Random (sort-of) Bookish Thoughts -14 February 2016

I am writing this from the cafe of the British Library. I know, how cool am I, hanging out at the British Library on a Sunday afternoon. I have just been to the BL’s current exhibition, ‘West Africa – Word, Symbol, Song’. It rounds off quite a cultural couple of weeks (by BooksAhoy standards, at least) and, as some of my recent outings have been at least tangentially book-related, I thought I’d share:

  • The Friday before last, a group of friends and I saw the comedian Isy Suttie, for a friend’s birthday. This is probably the most tenuous link but, well, she has just written a book, so her current tour is a cross between a stand-up comedy tour and a sort of book promotion junket. The show (and the book, apparently) are all about getting to your late twenties/early thirties and finding everybody growing up around you, whilst you are still behaving like a nineteen-year-old. I can relate.
  • On Monday, I saw the European Union Chamber Orchestra. I didn’t think this would be book-related, but during the first half they played a symphony by Shostakovich – the subject of The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes (review published yesterday). Complete coincidence, but a nice one!
  • Yesterday afternoon, I watched the Saturday matinee of As You Like It at the National Theatre. It’s not one of the plays I was particularly familiar with, but the staging was excellent (in particular the transition from civilisation – a fluorescent modern office – to a Forest of Arden built from suspended office furniture. It sounds weird, but it was hugely atmospheric, and the play itself was great – a reminder of how very Shakespearean modernity really is, or maybe vice versa. There is a good article about Rosalie Craig (Rosalind) and Polly Findlay (director) here: http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2015/nov/02/as-you-like-it-shakespeare-national-theatre-london-rosalie-craig-polly-findlay-interview – although, if you follow the link to the appalling review of Polly Findlay’s Merchant of Venice, I actually thought that production was pretty amazing too.
  • I wouldn’t have come to the British Library’s West Africa exhibition if I hadn’t recently read ‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’m glad I did, though. There was a little too much history and not quite enough literature, which is an observation I’ve made about some British Library exhibitions before, but overall it’s a pretty minor grumble.

Reading-wise, I read The Ramblers (which isn’t great) and am halfway through Mrs Dalloway (which is). I also owe the blog reviews of Americanah, Exposure, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, and I’d like to write one of Scottsboro as well. Behind, as always. I’m really glad to be reading, though. For the last couple of years at this time, I’ve slipped into a late-winter-early-spring reading slump; I’m glad it doesn’t seem to be an annual thing!

Happy Sunday everyone!

Sunshine Blogger Award

Aww! Thanks a million to the lovely Jo of the lovely Jo’s Book Blog for my Sunshine Blogger Award nomination http://josbookblog.co.uk/2016/02/02/sunshine-blogger-award/ . Jo’s blog has been responsible for more than one addition to my TBR, so head over there with care…(No, but seriously, you should head over there, though.)

Here’s how the award works:

  • Thank the person that nominated you
  • Answer the 11 questions they set for you
  • Nominate 11 other bloggers (and let them know they were nominated!)
  • Set 11 questions for them to answer

Here are my responses to Jo’s 11 questions:

    1. What is your favourite book? – Just one? Impossible! Gah…..OK. I change my mind on this a lot, but in the end, I always go back to Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. I first read it at 18, and it really opened my eyes to the possibilities of language. It also fed my life-long obsession with interest in India, which is a bonus!
    2. Do you judge a book by its cover? – Guilty… honestly, I do this more than I should. Although not as much as I judge a book by its title. I have a real prejudice against rubbish titles – by which I mean, fragments of sentences, nonsense phrases, anything with an exclamation mark…although to be honest I’m sitting here thinking up exceptions to all of those rules, so I’m actually going to plead maddening inconsistency on this one.
    3. If you’re not enjoying a book, do you stick with it or move onto something new? – If something hasn’t grabbed me by page 50, I’ll normally put it down and move on to something else. I am such a mood reader, though, a lot of the time I’ll come back to it later and like it. I’m not bad at picking the right books for my mood (years of practice), or at being honest with myself when I’m not in the mood for reading, so DNFs are rarer these days than they used to be.
    4. How big is your TBR pile?  (Be honest!) – Oh, gosh, hundreds. Finally taking to my Kindle (on my third attempt to try to get along with it) hasn’t helped, as now the usual three dimensions aren’t even a limiting factor. If I had to guess, I’d say…500 or so books? Of which maybe 350 are ‘real’, 150 virtual. I’m planning to move house later in the year, so something drastic and traumatic is going to have to happen sometime soon.
    5. What’s the next book you’re planning to read? – Depending on which I’m in the mood for post-Rebecca, either Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes, or The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore.
    6. Physical, e-books or a combination of the two? – Combination. Towards the end of last year, I was travelling a lot, and so for the first time I switched to reading more Kindle than physical books. It’s a bit of a vicious circle as now my most recent TBR is almost entirely on my Kindle, but I do still get a bit anxious if I don’t have a physical book with me (what if my Kindle, iPad and phone all break and I am left with nothing to read? This is a real concern.)
    7. 2016 publication that you’re most looking forward to – There were some great books published at the end of January, but the next release I’m looking forward to is The Sunlight Pilgrims, by Jenni Fagan. I’ve never read anything of hers before, but here is the blurb: “Set in a Scottish caravan park during a freak winter – it is snowing in Jerusalem, the Thames is overflowing, and an iceberg separated from the Fjords in Norway is expected to arrive off the coast of Scotland – The Sunlight Pilgrims tells the story of a small Scottish community living through what people have begun to think is the end of times. Bodies are found frozen in the street with their eyes open, midst economic collapse, schooling and health care are run primarily on a voluntary basis. Dylan, a refugee from panic-stricken London who is grieving for his mother and his grandmother, arrives in the caravan park in the middle of the night – to begin his life anew. Under the lights of the aurora borealis, he is drawn to his neighbour Constance, a woman who is known for having two lovers, her eleven-year old daughter Stella, who is struggling to navigate changes in her own life, and elderly Barnacle, so crippled that he walks facing the earth. But as the temperature drops, daily life carries on: people get out of bed, they make a cup of tea, they fall in love, they complicate.” Sounds like just my thing.
    8. Most disappointing book by a favourite author – I’m not sure whether he counts as a favourite author any more (yes, it was that disappointing), but I really didn’t get along with The Children Act by Ian McEwen. I found the main characters to be upper-middle-class in the worst way; insufferably smug and incapable of personal growth.
    9. What do you like to do when you’re not reading? – Travel is the other big drain on my resources. I’m a great fan of anywhere with history or beauty, so long weekends in Europe and fortnights in the American West have been the order of the day in recent years. New Zealand, central America and Iran are also firmly on the bucket list, as are return visits to India, China and Sri Lanka. I’m also a bit of a wine buff (which sounds so much better than just ‘drinker’) and love the theatre – in the past couple of months I’ve seen Guys and Dolls, which is one of my favourite musicals, as well as being lucky enough to score a ticket to Sir Kenneth Branagh and Dame Judi Dench in A Winter’s Tale. Pursuing any of these hobbies with any of my favourite people are guaranteed to make me smile.
    10. Favourite film / TV adaptation of a novel – Is it too early to call it for Andrew Davies’ adaptation of War and Peace? (For more details on my fangirl obsession, see pretty much any other post on this blog over the past month or so…) Honourable mentions to the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice (not original, but still the best), and Bridget Jones’s Diary – one of the only films I know that actually improves on the book, in my opinion.
    11. Which comes first – see the film or read the book – 99 times out of 100, read the book. Occasionally I’ll make a decision not to read the book, and then I’ll just watch the film (last time that happened was Gone Girl, I think). But I have issues with reading a book when someone else’s ideas of the characters are already in my head.

Fab questions – some of the opinions above I didn’t even realise I had!

My nominee list was tough to whittle down (and I’m sure some of you have been nominated already, so sorry if I’m double-tagging you!), but I nominate:

  • thepocobookreader
  • bitsnbooks
  • Marcel’s Book Reviews
  • Melissa (Melissa M Lindsay)
  • Word by Word
  • African Book Addict!
  • Ryan’s Book Reviews
  • Sarah Says Read
  • heavenali
  • A Little Blog of Books
  • The Air of Ideas

And my questions are:

  1. Who’s your favourite author? (A Top 3 is acceptable, if it’s too hard to choose!)
  2. What was your best read of 2015?
  3. Any reading goals for 2016? If so, what and why?
  4. Which book do you remember best from your childhood, and why?
  5. What’s your favourite literary genre?
  6. …And your least favourite?
  7. Where do you get most of your book recommendations from?
  8. And which book do you recommend most often (or most strongly!) to other people?
  9. What is your current read, and what made you choose it?
  10. What’s your favourite fictional location?
  11. What’s your favourite thing about book blogging?

Random Bookish Thoughts – 27 January 2016 – On New Books for 2016

Following fellow readers on WordPress and Twitter has not, in any way, helped with my book-buying addiction. I’m not convinced I’m actually reading any more,* but I’m certainly contributing plenty of cash to the publishing sector.

In that vein, whilst I’m still in a pretty serious relationship with War and Peace, I will admit to checking out the eye candy (ie new books) that have crossed my consciousness recently via t’internet. The British publishing industry, in its infinite wisdom, seems to have concentrated the release of half a dozen brilliant new books on 28 January, which happens to be (a) tomorrow, and (b) the first payday since Christmas. So, either pre-ordered or on the Amazon wishlist, I have the following (with official-ish blurb):

 

  • The Noise of Time, Julian Barnes ‘In May 1937 a man in his early thirties waits by the lift of a Leningrad apartment block. He waits all through the night, expecting to be taken away to the Big House. Any celebrity he has known in the previous decade is no use to him now. And few who are taken to the Big House ever return.’

 

  • The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, Joanna Cannon ‘England,1976. Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands.And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined…’

 

  • Exposure, Helen Dunmore ‘London, November, 1960: the Cold War is at its height. Spy fever fills the newspapers, and the political establishment knows how and where to bury its secrets. When a highly sensitive file goes missing, Simon Callington is accused of passing information to the Soviets, and arrested. His wife, Lily, suspects that his imprisonment is part of a cover-up, and that more powerful men than Simon will do anything to prevent their own downfall. She knows that she too is in danger, and must fight to protect her children. But what she does not realise is that Simon has hidden vital truths about his past, and may be found guilty of another crime that carries with it an even greater penalty.’

 

  • In a Land of Paper Gods, Rebecca MacKenzie ‘Jiangxi Province, China, 1941. Atop the fabled mountain of Lushan, celebrated for its temples, capricious mists and plunging ravines, perches a boarding school for the children of British missionaries. As her parents pursue their calling to bring the gospel to China’s most remote provinces, ten-year-old Henrietta S. Robertson discovers that she has been singled out for a divine calling of her own. Etta is quick to share the news with her dorm mates, and soon even Big Bum Eileen is enlisted in the Prophetess Club, which busies itself looking for signs of the Lord’s intent. (Hark.) As rumours of war grow more insistent, so the girls’ quest takes on a new urgency – and in such a mystical landscape, the prophetesses find that lines between make believe and reality, good and bad, become dangerously blurred. So Etta’s pilgrimage begins.A story of a child far from home and caught between two cultures, In A Land of Paper Gods marries exuberant imagination with sharp pathos, and introduces Rebecca Mackenzie as a striking and original new voice.’

 

  • The Romanovs: 1613-1918, Simon Sebag Montefiore ‘The Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling a sixth of the world’s surface. How did one family turn a war-ruined principality into the world’s greatest empire? And how did they lose it all?
    This is the intimate story of twenty tsars and tsarinas, some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and imperial ambition. Montefiore’s gripping chronicle reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire-building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence and wild extravagance, and peopled by a cast of adventurers, courtesans, revolutionaries and poets, from Ivan the Terrible to Tolstoy, from Queen Victoria to Lenin.’

 

  • Catullus’ Bedspread: The Life of Rome’s Most Erotic Poet, Daisy Dunn ‘Catullus was famed for his lyrical and subversive voice. His poetry tells the story of a life beset with love, loss, and the political conflict that characterised the end of the Roman Republic. ‘Catullus’ Bedspread’ follows the young poet’s journey through a world filled with all the indulgences and sexual mores of the time, and his lasting affair with a married woman called Clodia. While Catullus and Clodia made love in the shadows, the whole of Italy was quaking as Caesar, Pompey and Crassus forged a doomed allegiance for power. In these circumstances, Catullus composed his greatest work of all, a poem about the decoration on a bedspread, which forms the heart of this biography.’

 

I’ve pre-ordered the top two. Julian Barnes has been a bit hit-and-miss with me in the past – I Capital-L-Loved ‘Arthur & George’, I think I was a bit young for ‘The Sense of an Ending’. But this one sounds great. And ‘The Trouble With Goats and Sheep’ comes highly recommended by a number of people whose opinions I respect. I’m pretty excited about the other two novels on this list, too, and I suspect I will buy and read them well ahead of a lot of the other stuff on my TBR.

The two non-fiction I might resist a little longer, mainly because I have Peter Ackroyd’s awesome History of England series on the go. But ‘The Romanovs’ has been everywhere this month – even on Radio 2 – and it sounds frankly awesome. The Catullus is a more random pick, based not on any pre-existing knowledge of the Classics, but rather on some stellar reviews and a constant quest for ever more esoteric knowledge.

In any case, I’m looking forward to dipping into something a little more modern, once I finish with Tolstoy. (Although I’m not sure I will actually finish with Tolstoy, so much as turn the last of the 1273 pages and, somewhat befuddled, come up for air. In a good way.) Luckily, it looks like being a great month for new books!

 

*Actually, that’s not true. Based on my GoodReads record, I am actually reading more since I started following bookish social media – and remembering more of what I read, too. Long may it continue 🙂

Random Bookish Thoughts – 13 November

On things being a little spooky

So, we’ve had Halloween and Friday 13th within a couple of weeks of each other. I’m not normally one for spooky reading – my imagination is far too overactive – but I found myself at home, on Halloween, at a bit of a loose end, and so I read Susan Hill’s classic The Woman in Black.

I’ve got to say, I think I just don’t really ‘get’ Susan Hill’s ghost stories. I mean, people rave about this book. They study it for GCSE, for heaven’s sake. Daniel Radcliffe was in the movie adaptation, and – well – after Harry Potter, isn’t that a pretty high bar? I’ve read a couple of Susan Hill novellas before – The Mist in the Mirror, and one or two others – and they didn’t leave much of an impression, but I always thought this one would be different.

Well, sorry. It just wasn’t. It wasn’t bad, exactly. The whole thing just left me a little….meh.

I downloaded The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson) to my Kindle at the same time, but haven’t read it yet. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is one of my favourite favourites, so I have high hopes.

On the honest-to-goodness God-damn-awesomeness of David Mitchell

I’m going through a wee bout of insomnia at present. (Being only two weeks back from California,  I blame jet lag, rather than a subconscious impact of Susan Hill’s ghost stories. But there are more things on heaven and earth, Horatio, etc.) Anyway, for whatever reason, I haven’t got to sleep before 2.30am any night this week. It’s a trial. But at least it gives me plenty of time for reading.

On two consecutive nights, I stayed up late finishing David Mitchell novels – on Sunday, The Bone Clocks, which I read in a day. I’ll review it, at some point, but really, you shouldn’t wait till then to read it. You should go and read it right now. If not sooner. Seriously, if you’re still reading this, stop it and go and read David Mitchell. You won’t regret it.

And if you’re still reading this, then I can only assume you’ve already read The Bone Clocks, and are mulling over whether to read Slade House. Well, that was the one which kept me up till the small hours on Monday night, so – you should. Problem solved. Although maybe don’t read it alone, in a quiet house, at 2am like I did. Cos, you know, at 2am the boundaries between fantasy and reality sort of….thin out. A bit. Enough to stop you getting to sleep, anyway.

On things I’ve recently read, am currently reading, and am possibly reading next, as well as arbitrary targets and deadlines

Apart from all the spookiness and David Mitchell, I’ve recently finished Down Under by Bill Bryson (funny and informative, like all the best non-fiction), and The Cocktail Party, a play by TS Eliot (not great, if I’m honest, despite its author being the best poet of the 20th century). I’m halfway through The Lake House by Kate Morton, which I downloaded as a little light relief, and which is diverting enough, but somewhat unfortunately almost identical to every novel the author has ever written. Perhaps I’m just getting old.

I’m close to admitting that I’m not going to reach my goal of reading 100 books this year. Once it becomes a clearly impossible task, I’m anticipating a little relief, because I’m actually finding myself drawn to longer books  – and classics – for winter. I’m not sure I’ll set myself an absolute reading target again. It drives me towards quantity over quality, and in a world where more books are published each year than one could possibly read in a lifetime, what on earth – really – is the point? I’d much rather (she says sniffily) focus on the books which I actually want to read, the tomes recommended by people I trust.

I do like a good list, though. Well, we’ll see, when the new year rolls around.

Random Bookish Thoughts – 19 October

In the complete absence of any new reviews for the past few weeks, a selection of random, tangentially-book-related musings.

What I’ve been reading

Although I haven’t been writing reviews, I’m on holiday in northern California this week and last week, so I have been reading. After finishing Vanity Fair at the beginning of October, I rewarded myself with the new Salman Rushdie (raced through whilst on trains; I don’t know why, but Rushdie’s stories seem to lend themselves to movement). Then I read a couple of Meg Wolitzer’s earlier novels, having read The Interestings last year and liked it. I think she is getting better with age; The Interestings was better than either The Wife or The Uncoupling.

I also raced through Villa America by Liza Klaussmann; I’ll read pretty much anything based in the Jazz Age. The standout read of the month for me so far, though, is The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant. It charts the story of a woman’s life, from the dawn of the 20th century until she turns 85, and I found it utterly addictive – especially after being a little bit disappointed by Sweet Caress by William Boyd, which was (nominally) along the same lines. I know I’m horribly behind with book reviews, but I’ll post a proper review of this one soon (or soonish, anyway).

Books about authors

I like reading about authors almost as much as people seem to like writing about them. I didn’t notice at first, but there’s been a definite authorly trend in this month’s reading matter. ‘The Wife’ featured a celebrated novelist, and Villa America was studded with the literary stars of the 1920s. I’ve now embarked upon Sophie and the Sibyl, by Patricia Duncker, which features George Eliot as one of the main characters and the ‘Sibyl’ of the title.

Nick Hornby doesn’t like the fact that there are so many novels about writers and writing. In one of his Believer articles (which have been published in two books, The Complete Polysyllabic Spree and Stuff I’ve Been Reading, both of which are very worthwhile for any book nut), he wonders aloud (well, on paper) whether it’s this that is turning reading into such a minority activity – i.e., to read a new novel, you have to have a passing knowledge of every novel that’s gone before. (I haven’t read it for a while, so I may be misquoting, but I think that’s the thrust of his argument.) I’m not sure I agree; I think if a novel is written well, then it should stand on its own, whatever the subject matter. Entirely subjectively, I love reading about authors for any number of reasons: because I grew up wanting to be one, because it helps me to get to know the text, and in some cases simply because they had the most fascinating, glitzy, disastrous lives (yes, Fitzgeralds, I’m looking at you) and I’m a terrible gossip.

The Classics Club Women’s Classic Literature Event

I recently reposted the starter post for this, and I think it’s a fantastic idea. I’ll be scanning down my Classics Club list for the books to bump up to next year, and perhaps adding a couple of new titles as well, including The Yellow Wallpaper as suggested by the fabulous thepocobookreader . Look out for a proper starter post, again let’s say ‘soonish’.

Right, I’m going to go and read for an hour in the California sunshine before starting the day’s adventures. Hope everyone has a great week!

Random bookish thoughts – 21 September

I was going to catch up on all of my reviews tonight, but instead it’s 9pm and I’m still at the office (lovely), so instead I thought I’d take ten minutes to share a few random thoughts that have occurred to me over the weekend.

Man Booker Prize shortlist

I am pretty pleased with this. There was a story in the Guardian asking whether it was the most diverse shortlist in the history of the prize; I’m not learned enough to opine, but it feels pretty diverse to me. It also includes four of my top six, and five of my top seven. Only A Spool of Blue Thread felt – to me – like it wasn’t quite special enough to earn its place. I would have preferred to have seen one of the other family sagas – Did You Ever Have A Family or The Green Road – but it’s a minor quibble. For the first time in a long time, I’d be happy with any of the others as the winner. (There’s also an argument that A Spool of Blue Thread – which I’ve seen described as ‘Anne Tyler’s twentieth and possibly last book’ – is nominated more as a sort of lifetime achievement award than anything else; in which case, fair enough, really.)

On communing with books through food

On Saturday night, I went to a Jamaican restaurant (Turtle Bay, in Bristol) with a couple of friends. I think it may have been the first time I’ve eaten Jamaican food. (It was delicious – jerk prawns, duck rolls, and an explosively hot goat curry with rice and peas.) Turtle Bay is decorated like its walls are made out of shipping containers, and I was thinking about A Brief History of Seven Killings throughout. Yum. (Both the book and the food.)

Contemporary literature fatigue

Towards the end of my Booker experiment, I found I was trending towards giving lower marks to the novels I was reading. Other than a comprehensive re-reading do-over (which – to be clear – I’m not committed enough to do), I have no way of knowing whether it was the books themselves, or a touch of literary malnutrition after reading 13 contemporary novels in a row. Actually, fourteen, as I took a break in the middle and read ‘Us’ by David Nicholls (which oddly enough was longlisted for last year’s prize, and had been sitting on my Kindle for months). The novels themselves were very different to each other, and for the most part they were great, but I was starting to feel the need for something different – non-fiction, maybe, or a big Victorian novel that I could sink into like a hot bath. Which brought me to…

My current read

I am about 650 pages into Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace What-a-great-middle-name Thackeray. It was exactly what I needed – sprawling, historical, and oddly familiar. Parts of it are slightly hard going; like much of Dickens, it was serialised, and in places the padding is not just visible but predominant. But I am very much enjoying watching (well, reading about) Becky Sharp twisting Victorian society around her little finger.

The Coops Booker Prize – my (very subjective) shortlist

The 2015 Booker shortlist is announced on Tuesday (September 15th), and for the first time ever, the longlist interested me enough for me to try to read it in its entirety and come up with some predictions. Or if not predictions, then at least the books I will be complaining about if/when they do or don’t make it. It was hard; it was a pretty good list. But in the end – for me, anyway – there were a few clear winners, a few clear losers, and some better-than-average books in between. Here they are!

  1. A Little Life ***** Not exactly a departure from general opinion – the bookies’ odds are short on this one, between 2/1 and 4/1 – but I just adored it, and if it doesn’t even feature on the shortlist then I will get red and shouty. https://booksahoyblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/17/review-a-little-life-by-hanya-yanagihara/
  2. Did You Ever Have a Family **** An unexpected gem, this one has a quiet sort of grace which has stayed with me since I read the first page. https://booksahoyblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/review-did-you-ever-have-a-family-by-bill-clegg/
  3. The Fishermen **** Completely different to anything else on the longlist, in a good way  https://booksahoyblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/review-the-fishermen-by-chigozie-obioma/
  4. Year of the Runaways **** A novel which made me see the world around me in a different way https://booksahoyblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/review-the-year-of-the-runaways-by-sunjeev-sahota/
  5. A Brief History of Seven Killings – I’m cheating a bit on this one, because I haven’t finished it yet, but I am confidently willing to predict that it will feature on my shortlist. The voice and texture of the narrative are so unusual that, once I realised that, I decided not to rush it – so I put it down until I had finished the others, and can’t wait to pick it up again.
  6. The Green Road **** The first of Anne Enright’s novels I’ve read, and much fuller than some of the other ‘family sagas’ on the list. Review to follow.

And the rest:

  1. Satin Island **** – I wasn’t quite sure what to do about this one, but in the end it landed just outside my top 6. I wouldn’t be surprised if it did get a spot on the shortlist, and that wouldn’t enrage me like it would some (I think this one has split opinion more than any of the others), but to me it doesn’t have the consistency of a winner. Review to follow.
  2. The Chimes *** – A really interesting and creative debut from a talented new voice. Review to follow.
  3. A Spool of Blue Thread *** – Not enough about this one that was special, in my opinion. It was the first one of the list I read, and I found it eminently forgettable compared to some of the others. I still suspect I’m not quite old enough to understand Anne Tyler! https://booksahoyblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/review-a-spool-of-blue-thread-by-anne-tyler/
  4. The Moor’s Account *** – The good bits were as good as anything on the shortlist; the bad bits were just a little too long to make it a top read. https://booksahoyblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/review-the-moors-account-by-laila-lalami/
  5. Lila *** – Beautiful writing, but a little too sad for me, in the end. https://booksahoyblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/review-lila-by-marilynne-robinson/
  6. Sleeping on Jupiter ** – It has India, and it has sexual violence; sadly both are done significantly better elsewhere on the longlist.
  7. The Illuminations ** – Makes an attempt at topics which should be necessary and topical, but never really finds a true voice.