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2017 Man Booker Shortlist: Exit West

Over the next month, our panel will be giving their thoughts on each of the nominated shortlist books. We’ll tell you briefly what we think of the book, the reasons we think it might win, and the reasons why it might not win. Next up is Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. Keep reading to see what we think about whether it will be our 2017 Man Booker winner.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Published:  (US publication date): March 2017
Read our full panel reviews here: Exit West
Find it/buy it here: Exit West

Amazon Synopsis: In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .

Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

Jen’s Thoughts: I really enjoyed Exit West and I think Hamid is a very talented writer. The book is written with a deceptively simple style but is layered and complex. It’s another favorite of mine on the shortlist.
Why it could win: It’s highly relevant in theme and content. The judges this year seem to be more open to experimental, playful, and magical elements, and the magical elements in this book are brilliantly woven in to a very serious book about emigration and refugees.
Why it might not win: I have no idea. I think it has a good shot of winning. Not everyone loves the magical realism elements (judging from other reviews) but this panel of judges do seem to like less conventional narratives.

Book Worm’s Thoughts:  I was not blown away by this book. I found it average and lacking in background information.
Why it could win: It is topical, it deals with the controversial subject of refugees/immigration, and it has that touch of magical realism.
Why it might not win: The author is an established author and the overall outcome of the novel is too rosy without explaining how we got to this happy medium.

Nicole’s Thoughts:  I adored this book, thought it timely, relevant, and really well done.   
Why it could win:  This is my prediction for the win.  The arts provide a forum for those who fight for recognition in a world stacked against them, and I think a Pakistani author writing (brilliantly) about refugees deserves that recognition.
Why it might not win: It’s really not the best book on the list, as good as it is.  Panel may decide to award a woman this year.

Lisa’s Thoughts: Of the 4.05 books I have read (I’m 40 pages into 4321), this is my favorite for the prize.
Why it could win:  It has a lovely clean narrative arc. Tells a story about human connection in the context of international crisis.
Why it might not win: Because Autumn, which is also beautifully written, might win.

Anita’s Thoughts: This is the book I actually think will win as opposed to the book I’d like to see win (Lincoln in the Bardo).
Why it could win: This book has it all: top notch prose, a current topic (refugees) that it addresses in a fresh, but timeless manner, and a story line that investigates aspects of humanity.  Plus a dash of originality.
Why it might not win: No idea.  I think this book has all the marks of a winner.  And it’s not a risky choice.

Andrew’s thoughts –This was another book that I was excited to read based on reviews, but ultimately left me feeling indifferent. I thought the plot moved slowly, I wasn’t drawn the characters, and the magical realism didn’t do much for me.
Why it could win: This is an extremely topical book and effectively covers the horrors and difficulties faced by those who are forced to emigrate their native land due to war. And the writing, as it was with all the books I read, is very strong.
Why it might not win: I’m a strong believer that major awards should go to transformative works. I’m not sure Exit West rises to that bar. Is there’s enough here to set this book apart from the field?

We want to hear from you. Have you read it? What did you think? Do you think it will win the 2016 Man Booker?

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Tracy S #

    There are so many good books on this year’s list. I’m glad I’m not a judge!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 4, 2017

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