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2015 Man Booker Longlist: The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan


Next up in attempt to make our way through the 2015 Man Book Longlist books is O’Hagan’s The Illuminations. Keep reading to see if it is a contender for our shortlist.

The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan
Published in: 2015
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Find it/buy it here:The Illuminations: A Novel

I must start off by saying how much I loved this book! I found the characters to be well developed, flawed, and very alive. Throughout the book, I was either rooting for them, relating to them, or berating them for their behavior. To say I was invested in the outcome is an understatement.

I have given this 6 points for originality because in terms of the books I have personally read, I have not so far come across one like this.

The premise of the novel is how one woman (Anne) has kept her real self hidden from her family for years. As she sits in a nursing home, with advancing dementia, the past she has so carefully hidden is slipping out in unguarded moments. Slowly the past becomes more real to her than the present.

While Anne is losing her present, her grandson Luke, a soldier in Afghanistan, is wishing he could lose his present. Meanwhile, her daughter Alice feels a burning need to understand the past so she can make sense of who she is, and can move on with her future.

This is a story about the kind of damage family members can inflict on each other just by being who they are.  As readers, we come to see that the only way to truly move forward  is to reconcile yourself with the truths of the past.

The writing is beautiful here are a couple of my favourite quotes;

“She came quite regularly to see him and always left feeling better, but it annoyed her the way he found every problem so familiar. It was clearly part of his effort at cheerfulness and she found herself hoping he was a secret drinker”

“Colour is light on fire”

“Even as the chill of the icebox caressed her hand”

These quotes relate to everyday events — talking to the doctor and getting ice cream from the freezer — but as you can see how those simple acts are transformed into something else by the use of language.

Here are my ratings for this book:
Available in English 1/1
Published in the UK: 1/1
Originality: 6/8
Character Complexity: 5 / 5
Writing Quality: 5 / 5
Total: 18/20

As you may have guessed this would make my shortlist and so far it is my top contender for the win. Advanced warning — unless you have a heart of stone, have the tissues handy. You have been warned.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: The Illuminations: A Novel

Here our rankings of books to date:

  1. A Little Life: (based on Jen’s rating) & The Illuminations (based on Book Worm’s Rating): 18/20
  2. Lila: 15/20 (based on book worm’s rating)
  3. A Spool of Blue Thread: 14/20 (based on book worm’s rating)
  4. The Green Road (joint rating) & Satin Island (book worm’s rating): 13/20

Coming up early next week will be Jen’s review of The Fishermen.

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? Would it make your shortlist? Fellow bloggers, if you’ve reviewed this book, feel free to put your links in the comment section.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jo #

    Hmmm – I was less than keen on this book, and it’s interesting to see another perspective on it. I do believe that I may have just missed the point with it, but I didn’t enjoy the disjointed style of it at all, and I struggled to get into it. My thoughts can be found here:

    Liked by 1 person

    September 4, 2015
  2. I’ve read a few of A O’H’s articles in The London Review of Books. He has some quite complicated ideas and has done some interesting research about identity, so I bet they provide a fascinating underpinning to this novel. I would really like to read this novel after reading your review.


    September 6, 2015

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