sharona of Sharona’s Shambles and I are working our way through the longlist for the Booker Prize. While it’s not as much of a challenge as Christopher Beha’s year-long reading of the entire Harvard Classics collection, we are comforted by the knowledge that the good people at the Guardian Books Blog are doing the same with their “Booker Club” series of posts.
I’m not really a reviewer of fiction, and we’re reading for pleasure, but I’ll share some brief notes. No spoilers. Anyway, I started with Michael Redhill’s Consolation, which according to figures checked by the chair of the judging panel has the lowest sales on Amazon; it’s both novel and historical novel (with real-life borrowings from old and new) set in Toronto in the 19th century and the present day. It is a loving (but critical) portrait of the city in both eras, geographically accurate to a fault, and I rated it quite highly, while wondering if I would have had such affection for it had I not been a former resident of that fine city! It’s not a typical novel (although it is comfortably Can-Lit) and it’s also not the only historical novel on the list – but it may make some slow impact in this part of the world. I followed that with Nikita Lalwani’s Gifted (here’s a recent Guardian review), which I found to be a quick enough read, without a huge emotional impact (which surprised me) but with admirable portrayal of the young mathematical mind and some great insight on questions of race, family and identity. I tried not to do this, but I found myself comparing the book and the imagery with Zadie Smith and others, and personally I find it hard to love anything more than White Teeth, so it may be a little unfair to say that I enjoyed, but wasn’t overwhelmed by, this book.
For light relief, the Guardianistas (literally) judged the books by their covers in this post.