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2018 Man Booker Longlist: In Our Mad and Furious City

in our mad

Number 12 for our panel is In our Mad and Furious City. Book Worm and I both read it, Nicole started it but hasn’t finished it yet but hopefully she will add her thoughts to the comments section. Here are our two reviews.

In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne
2018 Man Booker (longlist)
Published in: 2018
Judges: Nicole, Jen, Book Worm
Find it/buy it here: In our Mad and Furious City

Synopsis (From Amazon): For Selvon, Ardan and Yusuf, growing up under the towers of Stones Estate, summer means what it does anywhere: football, music, freedom. But now, after the killing of a British soldier, riots are spreading across the city, and nowhere is safe.

While the fury swirls around them, Selvon and Ardan remain focused on their own obsessions, girls and grime. Their friend Yusuf is caught up in a different tide, a wave of radicalism surging through his local mosque, threatening to carry his troubled brother, Irfan, with it.

Provocative, raw, poetic yet tender, IN OUR MAD AND FURIOUS CITY marks the arrival of a major new talent in fiction.

Book Worm’s Review:  Nicole previously commented that the American books on the longlist were showing America in a negative light, well this time it’s the turn of London and boy is this a bleak view of the city.

The story is told from multiple perspectives with sections remembering the 70s and sections in the modern day. Each section is told by a specific character and as this is a multicultural novel several dialects and slang are used, this can sometimes feel jarring as you are plunged from one dialect to another.

I must confess I didn’t enjoy this book at all but then I don’t think this is a book you are meant to enjoy. This is a book with a message about intolerance and hatred and how both are easily bred.

The events in the story shadow real life events that have occurred in London and the surrounding areas in recent years. This makes the message of the book realistic and also the outlook for London bleak. What gives the story hope is the central young characters who are all from different cultures but who only view each other in terms of friendship and what they have in common.

The young characters are all male and I hate the way women are treated within this story. The language the boys use about women and how they are only considered in terms of sex. I really hope this is not a realistic view as it shows that nothing has changed and nothing has been learned from the days the “me to” movement references.

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 3/5
Character Development: 3/4
Plot Development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 0/2
Total: 13/20

Jen’s Review: I thought this book was fantastic, raw, powerful, and bleak. As Book Worm mentions above, it was not exactly an enjoyable read. It’s bleak, depressing, and all too realistic given recent political and social events. I didn’t necessarily enjoy reading it but I appreciated it and I was engaged so unlike Book Worm, I’m giving it full points for enjoyment.

This book is dazzlingly written and is probably one of the few books on the long list that stands out from the pack. It’s gritty and the ways in which it mirrors recent events makes the reader uneasy. It is a book that will stay with me, much like A Long Take. The narrative voice, or voices, feel genuine and over the course of the book, although some voices are captured better than others so there’s a little unevenness across sections. However, in general, I found myself being able to really get inside the heads of these characters.

Book Worm mentions the treatment of women and I partially agree. Women aren’t treated well in this book but the main characters are teenage boys in a tense and stressful environment. So while I found certain sections around their relationships with women hard to read, I thought it was perhaps a genuine portrayal. Once again, gender (in this case masculinity) plays an important role in the book and political themes abound.

If this book doesn’t make the shortlist, I’ll lose all hope in the judges.

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

Combined panel score: 15.5/20

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. Everything Under (15.5/20) ** Based on only two reviews.
5. In our Man and Furious City (15.5/20) ** Based on only two reviews.
7. Washington  Black (15/20) ** Based on only two reviews.
8. Milkman (14.8/20)
9. The Water Cure by Mackintosh (14.2)
10. The Mars Room (14/20)
11. Snap (11.5/20)
12. 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. Tracy S #

    When I read this one, I was positive I’d read the winner. It’s gritty and uncomfortable, but could be realistic anywhere.


    September 17, 2018
  2. I’m glad I modified my shortlist predictions. I’m struggling with this, on page 50something and just bored. The writing is good, ennet? But having trouble finding the plot (not the literal plot, though that too)


    September 18, 2018

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