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Booker Longlist: Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo

Book 12 – reviewed by panelists Book Worm, Anita, Jen, and Tracy.

NoViolet Bulawayo’s debut novel, We Need New Names, was shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize.

Synopsis from Booker Prize website:

This energetic and exhilarating joyride from NoViolet Bulawayo is the story of an uprising, told by a vivid chorus of animal voices that help us see our human world more clearly. 

A long time ago, in a bountiful land not so far away, the animals lived quite happily. Then the colonisers arrived. After nearly a hundred years, a bloody War of Liberation brought new hope for the animals – along with a new leader: a charismatic horse who commanded the sun and ruled and ruled – and kept on ruling…

Glory tells the story of a country trapped in a cycle as old as time. And yet, as it unveils the myriad tricks required to uphold the illusion of absolute power, it reminds us that the glory of tyranny only lasts as long as its victims are willing to let it.

So what did our panel think? Keep reading to find out.

Tracy’s Thoughts: I liked the concept of this book a lot. Anthropomorphizing animals to show the deposition of a dictator is a very creative way for the author to distance herself from the story. (And I love how she portrayed a certain leader as a tweeting baboon- can’t get much more accurate than that!) 

Again, colonialism is a big part of a longlist book, and Bulawayo pulls no punches- using the animals to great effect to show how it wrecks a country, putting leaders in power that care more about status than their people. 

I wish I had read this, instead of listening, because I feel like I missed a large part of the plot, and the clever dialog and descriptions may be better read than heard. That, however, is on me, not the author. 

This is certainly a worthy Booker book. 

Writing quality: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Character development: 3.5/4
Plot: 3/4
Enjoyment: 1.5/2
Total: 18/20

Anita’s Thoughts:  For me, this book landed in an interesting way. I like modern architecture . . .and when I see it, I love it in many, many forms. But if I happen to see, say, Cathedrale Notre-Dame . . .yeah, it’s not modern, but like WOW, right? That’s exactly how I felt about this book. I don’t like satire as a general rule, and this book was certainly satirical. And I hate magical realism, and this book had touches of that. And usually, I like stories that are told in straightforward language, but with original telling details that say it all. And this book was more like a super talented preacher was giving a brilliant sermon – – rhythmic and repetitive (in a good way) and more lush. I wouldn’t want this to be my everyday reading experience, and I wouldn’t necessarily seek another book like it out. But when you stumble upon something masterful, you know. I think this one will be polarizing (like a Milkman or a Ducks, Newburyport), but for once I am on the love side of the equation.

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

BookWorm’s Thoughts: I hate to have to say it but I really disliked this book so far it is my least favourite of the longlist and I only have 2 books to go. This book is 400 odd pages long and personally I feel it would have been a better reading experience if it was half the length which could have been partway achieved by cutting out the un-necessary repetition.

I appreciate what the author was doing with this story but man did it drag on.

The highlights for me were the sections told in Twitter format and when we overhead the population talking in queues rather than following the story of the main characters. One of the things that really stood out for me were the sections detailing how life had spiralled out of control with high inflation, depleted fuel stocks, lack of food and the general populations facing poverty I could not help compare this with the situation in the UK at the moment. We are not as bad as Jidada but it is easy to see how it could happen and yes bribery, corruption and lies play an important part in this.

This one didn’t work for me so it is bound to be shortlisted.

Writing quality: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 0/2
Total: 12/20

Jen’s Thoughts: From an enjoyment perspective, I’m with Book Worm on this one but with one book left for me to read, I think this will make the shortlist. I think for me this came down to a personal preference. The book reminded me too much of Animal Farm which I read in middle school (probably too young to read and fully enjoy) and loathed. I did find it humorous that the author addresses this comparison head on in the first chapter through one of the characters, stating that “this is no animal farm.” I just couldn’t get Animal Farm out of my head. Trying to be more objective, I think this book was well written and centered on an interesting topic. I also think that despite my personal reactions to it, it was clever and probably merits a spot on the shortlist.

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 4/5
Character development: 2/4
Plot development:4 /4
Overall enjoyment: 0/2
Total: 14/20

Our panel’s Rankings

  1. The Colony 18.8
  2. Maps of our Spectacular Bodies – 18.1
  3. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida 18
  4. The Trees 16.4
  5. Oh William 15.6
  6. Small Things Like These 15.3
  7. Glory 15.25
  8. Case Study 15
  9. Booth 13.7
  10. The Treacle Walker: 13
  11. Trust 12.6
  12. Night crawling 11.08

Have you read it?  What do you think?

One Comment Post a comment
  1. This screams Animal Farm Redux to me, so I will probably read it. I read Animal Farm first in school, and I recently reread it (audio) and still really liked it. That’s at least 55 years in between (yes, I’m old).

    Liked by 1 person

    September 3, 2022

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