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2018 Man Booker Shortlist musings

Well, I let the ball drop and wrote down the wrong date for the Man Booker announcement in my calendar. Tomorrow BST, the winner will announced. Our panel collectively read all short listed books. Here are a few of our thoughts about the shortlist. Tomorrow morning we will post our final predictions. 

washington blackWashington Black

Jen’s Thoughts: I didn’t love this book. It was just okay for me and it’s not a book that will stand out for me over the years.
Why it could win: Esi Edugyan is highly acclaimed and this book is touted as an interesting exploration of identity.
Why it might not win: As I mentioned above, it was a book that I found to be fairly solid but nothing overly memorable.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: While I enjoyed some of the adventure aspect of this book I felt it got out of control and unbelievable quickly.
Why it could win: I really don’t think it should.
Why it might not win: I personally wouldn’t have shortlisted this because it was unrealistic and nothing exciting in terms of style.

Nicole’s Thoughts: There was nothing about this book I appreciated or enjoyed.  Didn’t like the characters, the plot line was ridiculous, the writing was tediously average.  It was the longest 350 pages ….. 
Why it could win
:  author ticks a lot of boxes
Why it might not win:  Boring, unoriginal, ridiculous

Lisa’s Thoughts: I have not read this book.
Why it could win: The book has an intersection of themes around both travel and race.
Why it might not win: It seems like the book is long and the plot is winding and not always realistic.

Anita’s Thoughts:  Washington Black was my personal favorite of the books I finished.
Why it could win
: This book uses a straightforward narrative style to weave a tale that’s definitely deeper than it first appears and touches on issues of identity, race, and motivation.  Writing is Donna Tartt caliber.
Why it might not win:  Some may find it too fantastical and the structure too mundane.

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everything underEverything Under: 

Jen’s Thoughts: meh. I thought it was a creative take on the myth but overall it did not stand out as particularly memorable or enjoyable for me (a theme of this year’s shortlist).
Why it could win: One of the judges is a feminist writer with interest in psychoanalysis. Clearly this is her pick.
Why it might not win: I don’t know. I personally didn’t love it but others do like it.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: This is my favourite book on the shortlist it really spoke to me and the language was magical and transporting.
Why it could win: Debut novel, female writer, ideas about language and how important it is to understanding the world and it’s a beautiful book.
Why it might not win: The Long Take is more original in terms of writing and The Overstory hits all the right notes in every category we rated the books on.

Nicole’s Thoughts:  Haven’t read this one
Why it could win
: Because it’s the only one I haven’t at least attempted

Lisa’s Thoughts: I could not stick this one out. I started it, and I just got bored.  I will try again, with the paper copy instead of electronic, and see if that makes a difference.  I do love the cover art.
Why it could win: Obviously the judges did not have the same experience I did, and others seem to really appreciate the book.
Why it might not win: I hope it doesn’t.  Obviously I liked other options better.

Anita’s Thoughts:  I’m thinking this one could take the prize.  My emotional self loved reading it.  My intellectual self was critical. The ending of the book didn’t quite work for me.
Why it could win
: Good storytelling and use of suspense while drawing on mythology and still being original (enough) in structure.
Why it might not win:  Last year’s Home Fire didn’t win, and it tried something similar.

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the long takeThe Long Take:

Jen’s Thoughts: This was by far my favorite book on the shortlist. It was creative, interesting, and beautifully written. I loved it.
Why it could win: It pushes the boundary of the novel, is well written, and truly creative.
Why it might not win: The best, most creative books often don’t win.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: I really loved this full length story in the form of a poem, the poetical pacing really added to the emotional impact of the central story.
Why it could win: This is the most original book on the shortlist in terms of writing.
Why it might not win: Traditionally longer more in depth books like The Overstory have won and the judges may decide it is time for a female winner.

Nicole’s Thoughts: I have not finished this book yet, what I’ve read is beautiful, it just requires concentration that I have not been able to give – Life has gotten in the way.  
Why it could win
: Truly original structure and beautiful writing, author could be a sentimental favorite.
Why it might not win:  I mean, I’m hoping for a woman this year and it’s obviously not fair to say somebody worthy won’t win because of it.  I’m just happy Snap is out of the running.  But actually, poem as full length novel might not work for everybody.

Lisa’s Thoughts: I started to read this, and I could appreciate that it is beautifully written. But I got bored and did not finish the book. There were other things I really wanted to spend my time reading.
Why it could win: Poem as full-length novel
Why it might not win: Male author.

Anita’s Thoughts: Sadly, this book is the one that I most wanted to read of the short list, and it wasn’t available in the U.S., so I didn’t get the chance.
Why it could win
: It sounds like one of the most original offerings.
Why it might not win: My gut feeling says that since a woman hasn’t won since 2013, that the male writers are disadvantaged this year.

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overstoryThe Overstory

Jen’s Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book while at the same time recognizing that it had some flaws. Overall, it’s one of the strongest books on the shortlist (for me). It was beautifully written, albeit a tad too drawn out at times, and the structure was clever and creative.
Why it could win: Beautifully written, well thought out, and creatively structured.
Why it might not win: Powers is a white American male novelist. I’m pretty sure an American won’t be winning this year and I’m almost as sure that it won’t be a man winning.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: I really didn’t enjoy reading this one it was long drawn out and in places repetitive. That said some of the writing was really beautiful and certain quotes really struck me.
Why it could win: Technically this is the best book on the shortlist and on paper it looks like a perfect winner.
Why it might not win: Because the judges decide that it should be a female winner this year or they go for originality and choose The Long Take.

Nicole’s Thoughts:  Though imperfect, there was a lot of love about this book.  It was massive in scope and substance.   
Why it could win
:  Original, topical, well-crafted novel
Why it might not win:  I don’t think a man, or an American will win this year

Lisa’s Thoughts: I enjoyed reading this book; I really liked the structure of having what are essentially short stories in the first part of the book and then weaving together the characters later in the book.
Why it could win: Clever structure that really works; beautiful writing; the ability to make trees be characters in the novel.
Why it might not win: Written by an American man. We did that last year.

Anita’s Thoughts:  I only have had the merest taste of this book as I’m about 10% finished.  
Why it could win
: The bookmakers have it as the favorite.  I’ve seen almost no negative comments about it so it could be the consensus choice of a panel.
Why it might not win:  Another American male winner? Doubt it.

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the milkmanMilkman

Jen’s Thoughts: I did NOT enjoy this book but I also can see why others would love it. I don’t have to love a book to appreciate it and I do appreciate this book. The author is quite skilled and the book has literary merit.
Why it could win: It’s different, topical, and a critic’s favorite.
Why it might not win: The narrative style makes it a love it or hate it sort of book.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: I was not a fan of this book the technique of naming characters based on their relationship to the narrator, for example maybe boyfriend, felt like a gimmick I was left with the impression that the characters had names and then a simple find and replace was used to change them to their generic descriptions.
Why it could win: It did manage to create a feeling of oppression based on paranoia and it showed how living under an oppressive regime could feel.
Why it might not win: I think it would be too abstract for a lot of readers who like me will not connect with the characters or the story.

Nicole’s Thoughts:  I loved this book and still find myself thinking about it.  I loved the “unnamed” characters and places and the multiple themes through the story.  
Why it could win
:  It’s time for a woman to win, and Irish woman make sense.
Why it might not win: So many found it a slog.

Lisa’s Thoughts: This is my favorite on the short list. I just loved listening to it. I thought it was hilarious and clever and so evocative of the dystopia of Northern Ireland in the late 70s.
Why it could win: See my comments above.
Why it might not win: Some people really don’t like it (see above, see below). But I think it should win.

Anita’s Thoughts:  My least favorite Man Booker nominee. Ever.
Why it could win
:  Apparently there’s something good about this book because most of my literary fiction loving friends thought it was outstanding.  Except Jen, which kept me from feeling like I was insane.
Why it might not win: The voice was like nails on a chalkboard.

And there you have it. Which books were your favorites? Which were your least favorites? 

Tomorrow we’ll post our predictions. And then tomorrow night BST the winner will be announced. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mars roomMars Room: 

Jen’s Thoughts: I thought this was a solid book but again nothing particularly creative, novel, or unique. This book reminded me of a well written episode of Orange is the New Black. Is it good? Yes. Is it the best book of the year? I don’t think so.
Why it could win: It was meticulously researched, well written, and an high interest topic area.
Why it might not win: She’s an American author and I simply don’t think the award will go to an American author.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: I really enjoyed this look at the prison system in America and how it is failing vulnerable women, I liked the switching viewpoints and the slow build up to the big reveal about what crime Romy actually committed.
Why it could win: This is a timely look at how society treats women.
Why it might not win: While I feel it deserved to make the shortlist I don’t think it will actually win as compared to the others this feels quite lightweight.

Nicole’s Thoughts:  I remain utterly unconnected to this novel in any meaningful way and its place on the shortlist baffles me.  
Why it could win
: A window into a women’s world not frequently considered or much explored (despite OITNB, which is a cotton candy version of this)
Why it might not win:  Zero emotion, average writing

Lisa’s Thoughts: I read through this, and as Jen said to me, it seemed a lot like Orange is the New Black. So, I didn’t find it very original.
Why it could win: I don’t think it will.
Why it might not win: The writing style and structure for some of the other books was so much more interesting and original.

Anita’s Thoughts:  This book felt very realistic to me, and since I like non-fiction, I enjoyed it.
Why it could win
: It’s very well researched?  I’ll be shocked if this one wins.
Why it might not win:  There’s no category (originality, language, plot development, structure, etc.) where this stands out above the other competitors.

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