Bernie McGill, author of The Butterfly Cabinet, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Bernie McGill

author of The Butterfly Cabinet

Ten Terrifying Questions

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 1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in the parish of Lavey in County Derry, Northern Ireland, the youngest of ten children. I went to Primary School there, Secondary in the nearby town of Maghera and to Queen’s University in Belfast to study English and Italian. As part of my studies, I spent a year working in a school in Italy from 1987-88. When I’d finished my undergraduate studies, I completed an Continue reading

Man Booker Longlist

Amid all the packing and unpacking this week, we had barely time to scratch ourselves, but we have just got to mention the Man Booker Prize longlist. A baker’s dozen, two past winners, four past listed authors and two new writers.

Click on the titles to order.

Hilary Mantel is longlisted for Wolf Hall, a piece of historical fiction centring on Thomas Cromwell, who was the successor to Cardinal Wolsey as Henry VIII’s most trusted adviser as the king tries to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. “This is a beautiful and profoundly humane book, a dark mirror held up to our own world,” wrote Olivia Laing in the Observer. “Hilary Mantel is one of our bravest as well as most brilliant writers”.

The first author to win the Booker prize twice (and now claimed by Australia),  JM Coetzee is in with a third chance with Summertime, which is a September release. This latest novel from Coetzee completes his trilogy of fictionalised memoir begun with Boyhood and Youth, detailing the story of a young English biographer who is writing a book about the late author John Coetzee. Coetzee won the Nobel prize for literature in 2003.

It’s probably safe to say that the ‘autobiography’ of the chimpanzee who co-starred with Johnny Weissmuller in the Tarzan films, Me Cheeta by James Lever, is the first animal memoir to make it onto the Booker longlist. Me Cheeta, longlisted for the Guardian first book award last year, was called “the most audacious, funny and even moving novel that I have come across in years” by Nicholas Lezard.

James Scudamore is on the Booker longlist for his second novel, Heliopolis. A first person narrative, the book is told from the perspective of a 27-year-old who was born in a Sao Paolo shantytown but now lives on the other side of the city’s social divide. Scudamore’s first novel, The Amnesia Clinic, won the 2007 Somerset Maugham award and was shortlisted for the Costa first novel award and the Commonwealth writers’ prize.

Samantha Harvey’s debut The Wilderness, which was shortlisted for this year’s Orange prize, is the story of a man in his early 60s who is struggling with the onset of Alzheimers and trying to keep his memories and identity as the debilitating disease takes hold.

Sarah Waters, twice shortlisted for the Booker and the Orange prize, is in the running again with her fifth novel, The Little Stranger, a ghost story set in post-war Warwickshire.

Simon Mawer makes the cut with The Glass Room, a historical novel set in Czechoslovakia in the late 1930s. As war looms, newlyweds Viktor and Liesel Landauer, a Jew married to a gentile, move to a house on a hill with a unique glass room.

Love and Summer by William Trevor, which is yet to be published, is set in a small Irish town over the course of one long summer, when a stranger arrives on his bicycle and falls for a young married girl. Trevor, knighted for his services to literature in 2002, has won the Whitbread book of the year and the prestigious David Cohen literature award which recognises a lifetime’s achievement.

AS Byatt, who won the Booker in 1990 for Possession, is up this time for The Children’s Book. It deals with intertwined lives of four families at the turn of the 20th century as they experiment with bohemian living, each with their own secrets. The Sunday Times said it was easily the best book Byatt had written since Possession; the Guardian called it “staggeringly detailed and charged”.

Poet-novelist Adam Foulds is longlisted for The Quickening Maze, a historical reconstruction of the meeting of the poets John Clare and Alfred Tennyson at a lunatic asylum in Epping Forest. Foulds has already won the Costa poetry prize for his verse history of the Mau Mau uprisings, The Broken Word, and was named Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year in 2008.

Twice before shortlisted for the Booker, Colm Toibin has another chance to take the prize for his latest novel, Brooklyn, in which a young Irish woman leaves 1950s Ireland for a life in Brooklyn.

Ed O’Loughlin is the second debut novelist to make the Booker longlist, joining Samantha Harvey with his first novel Not Untrue & Not Unkind. The book follows the story of journalist Owen Simmons who finds a dossier on the desk of his dead newspaper editor which leads him to Africa and a woman he once loved. The Guardian called it “a worthy successor to The Quiet American”.

Sarah Hall is in the running for her fourth novel, How to Paint a Dead Man, which weaves together four stories spanning half a century, from an elderly Italian painter to the young blind girl he teaches. Hall, who won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize in 2007 for The Carhullan Army, was shortlisted for the Booker for her first novel, The Electric Michelangelo.

Ed O’Loughlin is the second debut novelist to make the Booker longlist, joining Samantha Harvey with his first novel Not Untrue & Not Unkind. The book follows the story of journalist Owen Simmons who finds a dossier on the desk of his dead newspaper editor which leads him to Africa and a woman he once loved. The Guardian called it “a worthy successor to The Quiet American”

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