𝒓𝒆𝒆𝒔 𝒃𝒚 𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒄𝒊𝒗𝒂𝒍 𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒆𝒕𝒕
I read this book in two and a half hours.
Did I expect to finish it that quickly? No. But I physically could not stop reading. This book was absolutely incredible!!!!!!
I think technically 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑻𝒓𝒆𝒆𝒔 𝒃𝒚 𝑷𝒆𝒓𝒄𝒊𝒗𝒂𝒍 𝑬𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒆𝒕𝒕 is a murder/crime novel with a speculative twist and full of dry wit and humour. I think the best way to go into reading this novel is actually not knowing much about it so I’m going to maintain a certain vagueness when discussing this novel (which I think I always do lol). But it centres on the story of a series of murders of two (at first) white men in Money, Mississippi where in both cases, the dead body of the same black man was found with the dead bodies of the white men, locals to the area. BUT DON’T YOU WORRY, THESE TWO MURDERS ARE CONNECTED and EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED. The past horrific lynching of Emmett Till is much more prevalent than the locals would like. The story then explodes from there.
We follow the story mostly from MBI agents and eventually an FBI agent but it doesn’t feel dry or boring. The unraveling of this story was exceptional and I cannot stop talking about it. Money, Mississippi is incredibly racist, a deep-seated inherent sort of racism which we, as the readers, are confronted with as the two MBI agents, two black men, attempt to do their jobs. The humour in this was fantastic – a dry sort of humour that helped break up the intensity of the content of the story. I had never heard of 𝑷𝒆𝒓𝒄𝒊𝒗𝒂𝒍 𝑬𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒆𝒕𝒕 prior to the Booker Prize, but I am so happy that I was able to read this. If this book wins, I would be ecstatic. Truly unique and wonderful.
𝒈𝒍𝒐𝒓𝒚 𝒃𝒚 𝒏𝒐𝒗𝒊𝒐𝒍𝒆𝒕 𝒃𝒖𝒍𝒂𝒘𝒂𝒚𝒐
This book is by far my favourite novel in the shortlist. It is also one of the best books I have read this year and possibly ever.
I don’t even know how to write about this novel. 𝑮𝒍𝒐𝒓𝒚 𝒃𝒚 𝑵𝒐𝑽𝒊𝒐𝒍𝒆𝒏𝒕 𝑩𝒖𝒍𝒂𝒘𝒂𝒚𝒐 takes George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ and reproduces it for the modern context, specifically as an allegry to represent the Zimbabwean coup d’etat that occurred in 2017.
Glory centres on the story of Old Horse, who has been ruling the fictional city of Jidada with a -da and another -da for forty years – a despot, a tyrant. Until suddenly, he is (violently) replaced by a new regime…one that is not actually an improvement. With humour and unique narrative structure, Bulawayo brings these characters alive. But not only that, she emphasises the power of discourse, of political rhetoric in the shaping of a society and how it can be ultimately weaponised. But also how it can control a population. Comparisons and allusions to Trump were understandable and highlighted how politics do not occur in a vaccuum. The effects can be global. Not only is it about the abuse of power and corruption of a government and disenchantment, but also hope and love.
I cried so many times and only once did I sob (I think it was page 243 and that entire section) and it was such a stunning novel and my gushing over it does not do it justice. I hope, with all of my heart, that this novel wins the Booker Prize tomorrow. Because it surpasses the other novels (that I read) in such an obvious way to me because of the story and the characters, the way Bulawayo did it and the writing itself.
A masterclass in writing, honestly.
So. My ranking right now of the Booker Prize Shortlist is:
- Glory by NoViolent Bulawayo
- The Trees by Percival Everett
- Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
- (The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka)
- Oh, William! by Elizabeth Strout
- Treacle Walker by Alan Garner
Realistically though? I have no idea who can win. To be perfectly frank, Strout and Garner were surprises to me when it was announced they were on the shortlist – which i feel like I shouln’t have been as they are very famous and well-loved authors. So I think that any one of these books have the capacity to win. I would love if the winner is in my top 3 but I wouldn’t be suprised if Garner wins.
We shall see! I might even do a reaction to the winner!
And that’s all friends!
I hope you enjoyed my post! I will hopefully be back to more regular posting! I hope you have been well! What have you been reading?
Until next time, happy reading!
All the love,