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wookiebender's Booker Reads

Booker Prize

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1wookiebender
Jul 27, 2011, 9:58pm Top

Booker Prize Winners I have read:

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (1981) - 5 stars
Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (1988) - 5 stars
Possession : A Romance by A.S. Byatt (1990) - 5 stars
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (1992) - 4 stars
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (1997) - 3.5 stars
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000) - 4 stars
Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2002) - 5 stars
Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre (2003) - 4.5 stars
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (2004) - 5 stars
The Gathering by Anne Enright (2007) - 3.5 stars
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (2008) - 4.5 stars
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009) - 4.5 stars

Books I have read from the Booker Prize Longlist:

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (1993) - 4 stars
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (2001) - 4.5 stars
The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith (2002) - 2.5 stars
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (2003) - 4.5 stars
The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard (2004) - 5 stars
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (2004) - 4 stars
Saturday by Ian McEwan (2005) - 3.5 stars
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka (2005) - 3.5 stars
Gifted by Nikita Lalwani (2007) - 2.5 stars
The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies (2007) - 4 stars
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith (2008) - 3.5 stars
The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser (2008) - 4 stars
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin (2009) - 4.5 stars
Not Untrue and Not Unkind by Ed O'Loughlin (2009) - 3.5 stars
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (2010) - 4.5 stars
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell (2010) - 3.5 stars

Books I have read from the Booker Prize Shortlist:

Waterland by Graham Swift (1983) - 4 stars
An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (1986) - 3 stars
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1986) - 4.5 stars
The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies (1986) - 4 stars
What's Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies (1986) - 4 stars
Black Dogs by Ian McEwan (1992) - 3.5 stars
The Folding Star by Alan Hollinghurst (1994) - 4 stars
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (1996) - 4 stars
Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai (1999) - 4 stars
Atonement by Ian McEwan (2001) - 5 stars
Dirt Music by Tim Winton (2002) - 3.5 stars
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (2002) - 5 stars
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (2004) - 5 stars
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005) - 4 stars
On Beauty by Zadie Smith (2005) - 4.5 stars
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (2006) - 4.5 stars
Animal's People by Indra Sinha (2007) - 3.5 stars
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (2007) - 5 stars
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (2007) - 4 stars
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (2007) - 4 stars
The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant (2008) - 4 stars
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (2008) - 4.5 stars
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (2008) - 3 stars
The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt (2009) - 4.5 stars
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (2009) - 3.5 stars
Summertime by J M Coetzee (2009) - 3.5 stars
The Long Song by Andrea Levy (2010) - 3.5 stars
Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey (2010) - 3 stars
Room by Emma Donoghue (2010) - 3.5 stars

Phew! Future reads will be noted below, I'm hoping to get to The Stranger's Child rsn.

2Nickelini
Jul 28, 2011, 1:31am Top

Wow. That's a lot. Have you been meaning to read the Booker books, or did that just happen all by itself? :-)

3wookiebender
Jul 28, 2011, 6:18am Top

It is a lot! I was quite shocked when I put it all together.

I do actually aim to read from the list, but am a bit patchy because I've never meant to read it exhaustively. A group of us Australian bookcrossers actually buy the shortlist between ourselves each year and then pass them around so we all get to read them all(ish) without having to buy them all. I joined the group in 2007, so there's still a lot of books which I've just read on my own bat anyhow! I also do tend to gravitate more to the English books on the "1001" list, which does bump up the Booker numbers somewhat.

4wookiebender
Aug 24, 2011, 8:04pm Top

The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro



One summer, in the middle of the 1950s, Mr Stephens, a butler in a grand old home in the English countryside takes a journey. The purpose of his journey is to visit an old friend, the former housekeeper Miss Kenton, and to see if she is interested in returning to her post as housekeeper for the new owner of the house, a wealthy American. Throughout his jaunting around the countryside, we get occasional glimpses of the beauty of an English summer, but mostly he's lost in his reminisces of his time at Darlington Hall with Miss Kenton, at the apex of his employment as butler, with a large staff and important international negotiations going on under its roof.

But never directly said, just in asides and readings-between-the-lines, what is most revealed to us is Mr Stephens and Miss Kenton's relationship. Matter of fact, I don't think Mr Stephens is at all aware of the depth of feeling between the two of them, preferring to see everything on a distinctly professional level only.

Ishiguro has done a wonderful job of creating this fascinating character, a man so buttoned-up and in denial that he hardly lives his own life, but spends it all in the service of someone else, who, sadly, ends up being equally misguided. At first I found Mr Stephens so pompous that he was irritating me, but after a while I got into the swing of it all and started really enjoying his pompous take on life. And the stories of the "downstairs" life were equally fascinating, a glimpse into another world and place.

There's also some very amusing reflections on this serious gentleman's gentleman trying to adapt to a new, much more informal master. I particularly liked him practicing his witticisms.

****1/2

5lkernagh
Aug 24, 2011, 8:58pm Top

Nice review of The Remains of the Day..... that one is on my 'someday to be read' list. Loved the movie when I saw it years ago and continue to hear great things about the book.

6kiwidoc
Aug 24, 2011, 9:01pm Top

Great review of the Ishiguro book! I just loved that book - a genius writer.

Since running out of available Booker Long-listed copies, I am reading Ishiguro's first - A Pale View of Hills.

7wookiebender
Aug 24, 2011, 11:59pm Top

#5> Thanks!

#6> The only other Ishiguro books I've read are Never Let Me Go (interesting, but over-rated), and An Artist of the Floating World which I did not get. (Should maybe give it another go. Then again, life's too short.) I'd like to tackle more of his works, he is very well regarded. And I can see why with The Remains of the Day!

8vancouverdeb
Aug 25, 2011, 4:22am Top

Wow, Wookie, you've read an amazing number of Booker's over time!! I'm amazed! Great going! I can't wait to read your comments on A Stranger's Child.

9vancouverdeb
Edited: Aug 25, 2011, 6:50am Top

Just read your review on The White Tiger. Great job! That was a Booker that I really enjoyed. I think yes, the narrator did employ some hyperbole.

10wookiebender
Aug 25, 2011, 9:27pm Top

Hi Deb! It is a scary number, I didn't plan it that way. But I'm happy to have read (most of) them. I'm glad you liked The White Tiger too!

11wookiebender
Sep 30, 2011, 2:27am Top

The Sisters Brothers, Patrick DeWitt



The Sisters brothers are Eli and Charlie Sisters, two thugs earning a living as hired goons in the western states of America during the gold rush. They are sent to kill Hermann Kermit Warn who has somehow crossed their patron, the Commodore. The book is narrated by Eli, who has a romantic soul under his gunslinger persona.

This was a book that I could hardly put down. The slow reveal of the character of the terrifying yet fascinating brothers, the depiction of the wild times they lived in, and the resolution of the plot all added up to one of my best reads of 2011.

"'It is a wild time here, is it not?' I said to the man.
'It is wild. I fear it has ruined my character. It has certainly ruined the characters of others.' He nodded, as though answering himself. 'Yes, it has ruined me.'
'How are you ruined?' I asked.
'How am I not?' he wondered."


The plot does fall apart a bit towards the end, I didn't quite buy the plot climax, although I loved the final development of the two brothers. But maybe some chaos and craziness is only to be expected when you're hanging out with sociopaths.

Can I also say that it was a beautifully designed book, it's been years since I've seen a book with such a stunning, eye-catching cover.

Highly recommended to those who are not faint of heart or stomach.

****1/2

12wookiebender
Sep 30, 2011, 2:28am Top

Jamrach's Menagerie, Carol Birch



One morning in 19th century London, a small boy from an impoverished background is almost eaten by a tiger, which had escaped from Jamrach's Menagerie and was just wandering the streets of London, scaring all the Londoners. Except young Jaffy Brown, who just wanted to pat the magnificent beast. But instead he is literally rescued from the tiger's mouth by Herr Jamrach, and offered a job looking after the animals in the menagerie, on their way between the wild and their new owners and captivity.

Jaffy grows up working at the magnificent, but slightly creepy, menagerie, along with his best and worst friend, Tim Linver. One day they are both offered a chance to go to sea to look for a mysterious dragon. Of course, the sea voyage is nothing like what they expected.

This was a bit hit and miss for me. The language at times was breathtakingly perfect, as when they first set out to sea: "All we ever knew fell away behind us like arms letting go." But at other times, I felt like I was lost in a ocean of adjectives, looking for a verb, dammit. And as a narrator, Jaffy just didn't quite strike the right note.

The plot also sagged quite badly towards the end, with one overly long section reminding me of nothing more than Sam and Frodo crossing Mordor: bleak, bleak, bleak, hungry, bleak. Which was a shame, because other sections (the early scenes in the poor areas of London, the whaling, the shipwreck, the hunting of the Komodo dragon) were excellent.

And strangely enough given the title, it's hardly about Jamrach, or the menagerie. I would have preferred more Jamrach and London, and less Mordor.

Good, but not great.

***1/2

13wookiebender
Sep 30, 2011, 2:29am Top

Phew! Just realised that while I've been reading Booker books, and posting about them on different threads, I hadn't kept this thread up to date! Mea culpa!

14wookiebender
Nov 15, 2011, 9:45pm Top

The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes



The Sense of an Ending is the front runner for the Man Booker Prize this year (after all other serious competition was nobbled after not being nominated or shortlisted). If it does win, I will be happy, it was a fascinating book, about memory, history, and the unreliability of both. It ended up being one of the rare books that I went back to re-read sections after finishing it.

The story is told from the point of view of Tony Webster, an ordinary man recently retired from an ordinary job; divorced but still friendly with his ex-wife; father of two young women. He recalls his school life, when his clique of three suddenly has a new member added to it, Adrian. Tony is sent a solicitor's letter saying that Adrian's diary has been left to him in a will, and that causes Tony to start remembering his young adult life.

"Remembering" though is a bit of a misnomer for what happens. Tony is having to patch together memories from half forgotten incidents, analysing and interpreting events from four decades before. He's upfront about his unreliability, and we sometimes get verifiable evidence that show his version of events is wrong in some aspect. But for the most part, we just have to trust what he's reconstructing, much as he himself has to trust what he is constructing is actually the truth.

This was a very short, readable novel (more a novella, really), but one that will stick in your mind after you've finished it.

****1/2

15lauralkeet
Nov 16, 2011, 5:36am Top

I just finished this and still need to write my review. But I loved it, too.

16wookiebender
Apr 11, 2012, 3:54am Top

A few more Booker books that I read last year, but have not found the time to review. I doubt I will now!

The Comfort of Strangers, Ian McEwan. ****
Snowdrops, A.D. Miller, ***1/2
The Secret River, Kate Grenville. ***** A brilliant read.
Empire of the Sun, J.G. Ballard. ***1/2

Strangely enough, no Bookers read this year so far!

17kidzdoc
Apr 14, 2012, 9:49am Top

Nice review of The Sense of an Ending, Tania. I'll probably re-read it later this year, and post a review then.

I haven't read any Bookers this year, either. That will change very soon, though.

18wookiebender
Apr 14, 2012, 11:20pm Top

Thanks! The Sense of an Ending is on my schedule to re-read this year, as it's also a book club read. I'm not sure if I'm going to get around to it, though!

And I know as soon as the long list appears, I'll be inspired to read a whole lot again. :)

19kidzdoc
Apr 15, 2012, 5:48am Top

Right. I looked at the 2012 Booker Prize speculation thread within the Debate section on the prize's web site for the first time yesterday, to see which books might be good candidates for this year's longlist. One book that received high marks from at least two members is The Coward's Tale by Vanessa Gebbie, a debut novel set in a Welsh mining town that is narrated by a young lad who befriends the town's beggar. Through him the boy learns about a mining accident that occurred years ago, and how it has affected the lives of everyone in town. It's available in the US, UK and Canada, so I'll plan to read it soon, and hope that it does make the longlist.

Hmm...I think I'll create a speculation thread, so that anyone else who's interested can post info about eligible books by past winners and finalists, such as Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel and Our Lady of Alice Bhatti by Mohammed Hanif, and novels such as the Gebbie that seem to be worthy candidates.

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