Monthly Archives: October 2016

The (Wo)Man Booker Shadow Panel Reaches a Decision! (and other updates)

After not a whole lot of much deliberation, the (Wo)Man Booker Shadow Panel has reached a decision on the 2016 Man Booker Prize winner! The winner is…….The Sellout, by Paul Beatty!!

Okay, the truth is that The Sellout got three out of five votes, so it was not a unanimous decision by any means. But three of us — including me — felt that it was the most deserving novel on the list. If we wanted to settle on a book that all of us actually genuinely liked, Eileen would probably have been our choice, or maybe His Bloody Project, but it would have been one of those unanimous decisions that’s really more about settling than choosing what the majority of us think is the best book.

The official announcement comes down tomorrow (Tuesday, 10/25). My guess is that either The Sellout or Do Not Say We Have Nothing will win. The Shadow Panel was not particularly taken with the latter novel, but it’s gotten a lot of good reviews and strong buzz. So we’ll see.

As for other reading, I recently finished Jade Chang’s The Wangs vs. the World, a book I liked quite a lot. It’s a riches-to-rags story, and also a road trip novel, and also a coming-of-age novel, and also a story about the immigrant experience. It tells the story of the Wangs, a family that has just lost its considerable fortune in the most recent financial crash. The two younger children get pulled out of college and private school — because how can they pay for it now? — and they all drive across country from California to upstate New York where the eldest daughter lives. The story of their journey is fun — add to the list above that this is a picaresque novel — and the story touches on important ideas along the way, always with a light touch. I can’t say it was a super-deep read, but it was enjoyable.

And now I’m in the middle of Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, a fantasy novel about magic in Victorian England. I haven’t read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, but it’s definitely a novel in that vein. In fact, the cover claims it’s a cross between Susanna Clarke and Georgette Heyer. I’m reading it largely because it’s the first pick for Book Riot’s Riot Read, a super-informal month-long read-along. The idea is that people will read and discuss it across social media, blogs, in comments at Book Riot, or wherever they want to. So far I’m liking the book a lot — it’s a quick read (except I don’t have much time to read right now, so I’m getting through it slowly, but it would be a quick read in other circumstances), enjoyable, light, kind of obvious in its themes but still very well done.


Filed under Books

Pond, by Claire-Louise Bennett

I really loved — for the most part — reading Claire-Louise Bennett’s Pond; it’s the kind of book I like: focused on one character, about consciousness, beautifully written, experimental, or on the borderline of being experimental. It’s about one woman living an isolated life in an Irish town. The book’s chapters can be considered separate short stories, but it’s clearly the same main character in all of them, so I’d call them vignettes from the main character’s life rather than separate stories. It’s the kind of fiction where not much happens, except that everything happens, everything meaning thoughts, feelings, memories, dreams — the stuff that we live with all the time. The book should be boring, but I found myself enthralled with chapters about walks, bowls, her yard, her neighbors, her landlady. Bennett takes you deep into her character’s mind, and it turns out to be a place where the ordinary becomes riveting.

When I said I loved it for the most part, I mostly meant that toward the end the voice begins to fall apart and I became less sure what was going on and what to make of it. It’s like the character begins to sink into dreams and nightmares and leaves everyday reality a little bit behind. I would like to read this book again to see what I make of it a second time — to see better whether the ending fits with the rest and how it does or doesn’t. I may simply have not understood everything the book was doing towards the end.

But overall, I’m fascinated by what Bennett has done. I got this book from the library, but I want a copy on my shelves to pick up again when I’m ready. I think that’s a testament to how much this book got to me.


Filed under Books