If I Gave the Award

Cover for Bring Up the Bodies

Now that I have reviewed the last shortlisted book for the 2012 Booker Prize, it’s time for my feature where I decide whether the judges got it right. This shortlist is another mixed bag of genres, two historical, two set in the 1970’s, and two contemporary. One is experimental enough to render it almost incomprehensible while another sometimes reads as if pages were taken from a textbook.

As I often do, I’ll start with the books I liked least. My least favorite of the nominees was Umbrella by Will Self. With an idea that should have been interesting, based as it is on Oliver Sacks’s Awakenings, this novel is so concerned with its devices that it is very difficult to read. It shifts point of view in mid-sentence, sometimes in mid-word, and uses stream-of-consciousness confusingly.

Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil is set in late 1970’s or early 80’s Bombay, about a young man exploring the city’s opium dens and brothels. Although I found some of the characters interesting, I was not interested in the overall subject matter, and when the novel became philosophical, it read as if it came out of a textbook.

My main objection to Swimming Home by Deborah Levy is that I found the situation unbelievable. When vacationers find a disturbed girl occupying their vacation house, they invite her to stay even though she is clearly a fangirl of the poet husband. The entire atmosphere of the novel is foreboding, and the placement in time of an initial scene is confusing.

Cover for The Garden of Evening Mists

The Lighthouse by Alison Moore is another menacing novel, about a sad, gray man who goes on a hiking trip out of nostalgia for happy times with his father. He unwittingly gets into a situation between a woman and her jealous husband. Although I didn’t like any of the characters, I found this novel oddly compelling.

I enjoyed The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng about post-World War II Malaya. It immersed me in the story of a Malayan judge suffering from aphasia who is revisiting her memories.

That leaves the winner of that year’s prize, Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantell. This novel was the second installment of Mantell’s trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, dealing with Anne Boleyn’s frantic attempts to hold onto her throne and her life. It is an absolutely enthralling story of Tudor politics and intrigue. So, this time, yes, the judges got it right.

10th Anniversary Post! Top Ten Books of the Year!

Whoo hoo! It’s my 10th blogging anniversary! As is my habit, I am posting my Top Ten of the Year for this post. I make these selections from the Best of Ten lists throughout the year, and this year, some things stand out about those selections. For one thing, I had several repeat authors this year, Jess Kidd, Rumer Godden, Claire Fuller, and Maggie O’Farrell. Since I limit my Top Ten of the Year list to only one book by an author, that makes for some more difficult picking.

This year’s list is another mixed bag. Three of them are classic novels, written in the first half of the 20th century. Two are set at least partially in the future, and both of them strongly feature trees. One is a reworking of the Oedipus myth. One has a touch of the fantastic. Two are historical novels, and two are partly historical. One is a Pulitzer Prize winner. One is set in Kashmir, one partially in the Orient, one in Washington state, and one in Malaya and Australia. It was a great reading year.

Anyway, here they are, in order of when I reviewed them:

Reading Thirkell’s Barsetshire Series in Order: #8 Before Lunch + #7 The Brandons Wrap-Up

I know it was tough to participate this month with the holidays and read The Brandons. Thanks, then for the comments by

  • Christine of All the Vintage Ladies
  • Liz Dexter of Adventures in Reading
  • Penelope Gough (a real trooper!)
  • Historical Fiction Is Fiction
  • Yvonne of A Darn Good Read

The next book in the series is Before Lunch, which I will be reviewing on Monday, January 31, 2022. I hope some more people will jump on board for this one.

And here’s our little badge.

My List for Classics Club Spin #28

The Classics Club has announced another spin. How do the spins work? I pick 20 books from my Classics Club list and number them. On October 17, the club picks a number, and that’s the book I will read before December 12, the deadline for this spin. So, here is my list for this spin. This time, I haven’t picked any of the difficult books on my list:

  1. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
  2. The Mayor’s Wife by Anna Katherine Green
  3. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
  4. Rhododendron Pie by Margery Sharp
  5. The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
  6. Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum
  7. Merkland, A Story of Scottish Life by Margaret Oliphant
  8. Miss Plum and Miss Penny by Dorothy Evelyn Smith
  9. Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare
  10. The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins
  11. Much Dithering by Dorothy Lambert
  12. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
  13. Weatherley Parade by Richmal Crompton
  14. The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart
  15. Iza’s Ballad by Magda Szabo
  16. Music in the Hills by D. E. Stevenson
  17. Tis Pity She’s a Whore by John Ford
  18. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  19. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  20. The Saga of Gosta Berling by Selma Lagerlof