The Man Booker Prize Longlist 2010 (A reminder)

by |September 7, 2010

We will soon hear who has made the

Shortlist of the Man Booker Prize for 2010.

(Our fingers are crossed for Christos Tsiolkas. Go you good thing!)

Before the announcement – let’s take a last look at the contenders…

ROOM

Emma Donoghue

The story of a mother, her son, a locked room and the outside world

Jack is five and, like any little boy, excited at the prospect of presents and cake. He’s looking forward to telling his friends it’s his birthday, too. But although Jack is a normal child in many ways – loving, funny, bright, full of energy and questions – his upbringing is far from ordinary: Jack’s entire life has been spent in a single room that measures just 12 feet by 12 feet; as far as he’s concerned, Room is the entire world.

He shares this world with his mother, with Plant, and tiny Mouse (though Ma isn’t a fan and throws a book at Mouse when she sees him). There’s TV too, of course – and the cartoon characters he thinks of as his friends – but Jack knows that nothing else he sees on the screen is real. Old Nick, on the other hand, is all too real, but only visits at night – like a bat – when Jack is meant to be asleep and hidden safely in Wardrobe. And only Old Nick has the code to Door, which is otherwise locked…

Told in Jack’s voice, Room is the story of a mother’s love for her son, and of a young boy’s innocence. Unsentimental yet affecting, devastating yet uplifting, it promises to be the most talked about novel of 2010.

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The Stars in the Bright Sky

Alan Warner

The Sopranos are back: out of school and out in the world, gathered in Gatwick to plan a super-cheap last-minute holiday to celebrate their reunion. Kay, Kylah, Manda, Rachel and Finn are joined by Finn’s equally gorgeous friend Ava – a half-French philosophy student – and are ready to go on the rampage.

Just into their twenties and as wild as ever, they’ve added acrylic nails, pedicures, mobile phones and credit cards to their arsenal, but are still the same thirsty girls: their holiday bags packed with skimpy clothes and condoms, their hormones rampant. Will it be Benidorm or Magaluf, Paris or Las Vegas? One thing is certain: a great deal of fast-food will be eaten and gallons of Guinness will be drunk by the alpha-female Manda, and she will be matched by the others’ enthusiastic intake of Bacardi Breezers, vodkas and Red Bull.

With Alan Warner’s pitch-perfect ear for dialogue, pinpoint characterisation and glorious set-pieces, this is a novel propelled by conversation through scenes of excess and debauchery, hilarity and sadness. Like the six young women at its centre, The Stars in the Bright Sky is vivid and brimming with life – in all its squalor, rage, tears and laughter – and presents an unforgettable story of female friendship.

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C

Tom McCarthy

The author of ‘one of the great English novels of the past ten years’ moves to the next level, with a novel of thrilling action, imagination and ambition, perfect for fans of Bolano and Pynchon.

C follows the short, intense life of Serge Carrefax, a man who – as his name suggests – surges into the electric modernity of the early twentieth century, transfixed by the technologies that will obliterate him.

Born to the sound of one of the very earliest experimental wireless stations, Serge finds himself steeped in a weird world of transmissions, whose very air seems filled with cryptic and poetic signals of all kinds. When personal loss strikes him in his adolescence, this world takes on a darker and more morbid aspect. What follows is a stunning tour de force in which the eerily idyllic settings of pre-war Europe give way to the exhilarating flight-paths of the frontline aeroplane radio operator, then the prison camps of Germany, the drug-fuelled London of the roaring twenties and, finally, the ancient tombs of Egypt.

Reminiscent of Bolano, Beckett and Pynchon, this is a remarkable novel – a compelling, sophisticated and sublimely imaginative book uncovering the hidden codes and dark rhythms that sustain life.

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Skippy Dies

Paul Murray

Ruprecht Van Doren is an overweight genius whose hobbies include very difficult maths and the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Daniel ‘Skippy’ Juster is his roommate. In the grand old Dublin institution that is Seabrook College for Boys, nobody pays either of them much attention. But when Skippy falls for Lori, the Frisbee-playing Siren from the girls’ school next door, suddenly all kinds of people take an interest – including Carl, part-time drug-dealer and official school psychopath.

While his teachers battle over modernisation, and Ruprecht attempts to open a portal into a parallel universe, Skippy, in the name of love, is heading for a showdown – in the form of a fatal doughnut-eating race that only one person will survive. This unlikely tragedy will explode Seabrook’s century-old complacency and bring all kinds of secrets into the light, until teachers and pupils alike discover that the fragile lines dividing past from present, love from betrayal – and even life from death – have become almost impossible to read . . .

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The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet

David Mitchell

Imagine an empire that has shut out the world for a century and a half. No one can leave, foreigners are excluded, their religions banned and their ideas deeply mistrusted. Yet a narrow window onto this nation-fortress still exists: an artificial walled island connected to a mainland port, and manned by a handful of European traders.

And locked as the land-gate may be, it cannot prevent the meeting of minds — or hearts. The nation was Japan, the port was Nagasaki and the island was Dejima, to where David Mitchell’s panoramic novel transports us in the year 1799. For one Dutch clerk, Jacob de Zoet, a dark adventure of duplicity, love, guilt, faith and murder is about to begin — and all the while, unbeknownst to him and his feuding compatriots, the axis of global power is turning…

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Trespass

Rose Tremain

Set among the hills and gorges of the Cevennes, the dark and beautiful heartland of southern France, Trespass is a thrilling novel about disputed territory, sibling love and devastating revenge.

In a silent valley stands an isolated stone farmhouse, the Mas Lunel. Its owner is Aramon Lunel, an alcoholic so haunted by his violent past that hes become incapable of all meaningful action, letting his hunting dogs starve and his land go to ruin.Meanwhile, his sister, Audrun, alone in her modern bungalow within sight of the Mas Lunel, dreams of exacting retribution for the unspoken betrayals that have blighted her life.

Into this closed Cevenol world comes Anthony Verey, a wealthy but disillusioned antiques dealer from London. Now in his sixties, Anthony hopes to remake his life in France, and he begins looking at properties in the region. From the moment he arrives at the Mas Lunel, a frightening and unstoppable series of consequences is set in motion.

Two worlds and two cultures collide. Ancient boundaries are crossed, taboos are broken, a violent crime is committed. And all the time the Cevennes hills remain as cruel and seductive as ever, unforgettably captured in this powerful and unsettling novel, which reveals yet another dimension to Rose Tremains extraordinary imagination.

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February

Lisa Moore

From the publishers of Mary Lawson and Alice Munro, a moving and masterful novel by ‘an astonishing writer’ (Richard Ford)

In 1982, the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank off the coast of Newfoundland during a Valentine’s night storm. In the early hours of the next morning, all 84 men aboard died.

Helen O’Mara is one of those left behind when her husband, Cal, drowns. Her story starts years after the Ranger disaster, but she is compelled to travel back to the ‘February’ that persists in her mind, and to that moment in 1982 when, expecting a fourth child, she received the call informing her that Cal was lost at sea.

A quarter of a century on, late one winter’s night, Helen is woken by another phone call. It is her wayward son John, in another time zone, on his way home. He has made a girl pregnant and he wants Helen to decide what he should do. As John grapples with what it might mean to be a father, Helen realises that she must shake off her decades of mourning in order to help.

With grace and precision, and a shocking ability to render the precise details of her characters’ physical and emotional worlds, Lisa Moore reveals the whole story to us. And just as, finally, we watch the oil rig go down, we see Helen emerging from her grief to greet a new life. Helen O’Mara is one of those left behind when her husband, Cal, drowns. Her story starts years after the Ranger disaster, but she is compelled to travel back to the the ‘February’ that persists in her mind, and to that moment in 1982 when, expecting a fourth child, she received the call informing her that Cal was lost at sea.

Quarter of a century on, late one winter’s night, Helen is woken by another phone call. It is her wayward son John, in another time zone, on his way home. He has mistakenly made a colleague pregnant and he needs his mother to decide what he should do. As John grapples with what it might mean to be a father, Helen realises that she must shake off her decades of mourning in order

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The Long Song

Andrea Levy

You do not know me yet. My son Thomas, who is publishing this book, tells me, it is customary at this place in a novel to give the reader a little taste of the story that is held within these pages. As your storyteller, I am to convey that this tale is set in Jamaica during the last turbulent years of slavery and the early years of freedom that followed.

July is a slave girl who lives upon a sugar plantation named Amity and it is her life that is the subject of this tale. She was there when the Baptist War raged in 1831, and she was also present when slavery was declared no more. My son says I must convey how the story tells also of July’s mama Kitty, of the negroes that worked the plantation land, of Caroline Mortimer the white woman who owned the plantation and many more persons besides – far too many for me to list here.

But what befalls them all is carefully chronicled upon these pages for you to peruse. Perhaps, my son suggests, I might write that it is a thrilling journey through that time in the company of people who lived it. All this he wishes me to pen so the reader can decide if this is a book they might care to consider.

Cha, I tell my son, what fuss-fuss. Come, let them just read it for themselves.

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The Finkler Question

Howard Jacobson

Julian Treslove, a professionally unspectacular and disappointed BBC worker, and Sam Finkler, a popular Jewish philosopher, writer and television personality, are old school friends. Despite a prickly relationship and very different lives, they’ve never quite lost touch with each other – or with their former teacher, Libor Sevick, a Czechoslovakian always more concerned with the wider world than with exam results..

Now, both Libor and Finkler are recently widowed, and with Treslove, his chequered and unsuccessful record with women rendering him an honorary third widower, they dine at Libor’s grand, central London apartment. It’s a sweetly painful evening of reminiscence in which all three remove themselves to a time before they had loved and lost; a time before they had fathered children, before the devastation of separations, before they had prized anything greatly enough to fear the loss of it. Better, perhaps, to go through life without knowing happiness at all because that way you had less to mourn?

Treslove finds he has tears enough for the unbearable sadness of both his friends’ losses. And it’s that very evening, at exactly 11:30pm, as Treslove hesitates a moment outside the window of the oldest violin dealer in the country as he walks home, that he is attacked. After this, his whole sense of who and what he is will slowly and ineluctably change.

The Finkler Question is a scorching story of exclusion and belonging, justice and love, ageing, wisdom and humanity. Funny, furious, unflinching, this extraordinary novel shows one of our finest writers at his brilliant best.

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In A Strange Room

Damon Galgut

The most intense and passionate novel to date from Man Booker-shortlisted author Damon Galgut: ‘the bold, fresh voice of South African fiction.’ – Observer

A young man takes three journeys, through Greece, India and Africa. He travels lightly, simply. To those who travel with him and those whom he meets on the way – including a handsome, enigmatic stranger, a group of careless backpackers and a woman on the edge – he is the Follower, the Lover and the Guardian. Yet, despite the man’s best intentions, each journey ends in disaster. Together, these three journeys will change his whole life.

A novel of longing and thwarted desire, rage and compassion, In a Strange Room is the hauntingly beautiful evocation of one man’s search for love, and a place to call home.

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The Slap

Christos Tsiolkas

At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own.

This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the event.

In this remarkable novel, Christos Tsiolkas turns his unflinching and all-seeing eye onto that which connects us all: the modern family and domestic life in the twenty-first century. The Slap is told from the points of view of eight people who were present at the barbecue. The slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires.

What unfolds is a powerful, haunting novel about love, sex and marriage, parenting and children, and the fury and intensity – all the passions and conflicting beliefs – that family can arouse. In its clear-eyed and forensic dissection of the ever-growing middle class and its aspirations and fears, The Slap is also a poignant, provocative novel about the nature of loyalty and happiness, compromise and truth.

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The Betrayal

Helen Dunmore

Leningrad in 1952: a city recovering from war, where Andrei, a young hospital doctor and Anna, a nursery school teacher, are forging a life together.

Summers at the dacha, preparations for the hospital ball, work and the care of sixteen year old Kolya fill their minds. They try hard to avoid coming to the attention of the authorities, but even so their private happiness is precarious. Stalin is still in power, and the Ministry for State Security has new targets in its sights. When Andrei has to treat the seriously ill child of a senior secret police officer, Volkov, he finds himself and his family caught in an impossible game of life and death for in a land ruled by whispers and watchfulness, betrayal can come from those closest to you.

A gripping and deeply moving portrait of life in post-war Soviet Russia, The Betrayal brilliantly shows the epic struggle of ordinary people to survive in a time of violence and terror.

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Parrot and Olivier in America

Peter Carey

Olivier is a young aristocrat, one of an endangered species born in France just after the Revolution. Parrot, the son of an itinerant English printer, wanted to be an artist but has ended up in middle age as a servant.

When Olivier sets sail for the New World – ostensibly to study its prisons, but in reality to avoid yet another revolution – Parrot is sent with him, as spy, protector, foe and foil. Through their adventures with women and money, incarceration and democracy, writing and painting, they make an unlikely pair. But where better for unlikely things to flourish than in the glorious, brand-new experiment, America?

A dazzlingly inventive reimagining of Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous journey, Parrot and Olivier in America brilliantly evokes the Old World colliding with the New. Above all, it is a wildly funny, tender portrait of two men who come to form an almost impossible friendship, and a completely improbable work of art.

‘If envy is any writer’s sincerest form of admiration, then I was sick with admiration on every page of this vigorous, lyrical masterpiece. The dramatic situations are struck off with hallucinatory force, the characters are coddled with tenderness and humor – and the distant past is made as present as a slap in the face. Peter Carey has long been one of the best writers in English; now he is even better.’ – Edmund White

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About the Contributor

John Purcell (aka Natasha Walker) is the author of The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy published by Random House Australia. The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings reached the top ten on the Australian fiction charts and Natasha/John was the tenth highest selling Australian novelist and third highest selling Australian debut author in 2012. The trilogy has since sold over 50,000 copies in print and ebook and has been translated into French and Polish. John has worked in the book industry for the last twenty years. While still in his twenties he opened John’s Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop in Mosman in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Now he is the Head of Product and Chief Buyer at booktopia.com.au.

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