The Man Booker Prize Shortlist 2010

by |September 7, 2010

Here are the novels still in the running for the Man Booker Prize for 2010 – is your favourite here?

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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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. Read a review…

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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. Read a review…

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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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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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Read An Extract – here



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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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Comments

  • September 12, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    It’s a pretty good selection this year, I reckon. I’ve read 4 of these (have yet to read In A Strange Room and probably won;t read Parrot and Olivier in America, as I am one of the few Australians with an inexplicable distaste for Peter Carey (I can’t explain it; I just don’t enjoy his work).

    Of the 4 I have read, I would probably give the gong to Room, which was utterly compelling, and wove darkness with tenderness in a way I’ve rarely read before. The portrait of maternity under duress was incredible.

    That said, I wouldn’t be unhappy if The Long Song took the prize, either. I really, really liked that book. I have an abiding affection for this kind of narrative when done well and this was done exceedingly well.

    I wasn’t hugely overwhelmed by The Finkler Question, although I can see it is a very skilful text. In A Strange Room did not engage me although I like the written style. But that’s just my 0.02 worth.

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