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2018 Man Booker Longlist: The Long Take

the long take

Book #9 for our panel is a book that was only read by two of us: The Long Take by Robin Roberston. Here are our reviews…

The Long Take by Robin Robertson
2018 Man Booker (longlist)
Published in: 2018
Judges: Nicole, Jen, Book Worm
Find it/buy it here: The Long Take

Synopsis (From Amazon): A noir narrative written with the intensity and power of poetry, The Long Take is one of the most remarkable – and unclassifiable – books of recent years.

Walker is a D-Day veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder; he can’t return home to rural Nova Scotia, and looks instead to the city for freedom, anonymity and repair. As he moves from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco we witness a crucial period of fracture in American history, one that also allowed film noir to flourish. The Dream had gone sour but – as those dark, classic movies made clear – the country needed outsiders to study and dramatise its new anxieties.

While Walker tries to piece his life together, America is beginning to come apart: deeply paranoid, doubting its own certainties, riven by social and racial division, spiralling corruption and the collapse of the inner cities. The Long Take is about a good man, brutalised by war, haunted by violence and apparently doomed to return to it – yet resolved to find kindness again, in the world and in himself.

Robin Robertson’s The Long Take is a work of thrilling originality.

Book Worm’s Review: Before reading this I was skeptical that a poem could actually be used as the medium to produce a full scale novel. Having read it, I can confirm that it works, and in this case it works really well.

The writing is by turns brutal and beautiful and reading it with the pacing of the poem really adds to the story.

While very little actually happens, I never felt bored and the book never dragged. At the end of the story we don’t actually know much more about Walker than we did at the beginning but I was OK with that. Over the course of the novel we learn what has contributed to his post traumatic stress and also why he is fascinated by telling the story of the homeless people he seeks out. I also enjoyed the repeated references to the 4th of July fireworks and how they bring back vivid memories of war.

My copy also included several black and white photos that really capture the atmosphere of the time and place they are representing. These are a great addition to the story.

For me this is a genuinely unique book with a unique way of story telling, even if you don’t like poetry you should read this just for the experience.

Writing quality: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Character Development: 2/4
Plot Development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 17/20

Jen’s Review: I was beginning to think the judges this year had lost their minds in making their selections. I still think that with some of the books on the list. This year’s long list, seemed largely about pushing the boundaries of what types of novels/genres are Booker worthy and I thought that at least some of the judges were pushing choices based on their own backgrounds rather than on true literary merit. So when I came across this book, I was skeptical thinking, “here we go again.” Is a book of poetry, the sort of book that should make the list (not that poetry isn’t worthy, but it belongs in its own prize category? Poems are not novels).

I was wrong. This book deserves a spot on this list. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read and I loved it for its originality, beautifully language, and evocative passages.

It all flooded in then, and he talked and talked
about the flashbacks and tinnitus, the hearing loss and panic attacks
and how he’d flipped at the building site
The way he’d held himself together like a piece of glass
‘I used to have a family of two hundred men, a company,
and we were all we had. Watching each other’s backs
And after that, I’m lost. I’m fucking lost.’

The Long Take is a novel. It contains poetry and prose, although the majority of the book is in the form of poetry. It’s quite brilliant as a book and emotionally very powerful. I felt great sadness while reading it. As Book Worm mentions, it’s not an action-packed book but it is nevertheless very engaging. This is not a happy or optimistic book. It tells follows Walker, a young Canadian WWII soldier, after he returns from the war. Walker tries to escape his war memories by traveling to the US and getting lost in various cities, mainly New York and Los Angeles. The imagery in the book is extremely vivid. Robertson uses war imagery, in the form of Walker’s memories and intersperses them throughout descriptions of various American cities and the parallel are jarring and uncomfortable. The novel explores mental health issues, homelessness, PTSD, crumbling post-war America, and other topics.

The language is dazzling, beautiful, and very effective. I very much enjoyed this book and would have never picked it up if not for the long list. It’s probably one of my favorite books so far. The one critique I had was that it felt more modern than post-WWII in it’s language and ways in which the characters interacted with others. Otherwise, a raw and interesting book.

Writing quality: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Character Development: 3/4
Plot Development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 18/20

Ranking of longlist books:
1. Overstory (18/20)
2. The Long Take (17.5/20) ** Based on only two reviews.
3. From a Low and Quiet Sea (17.2/20)
4. Warlight (15.56/20)
5. Milkman (14.8/20)
6. The Water Cure by Mackintosh (14.2)
7. The Mars Room (14/20)
8. Snap (11.5/20)
9. Sabrina (9.5/20)

We want to hear from you. Have you read the book? What did you think? Does it deserve to make the shortlist? Why or why not?

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Susie #

    I very much enjoyed this one too. I wish I could have read it in one sitting.


    September 13, 2018
  2. mootastic1 #

    Even if it doesn’t make the shortlist, I’m still going to make a point of reading this one. My library system didn’t order it, so I may have to break down and buy it.


    September 15, 2018

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