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Booker Longlist: Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer

Book 8 – reviewed by panelists Book Worm, Jen, Nicole, & Tracy

Maddie Mortimer was born in London in 1996 to a family of writers: both her mother and her maternal grandfather were also authors.

Synopsis from Booker Prize website:

Under attack from within, Lia tries to keep the landscapes of her past, her present and her body separate. But time and bodies are porous, and unpredictable.

Something gleeful and malign is moving in Lia’s body. It shape-shifts down the banks of her canals, leaks through her tissue, nooks and nodes. It taps her trachea like the bones of a xylophone. It’s spreading.

Lia’s story is told, in part, by the very thing that’s killing her; a malevolent voice that wanders her systems, learning her from the inside-out. The novel moves between her past and her present as we come to understand the people that have shaped her life.

In turn, each of these take up their place in the battle raging within Lia’s body, at the centre of which dances the murderous narrator and a boy nicknamed ‘Red’ – the toxic chemo that is Lia’s last hope.

Tracy’s Thoughts: I liked the originality of this book- told from very different viewpoints, and one of those narrators is one I’d never thought of. 

The writing is good, the characters are good, the book is good. The problem is I read this ages ago, and I can’t remember much now. Maybe not a contender, after all. 

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 5/5
Character development: 2.5/4
Plot: 2/4
Enjoyment: 1/2
Total: 14.5/20

Book Worms Thoughts: I absolutely loved this book and for a young debut writer this is a really impressive and original work of fiction.

The book really does need to be read physically, audio will not give you quite the same experience as you will miss out of the page layouts which are almost as important as the words themselves. Think previous Booker nominee Lanny or Lincoln in the Bardo and you will get the general idea.

I loved the way we learn about a life from the inside out, literally, and the time shifts really worked for me. This is an intense story tightly focused on a women fighting for her survival and yet at the same time in manages to encompass so much of the world around her and the people she is closest to.

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

Jen’s Thoughts: I adored this book but I also ugly cried my way though the majority of it. Reading it when you’ve experience loss and grief in the recent past makes it a challenging read and I could only make a few pages at a time before requiring a break. It’s an emotionally heavy and heart-breaking book I felt it personally, having experienced loss and being a parent to a child of similar age to the one in the book. The writing is absolutely beautiful and is everything I love in a book. I tend to gravitate toward books that push conventional boundaries of style and structure and this book did that. The style reminded me of a combination House of Leaves and Grief is the Thing with Feathers. As others have mentioned, it’s a must-read as a print version and not audio since part of the experience is watching the author use words to convey images or visual sentiments. So far, I think this has been my favorite longlist book, however part of that is due to my personal connection and stylistic preferences. I think The Colony and The Trees were slightly more complex and nuanced books. That said, I would love to see this make the short list.

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

Nicole’s Thoughts:  My God. For me, this book was perfection. I started on audio and got very confused and quickly realized if I wanted to “get” this book the way it should be “gotten” it needed to be read, and I’m very glad I did. Reading this, every 3 sentences I said to myself, The. Writing. Is. So. Good. She thought of everything – it could have easily been too much, but for me it never was. There wasn’t a character, or a part of the story I didn’t love. My favorite was the unconventional narrator which I wish I hadn’t known about ahead of time, and I wish people were more cautious with things that are best discovered on a reader’s own.

It was heart-rending, it was funny – clever, original, creative, visual, just the right length and beautifully done. People were raving about this book ahead of the longlist, and I was so hesitant because raving often does not equal a book I will like, and as I now rave about this book, I invite you to take me with a grain of salt and see for yourself.

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

Our panel’s current rankings:

  1. The Colony 18.8
  2. Maps of our Spectacular Bodies – 18.1
  3. The Trees 16.4
  4. Oh William 15.6
  5. Small Things Like These 15.3
  6. Case Study 15
  7. Booth 13.7
  8. Night crawling 11.08

Was it spectacular for you?

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