And the 2015 Man Booker Shortlist books are…
The 2015 Man Booker Shortlist books were revealed today. Making the list were the following books:
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma:
Amazon summary: Told from the point of view of nine year old Benjamin, the youngest of four brothers, THE FISHERMEN is the Cain and Abel-esque story of an unforgettable childhood in 1990’s Nigeria, in the small town of Akure. When their strict father has to travel to a distant city for work, the brothers take advantage of his extended absence to skip school and go fishing. At the ominous, forbidden nearby river, they meet a dangerous local madman who persuades the oldest of the boys that he is destined to be killed by one of his siblings.
What happens next is an almost mythic event whose impact-both tragic and redemptive-will transcend the lives and imaginations of its characters and its readers. Dazzling and viscerally powerful, The Fishermen never leaves Akure but the story it tells has enormous universal appeal. Seen through the prism of one family’s destiny, this is an essential novel about Africa with all of its contradictions-economic, political, and religious-and the epic beauty of its own culture.
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
Amazon Summary:“It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon. . .” This is how Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate togetherness: an indefinable, enviable kind of specialness. But they are also like all families, in that the stories they tell themselves reveal only part of the picture. Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. From Red’s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century, here are four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their anchor.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Amazon Summary: On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert to ease political tensions in Kingston, seven unnamed gunmen stormed the singer’s house, machine guns blazing. The attack wounded Marley, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. Little was officially released about the gunmen, but rumors abounded regarding the assassins’ fates. A Brief History of Seven Killings is James’s fictional exploration of that dangerous and unstable time in Jamaica’s history and beyond. Deftly spanning decades and continents and peopled with a wide range of characters—assassins, drug dealers, journalists, and even ghosts—James brings to life the people who walked the streets of 1970s Kingston, who dominated the crack houses of 1980s New York, and who reemerged into a radically altered Jamaica of the 1990s. Brilliantly inventive, A Brief History of Seven Killings is an “exhilarating” (The New York Times) epic that’s been called “a tour de force” (The Wall Street Journal).
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
Amazon Summary: From the author of Remainder and C (short-listed for the Man Booker Prize), and a winner of the Windham-Campbell Literature Prize, comes Satin Island, an unnerving novel that promises to give us the first and last word on the world—modern, postmodern, whatever world you think you are living in.
U., a “corporate anthropologist,” is tasked with writing the Great Report, an all-encompassing ethnographic document that would sum up our sera. Yet at every turn, he feels himself overwhelmed by the ubiquity of data, lost in buffer zones, wandering through crowds of apparitions, willing them to coalesce into symbols that can be translated into some kind of account that makes sense. As he begins to wonder if the Great Report might remain a shapeless, oozing plasma, his senses are startled awake by a dream of an apocalyptic cityscape.
In Satin Island, Tom McCarthy captures—as only he can—the way we experience our world, our efforts to find meaning (or just to stay awake) and discern the narratives we think of as our lives.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Amazon Summary: Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting, and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light. Truly an amazement—and a great gift for its publisher.
When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.
In rich and resplendent prose, Yanagihara has fashioned a tragic and transcendent hymn to brotherly love, a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the tyranny of memory and the limits of human endurance.
The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota
Amazon Summary: Randeep’s middle-class family is sinking into poverty and he is sent abroad through a visa marriage to support them and make a new life. Avtar travels to England with Randeep on a student visa, the loss of which will lead him to make an unimaginable choice. Tochi is a dalit, an untouchable, who saw his family massacred and escaped to England with nothing but the scars on his back and a relentless will to live. Narinder is Randeep’s visa wife, a pious Sikh whose connection to these men will prove both elusive and essential. Although they have little in common, these four will be drawn into an unforgettable relation as their fates and livelihoods become irreversibly entangled. Sprawling and urgent, magnificent in its depiction of adversity and the stubborn resilience of the spirit, The Year of the Runaways captures an extraordinary swath of human experience—and lives lived invisibly, under the radar, in insular communities or solitary desperation. At once shattering in its portrait of enveloping violence and adversity and astonishing in its defiant vision of hope. No one who reads this novel will ever look at the world in the same way again.
I did terribly in my predictions. I guessed three correctly (A Brief History, Satin Island, & A Little Life). Book Worm predicted four of them (A Little Life, A Brief History of Seven Killings, Satin Island, and The Fishermen).
Together we will have read all the shortlisted books. Yesterday we posted our personal rankings of the books and here was the list (hyperlinks will take you to our reviews):
- Little Life: (based on Jen’s rating) & The Illuminations (based on Book Worm’s Rating): 18/20
- The Chimes by Anna Smaill 17.25 (average rating Jen & Book Worm)
- The Fishermen (based on Jen’s rating) & Sleeping on Jupiter (based on Jen’s rating): 16/20
- Lila & The Year of the Runaways (both based on book worm ratings): 15/20
- The Moor’s Account by Lalami: 14.5/20 (review to follow by Jen)
- A Spool of Blue Thread: 14/20 (based on book worm’s rating)
- The Green Road (joint rating) & Satin Island (book worm’s rating): 13/20
A History of Seven Killings likely would have made our list, but Book Worm is still reading it. She will post her review when done. I was very surprised that neither Lila nor the Green Road made it although The Green Road did not our our list either.
I’m personally glad that A Little Life made the list because it was the only one that stood out to me. I do plan on reading the books on the shortlist that I wasn’t able to get to – which means most of them. Clearly, I read the wrong half of the list.
We want to hear from you! What do you think about the shortlist books? Any major surprises on the list? Which books should have made the cut?