Short shrift to the new authors: Booker Shortlist Released

I’m up to my eyes with academic work and other stuff, and have been neglecting Lex Ferenda. But I do want to take a moment to note today’s shortlist for the Booker prize, as part of the Booker-reading project that I’m one half of.

For some odd reason, it turns out that of the four books I’ve read so far (Consolation, Gifted, What Was Lost and The Welsh Girl), none – none! – of them made it to the shortlist. Oh dear. I am reading Darkmans (which is listed) but I’m only 100 pages through and at this rate it’s going to take me a while, I’ve finished three other books (What Was Lost and two non-fictions) since I started it. Beautiful paper and font, though. I’ll also be reading Mister Pip (yup, it’s listed) when I manage to track down a copy.

Three of the four I’ve read (all bar Consolation), plus The Gift Of Rain (which Ruth thoroughly approved of) are debut novels. And, yup, none of them made it either. (The Gift Of Rain and What Was Lost get extra brownie points for coming from small independent publishers, though).

It does seem a rather ‘safe’ choice for the shortlist. More upsetting is the dreadful press release from the prize organisers (do we really need banal summaries of the books ‘from the judges’ and notes that “The winner receives £50,000 and can look forward to greatly increased sales and recognition worldwide” (my emphasis)?

Anyway, I found The Welsh Girl interesting but not fully to my liking (some intriguing ideas about nationalism and gender and language) – a historical novel with quite some details about the period (World War II, mostly in Wales). It took me some time to read although it is not a difficult book. More promising was What Was Lost, a surprisingly spooky tale that I enjoyed not necessarily for the mystery-story element but for the pointed skewering of consumerism and ‘development’ in their ugliest forms. I found the ending a little too convenient, but by then I was reading for the wonderful lines and descriptions rather than the mystery alone, so I wasn’t too disappointed in that regard.

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