Richard Flanagan wins the 2014 Man Booker Prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North!

Richard Flanagan has won the 2014 Man Booker Prize for 2014 for his incredible novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

A sweeping love story set against war, in a review last year we said ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North isn’t just one of the books of the year, it is one of the finest books of the last decade.’ Read the full review here

It was controversially overlooked for the Miles Franklin Award this year, Andrew Cattanach writes about the decision here.

It was described by Man Booker Prize judges as ‘a literary masterpiece’.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

by Richard Flanagan

the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-northAugust, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.

This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.

Richard Flanagan was born in Longford, Tasmania, in 1961. His novels, Death of a River Guide, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Gould’s Book of Fish, The Unknown Terrorist, and Wanting have received numerous honours and are published in twenty-six countries. He directed a feature film version of The Sound of One Hand Clapping. A collection of his essays is published as And What Do You Do, Mr Gable?.

Judge for yourself – order a copy from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


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Will Richard Flanagan win the Man Booker?

I can be a little bitter sometimes…

Around this time last year I finished Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and immediately shouted to the world “THIS WILL WIN THE MILES FRANKLIN!”

the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-northI told everyone who would listen, swelling with literary priggishness, waving them away when they offered up other worthy winners.

“No” I would say.

“You’ve got it all wrong.”

“I mean have you even read it?”

“And if you have, I mean, did you really read it, or just, you know, read it?”

Imagine my horror when, in June this year, The Narrow Road to the Deep North lost out to Evie Wyld’s bold sophomore novel All the Birds, Singing.

You live and die by your literary recommendations, and while Wyld’s talent and bravery is well worth rewarding, I couldn’t help thinking the judges had made a huge mistake, turning away the opportunity to recognise a truly great Australian novel with Australia’s greatest literary honour.

Fast forward four months and I’m sitting here typing with a smug look on my face.

all-the-birds-singingWell, more smug than usual.

Soon the winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction will be announced, and who do we find sitting equal favourite with the bookies?

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan.

Perhaps it is poor form that, on the birthday of Miles Franklin, I find myself willing Flanagan to the prize because of my own hubris, but getting a book recommendation wrong stings. Just ask Oprah.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North is an extraordinary novel from one of Australia’s finest writers at the top of their game. It crosses generations and continents. It’s about love and lust, bravery and cowardice, friendship and betrayal. In a strong field, it’s a very worthy winner.

So at around 7:30am tomorrow morning when, touch wood, Richard Flanagan becomes the fourth Australian to win the Man Booker Prize think of me in my living room, punching the air like I’ve won it myself.

You see, as much as I want another Australian win, I really just want him to get up for one reason.

I was right all along.

You see…

…I can be a little bitter sometimes…


Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog and was shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

Man Booker News: Australia’s Richard Flanagan named on six book Shortlist for 2014 prize

Could he do it?

That’s the question on everyone’s lips as Richard Flanagan continues his surge towards a Man Booker Prize for his beautiful novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Flanagan’s masterpiece was controversially overlooked for this year’s Miles Franklin.

2010 winner Howard Jacobson is joined by fellow UK writers Ali Smith and Neel Mukherjee, with the new international floodgates appear only slightly ajar, with two US authors Karen Joy Fowler and Joshua Ferris making up the six shortlistees.

Take a closer look at the 2014 Shortlist, and be your own judge…

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Great Opening Lines in Literature

“They say you can tell a lot about a book by its first line.”
- Andrew Cattanach, This Blog Post


“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.”
- Albert Camus, The Stranger


“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”
- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”
- Jane Austen, Emma


“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”
- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice


“Dr Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse.”
- Louis de Bernieres, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin


“It was a pleasure to burn.”
- Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451


“Who’s there?”
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet


“I have just returned from a visit to my landlord–the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. This is certainly a beautiful country! In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society.”
- Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights


“Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, `and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice `without pictures or conversation?’”
- Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland


“The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since ended. Here on the Equator, in the continent which would one day be known as Africa, the battle for existence had reached a new climax of ferocity, and the victor was not yet in sight.”
- Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey


“Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.”
- Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Inferno


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities


“James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and thought about life and death.”
- Ian Fleming, Goldfinger


“When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.”
- Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd


“It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.”
- Joseph Heller, Catch-22


“A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and in a shield, the World State’s motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.”
- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”
- Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis


“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.”
- George Orwell, 1984


“On they went, singing ‘Eternal Memory’, and whenever they stopped, the sound of their feet, the horses and the gusts of wind seemed to carry on their singing.”
- Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago


“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar


“I began this disorderly and almost endless collection of scattered thoughts and observations in order to gratify a good mother who knows how to think.”
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile


“Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.”
- William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet


“The year 1866 was signalized by a remarkable incident, a mysterious and inexplicable phenomenon, which doubtless no one has yet forgotten.”
- Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea


“The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us.”
- H.G. Wells, The Time Machine


Know a great opening line we’ve missed? Share it in the comments below!

BOOK REVIEW: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami (Review by Andrew Cattanach)

Haruki Murakami’s quest to honour his literary hero Franz Kafka has resulted in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, one of his most moving and accessible novels in years.

While Franz Kafka remains best known for his genre-bending novella The Metamorphosis, most will point to his 1925 novel The Trial as his opus, a deeply personal meditation on sex, society and isolation.

Murakami’s latest offering navigates similar waters. A young male protagonist slowly driven to breaking point by, what he perceives to be, an unjust judgement handed down upon him by the people he most cares about.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is as down to earth as Murakami has been for a long time. Talking cats, and vanishing elephants give way to musings on Arnold Wesker, The Pet Shop Boys and Barry Manilow.

When Tsukuru Tazaki is cut off without reason by his circle of high school friends during his sophomore year in college, his world spirals out of control, craving no human interaction and little appetite for food or life, pure hopelessness.

Fast forward twenty years and, despite halting his downward spiral, he is still haunted by those inexplicable events. At his girlfriend’s urging, he tracks down his former friends to get the answer for himself. The journeys he takes turn out to be as much inward as out of town. And as is often the case in Murakami’s fiction, his characters are all about introspection.

murakamiMurakami’s prose has always enthralled me, and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is no exception. His overall tone remains one of the most difficult to pin down in literature, with gorgeous flourishes routinely intercepted by the sort of stark language that belongs in an IKEA catalogue. That, however, is his gift. His words pull you this way and that, tenderising you to feel the full weight of a knockout blow.

One passage in particular took my eye, “The branches of a nearby willow tree were laden with lush foliage and drooping heavily, almost to the ground, though they were still, as if lost in deep thought. Occasionally a small bird landed unsteadily on a branch, but soon gave up and fluttered away. Like a distraught mind, the branch quivered slightly, then returned to stillness.”

Is it beautiful, concise simplicity, or simple, concise beauty? That question is itself an allegory for much of Murakami’s body of work.

Taking his devotion for Kafka further in the final pages, Murakami prefers to leave some of the novel’s biggest questions unanswered, a rarity for a writer who so often neglects characters and prose in preference for themes and plot. Perhaps these are questions he can’t answer, or maybe these are questions that should stay with us, lingering, until we journey towards discovery as Tsukuru does.

Many of the questions in The Trial were never answered as Kafka died before the final edits of the book. It still remains a masterpiece, one which Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage will constantly be compared to, in itself the highest of praise.

It has become tradition that, on the eve of the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Japanese bookstores burst at the seams, champagne on ice, fans hoping that Murakami finally gets the nod. The big question is will Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, having already sold millions of copies worldwide, be enough to tip him over the edge?

Another question that, for the moment anyway, remains unanswered.

Grab a copy of Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage here

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog and was recently shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

REVIEW: Your Fathers, Where are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers (Review by Andrew Cattanach)

your-fathers-where-are-they-and-the-prophets-do-they-live-forever-The irony of Dave Eggers’ somewhat pretentiously named new novel Your Fathers, Where are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? is that it is a decidedly unpretentious work. But Dave Eggers knows that. He has more fun with his titles than most, from his breakout memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius to his 2004 novel The Unforbidden is Compulsory; or, Optimism.

Your Fathers is a compelling meditation on the world we now live in. I say now because things are changing too fast for many of us, particularly for Eggers and his scatterbrained protagonist Thomas. His world is spinning out of control and the only way to halt it is to bunker down and ask the big questions. Not just of himself, but of the people who have ‘helped’ shape his life. His college hero, his mother, an old teacher, a politician, his soulmate. But he can’t just walk up to them in the street and grill them. He has a better idea.

It’s better if he has some time with them. Time to ask questions.

While they’re tied up in an abandoned military base.

While Your Fathers shines a light in uncomfortable corners, it’s raucously funny in many places, typical of all of Eggers’ work. It goes without saying that a man who, as legend has in, enlists friends to streak and heckle him during book readings would it difficult to hide that subversive humour from his writing. His acid wit works perfectly in tandem with some of the heavy territory Your Fathers explores.

Your Fathers is not a long book, but a dense one. It needs only 224 pages to engulf you. It’s a novel made up of frenzied brushstrokes that, only when you stand back, do you get to see the true genius of.

The brilliant thing about Your Fathers is that, despite his mania, I’m envious of Thomas. I feel like following his lead, although perhaps with less chains. A few days devoted entirely to questions.

But will Thomas get the answers he’s looking for before it’s too late?

Grab a copy of Dave Eggers’ Your Fathers, Where are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? here

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Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog and was shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

 

BOOK REVIEW: Here Come the Dogs by Omar Musa (Review by Caroline Baum)

here-come-the-dogs-order-your-signed-copy-The energy of this debut novel just leaps off the page. Musa, a charismatic rapper, has successfully translated the idiom and pulse of performance to the page with its syncopated rhythms and hard-edged beats.

Inevitably, he is being compared with his mate Christos Tsiolkas for his full-frontal engagement with contemporary Australian society: in this case, multicultural masculinity with its surges of often misdirected testosterone.

In small town suburbia during a tinder-dry summer, anything could happen. Booze, drugs, violence and a racing dog all help pass the time.

At the centre of this compelling mash up of poetry and prose are three iconic young men: Solomon, a charming Samoan, who has broken up with his girlfriend and is fascinated by Scarlett, a free spirited tattooist; his half-brother Jimmy, who has got himself into trouble, and their Macedonian childhood friend, Aleks.

Musa manipulates language with raw, bracing vitality, offering up a picture of Australia that is not pretty but feels authentic.

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Caroline Baum has worked as founding editor of Good Reading magazine, features editor for Vogue, presenter of ABC TV’s popular bookshow, Between the Lines, and Foxtel’s Talking Books, and as an executive producer with ABC Radio National. She is currently Booktopia’s Editorial Director.

Grab a signed copy of Here Come the Dogs here

Grab a signed copy of Here Come the Dogs here

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