Man Booker Shortlist 2011
The Man Booker Shortlist 2011
This year's Man Booker* shortlist is a varied bunch, full of debutantes, long established talent and rising stars. As ever there is controversy over selection processes and peoples, but this is the high end of such debates, where the minimum standard is beguilingly high.
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*I still resent having to add the 'Man' part of that - does anyone actually say it out loud? It feels like the obligatory mention of sponsors after sporting events...
The Sense of an Ending
by Julian Barnes
Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life. Now Tony is in middle age. He's had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He's certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer's letter is about to prove. The Sense of an Ending is the story of one man coming to terms with the mutable past. Laced with trademark precision, dexterity and insight, it is the work of one of the world's most distinguished writers. Buy now
Half Blood Blues
by Esi Edugyan
This is a new part of an old story: 1930s Berlin, the threat of imprisonment and the powerful desire to make something beautiful despite the horror. Chip told us not to go out. Said, don't you boys tempt the devil. But it's been one brawl of a night, I tell you. The aftermath of the fall of Paris, 1940. Hieronymous Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, was arrested in a cafe and never heard from again. He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black. Fifty years later, Sid, Hiero's bandmate and the only witness that day, is going back to Berlin. Persuaded by his old friend Chip, Sid discovers there's more to the journey than he thought when Chip shares a mysterious letter, bringing to the surface secrets buried since Hiero's fate was settled. In "Half Blood Blues", Esi Edugyan weaves the horror of betrayal, the burden of loyalty and the possibility that, if you don't tell your story, someone else might tell it for you. And they just might tell it wrong... Buy now
by Andrew Miller
An intensely riveting psychological drama that unfolds over the course of one Moscow winter, as a young Englishman's moral compass is spun by the seductive opportunities revealed to him by a new Russia: a land of hedonism and desperation, corruption and kindness, magical dachas and debauched nightclubs; a place where secrets - and corpses - come to light only when the deep snows start to thaw...Snowdrops is a chilling story of love and moral freefall: of the corruption, by a corrupt society, of a corruptible young man. It is taut, intense and has a momentum as irresistible to the reader as the moral danger that first enchants, then threatens to overwhelm, its narrator. Buy now
by Carol Birch
AS Byatt: "One of the best stories I've ever read; an extraordinarily good and completely original book. Beautifully written... Birch has created an electric and cluttered cabinet of curiosities, sprinkled with keenly heard jangles of singsongy dialogue... as the novel takes off on a three-cord braid of adventure story, survival drama and coming-of-age tale... the spirit is that of a high-seas adventure novel, a Victorian book for boys...[before] Birch begins to turn down the lights. Now we get a survival story as the crew is lost at sea. This is the novel's strongest section. Probably the most interesting element of this novel is not its horrors, but its colorful milieu, the late-19th-century interest in naturalism. And in Jaffy, Birch has captured a boyish wonder in nature... Buy now
by James kelman
Lying in front of Harrison Opuku is a body, the body of one of his classmates, a boy known for his crazy basketball skills, who seems to have been murdered for his dinner. Armed with a pair of camouflage binoculars and detective techniques absorbed from television shows like CSI, Harri and his best friend, Dean, plot to bring the perpetrator to justice. They gather evidence - fingerprints lifted from windows with tape, a wallet stained with blood - and lay traps to flush out the murderer. But nothing can prepare them for what happens when a criminal feels you closing in on him. Recently emigrated from Ghana with his sister and mother to London's enormous housing projects, Harri is pure curiosity and ebullience--obsessed with gummy candy, a friend to the pigeon who visits his balcony, quite possibly the fastest runner in his school, and clearly also fast on the trail of a murderer. Told in Harri's infectious voice and multicultural slang, Pigeon English follows in the tradition of our great novels of friendship and adventure, as Harri finds wonder, mystery, and danger in his new, ever-expanding world. Buy now
The Sisters Brothers
by Patrick deWitt
Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. Across 1000 miles of Oregon desert his assassins, the notorious Eli and Charlies Sisters, ride - fighting, shooting, and drinking their way to Sacramento. But their prey isn't an easy mark, the road is long and bloody, and somewhere along the path Eli begins to question what he does for a living - and whom he does it for. The Sisters Brothers pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable ribald tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of losers, cheaters, and ne'er-do-wells from all stripes of life-and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love. Buy now
"..gritty, as well as deadpan and often very comic...deWitt has chosen a narrative voice sharp and distinctive...it's very narrowing of possibilities opens new doors in the imagination." - New York Times Book Review