Saturday, 28 November 2009

Sunday Salon: Booker Shortlist 2008

Today is a good old lazy Sunday (next week is hectice so this is much needed). I have to do a few boring jobs around the house then I'm free to read. I need to read the next book of A Suitable Boy for my bookcrossing readalong. Then continue with Survival in the Killing Fields and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane both of which I'm really enjoying. I might also rewatch Twilight as I'm off to see New Moon later in the week, or possibly coninue making so homemade photoalbums for friends Christmas gifts.

I am a part of a group of bookcrossers who each purchase a book from the Booker list and then pass it around the circle. So far I have read 5 of the books on the shortlist and have only the winner left to go.
Aravind Adiga The White Tiger
Sebastian Barry The Secret Scripture
Amitav Ghosh Sea of Poppies
Linda Grant The Clothes on Their Backs
Philip Hensher The Northern Clemency
Steve Toltz A Fraction of the Whole

Yesterday I finished reading The Secret Scripture which I was really looking forward to - mainly because of the gorgeous cover work.
This book is divided into two narratives that of a doctor running a mental institute and then his eldest patient. The doctor has to close the institute and in doing so has to assess the patients to decided who will need to be replaced and who will be sent back out into the world. The institute is full of elderly patients who have been secioned there for decades. He is fascinated by one patient Mrs McNutly, she is the oldest surviving, and longest patient to have lived at the institute, her notes are in tatters so he needs to work to find out just why she was placed there in the first place.
Mrs McNutly's section of the novel deals with her desire to write down the past, she knows that her time is growing nearer and feels the need to journal the events leading up to her sectioning. We hear of her family, the much loved father and distant mother. Her teenage years and the early days of her wedding and the events which led her to the institution.

It sounds a great read, but I just felt that it didn't work. The joint narrative meant that we were learning things of her past to quickly. It was her childhood which facinated me. I would have preferred a chronological tale, rather than one held in flashbacks as in this novel they weakened the story. The ending was far to obvious from early on in the novel. What this book really needed was a good editing.

I'm hoping to read The White Tiger before the year is out, I borrowed my brothers copy (he read it in a day) way back in February so really should return it soon. I have to say that I think many of the shortlist where just okay books, with the exception of A Fraction of the Whole I didn't feel any were good enough to be considered for the Booker Prize. The 2009 list however looks much more promising, I have read 2 of those so far and they are of a higher standard.

I'm hoping eventually to have read all of the Booker winners and a large number of the shortlist. Do you have any recommendations? Or do you have any award winning books whose entry ou thought was questionnable?

1 comment:

Jo said...

I really liked this, and I think it was the flashback element that appealed most to me.
But you did better than me to figure out the ending. I didn't see it coming, but did think it was a bit too convenient and it put a bit of a dampener on the book.