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2016 Man Booker Shortlist: Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien

do not say we ahve nothing

Our next contender is a book that our panel were really split on in terms of odds for winning the prize. Four of our judges read the book. Here is what we each thought.

Jen’s Thoughts: I loved this book. While it had somewhat of a slow start for me, I really enjoyed reading it and like the integration of music and musical elements into the narrative style and plot.
Why it could win: ambitious, brilliantly written, family saga, historical fiction. The Man Booker judges tend to favor these epic historical fiction books that combine personal elements (family epics) and sociopolitical events. For example here are the prior 5 winners:  A Brief History of Seven Killings, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, The Luminaries, Bring up The Bodies, The Sense of an Ending. Four of those winners were ambitious historical fiction books. Of all the books on the shortlist, Thien’s book comes closest to the types of books that typically win.
Why it might not win: The only way I can see this losing is if the judges favor the edgier books and select The Sellout. I don’t think any of the other shortlist books even come close. Personally, I think this was the best book on the list and I’ll be stunned if it doesn’t win.

Nicole’s Thoughts:  This book was pretty uneven for me. It suffered from what I now call “The Goldfinch” effect, where the author is enamored of something and they want to make us enamored of it, so they drive the point home over and over and over to the degree it becomes irritating. It also gives the book a bit of an air of pretension. In this case, classical music is the culprit. OMG – I get it. But your words can’t make me hear the music, no matter how well they are written, so enough already. All in all – worth reading but award worthy? Not for me. It was just too flawed and structurally unoriginal.
Why it could win:  In part it’s a book about art, and how important art is and it shouldn’t be suppressed, and that’s the kind of thing judges on panels like this dig.  It’s multi-generational epic, with an interesting point in history of a country which is becoming more relevant every day.
Why it might not win: It’s really flawed, long, and had a very slow start (like 300 pages worth.)

Book Worm’s Thoughts: This was my favourite book from the list I adored everything about it.
Why it could win: Because it is an epic family saga with detailed historical information about a country that not everyone is familiar with. As Jen points out it fits in nicely with other previous winners.
Why it might not win: I agree with Jen this book should win and if it doesn’t, I can see it being because the judges have decided to court controversy and have chosen The Sellout.

Kate’s Thoughts: I wanted to love this book but in the end I couldn’t even finish it.  Maybe I was burned out from a heavy reading schedule but there it sits on the arm of my sofa, weeks after I started it, perpetually stuck on page 204.
Why it could win: Everybody else seemed to love it. It reminds me a bit of The Luminaries, which I also did not enjoy.
Why it might not win: I am probably not the only one who found it painfully slow to start.  I’m not that hard to hook, usually when I don’t enjoy books with great reviews its because they have some sort of gimmick or style that I find difficult.  This was easy to read, it just didn’t capture my imagination.

Andrew’s thoughts- did not read
Why it could win: Because everyone who has read it says it’s incredible.
Why it might not win: If I was a judge, I’d rule it out due to length.

Our judges were pretty split so we want to hear from you. Have you read it? What did you think? Do you think it will win the 2016 Man Booker?

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tracy S #

    I loved this one! The words flowed like the classical music the book referenced so often, and the story kept me captivated. I think this is the winner.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 18, 2016
  2. I just started this and I don’t find it slow-going at all. I can only assume this means good things to come for me and this book. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    October 18, 2016
    • I think that’s a good sign. Fantastic book, I hope you like it. I did find the beginning slow but not in a bad way. It was slow for me because the sheer number of characters, themes, alternating time frames and overall complexity made it feel very dense for me. But I still enjoyed it and appreciated reading it slowly to fully digest

      Liked by 1 person

      October 18, 2016
  3. I’ve also just started reading this and love the style. Based on what I’ve heard, I agree with Jen: I think this or The Sellout will win.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 18, 2016

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