“This was the beginning of the fairy tale, he thought…”

Assassination Scene, Jason Atkinson

Houses Borders Ghosts

Another year, another Booker. After last year’s fun but not particularly informative blog roundup, I thought I’d take another crack at looking at what bloggers have said so far about the Booker longlist. (For my own part, I own about five of these, but have read none of them. Yet.)

Here goes…

A S Byatt: The Children’s Book

Cover of the Children's BookOpinions have been divided so far on this new tale of Arts and Crafts by the author of 1990 Booker-winner Possession. Dovegreyreader was so impressed, she felt she should approach it on bended knee, and promptly invited A S Byatt along to her blog for a Q & A.

An Indextrious Reader agreed with her, by and large, as did a certain Mad Housewife—who also took time to correct the venerable Byatt on her Latin.

KevinfromCanada, however, takes the opposite view: “I will continue to reread her earlier work with interest, but for me her oeuvre is now finished.”

J M Coetzee: Summertime

Not published until September

Adam Foulds: The Quickening Maze

Cover of The Quickening MazeThis fictional take on poet John Clare’s stay at High Beach asylum in the 1830s has earned thumbs up from both Tom at A Common Reader and John Self at The Asylum.

Self advises: “Foulds is here to stay, so get in on the ground floor and read him now.”

Sarah Hall: How to Paint a Dead Man

The (ahem) “blogosphere” doesn’t seem to have paid much attention to Sarah Hall’s latest. That’s sure to change following her longlisting, but in the meantime, The Lunecy Review interviewed her back in March.

Samantha Harvey: The Wilderness

This tale of a man dealing with Alzheimer’s led Kimbofo to declare Samantha Harvey “an exquisite writer and a skilled novelist,” while Lizzy Siddall got off to a slow start before being drawn in and eventually being left “reeling“.

James Lever: Me Cheeta

Film blog Spectacular Attractions takes an in-depth look at this fictional autobiography of a 1930s acting chimp*, and the English department at St Columba’s College advises that readers not neglect the index.

*As in a chimp that acts, rather than, you know, somebody temporarily filling in as a chimp.

Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall

Not a young adult novel about werewolves, but a 672-page novel following the story of Thomas Cromwell at the court of Henry VIII. It inspired a kind of stream-of-consciousness commentary from Dovegreyreader. There were plenty of other things in Google that looked like blog reviews, but turned out not to be: sometimes I’m amazed by how many good book bloggers there are, and sometimes I’m amazed by how few.

Simon Mawer: The Glass Room

Cover of The Glass RoomThis, I suspect, is a good one, though it’s been lingering unread by my bed since publication back in January.

While you may not want to use the best china if Dovegreyreader and KevinfromCanada come for dinner to discuss The Children’s Book, there would be no fisticuffs over the universally loved Glass Room: her “holistic reading experience” is his “bold risk“, and one that pays off.

Meanwhile, A Common Reader gets perilously close to a standing ovation.

Ed O’Loughlin: Not Untrue & Not Unkind

The blogs haven’t paid much attention yet to O’Loughlin’s story of a foreign correspondent in Africa, so here’s a Guardian review instead.

James Scudamore: Heliopolis

Ditto. (Except for the bit about the foreign correspondent in Africa.)

Colm Toibin: Brooklyn

I only got to page four of Brooklyn, before deciding that either Toibin couldn’t string a sentence together, or I couldn’t read one. I suspect it was me having an off day because, while it generally seems to be considered not his best book, it was applauded by The Asylum, Kevin From Canada, Dovegreyreader, Beth Kephart, and Three Guys One Book.

William Trevor: Love and Summer

This one’s due at the end of August.

Sarah Waters: The Little Stranger

Cover of The Little StrangerFor some reason, I’m just not tempted by this ghost story / social history novel from the author of Fingersmith and The Night Watch. (This despite Abigail at Asking the Wrong Questions describing it as “sort of cross between Brideshead Revisited and The Haunting of Hill House.”)

However, while she feels it has the “thrills and scares of a horror movie”, and Fleur Fisher says it has “moments of fear, pain, and grief as vivid as anything I have read,” the overall positive review from Jenny’s Books felt it was short on “spine prickles.”

So there you go. If you write / read any great blog reviews of the longlist, please feel free to drop a link in the comments below. I’ll update this page as the new reviews come in.

19 Comments on “The Booker Prize Longlist 2009”

  1. William Rycroft Says:

    Hi Rob, I have reviews of The Quickening Maze and Me, Cheeta up already. Just wondering which of the others might tempt me. Any recommendations?

  2. Rob Says:

    Thanks William! I’ll add these (and any others that come in) up into the main review next week. As for recommendations, I’ll leave that for others who know what they’re talking about. My instincts are pulling me towards the Mawer as a first dip, though.

  3. Jackie (Farm Lane Books) Says:

    I’ve read five of the list so far, but plan to read them all as soon as possible.

    The Wilderness is my favourite by a long way at the moment. It is one of the best books I have read in a long time.

    I thought Little Stranger was a reasonably good read, but it is no where near as good as Fingersmith and not sure it is Booker quality – I will be surprised if it makes the short list.

    Wolf Hall was so bad I couldn’t finish it and Children’s Book was only slightly better – too much detail, not enough plot.

    I think everyone will have their own opinions, but it is great to see you compare them here.

    I look forward to reading the rest of the list.

  4. William Rycroft Says:

    Music to my ears Rob, that’s just what I was thinking.

  5. Nic Says:

    More on Samantha Harvey here:


  6. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Thanks for the survey, Rob. I had read both Not Untrue & Not Unkind and The Wilderness and didn’t like either, so had not posted. I will have reviews up on both within the next two weeks.

    One interesting aspect of this year’s longlist (for North American readers at list) is that few of the titles are available here — I think only four. For those of used to ordering books from the Book Depository, it is only an inconvenience but I suspect the Prize isn’t going to get a lot of attention except on blogs until the winner gets announced.

  7. Bigot Says:

    Terrific roundup, thank you. You do a great service to readers of your blog when you present such great information. Very informative and appreciative.

  8. dovegreyreader Says:

    Rob, thanks for that round up, what a nightmare my stream-of-consciousness book thoughts can be:-) and there are more to follow on Sarah Hall’s book. I had read it pre all this festival shenanigans and so no space on the blog, but it will be there any day now.

  9. Charles Lambert Says:

    Well, I haven’t read a single one of these, but on past form and in order to redress balance, I’d be delighted to see it go to Simon Mawer, a writer whose work is consistently inventive and exciting. This one sounds particularly intriguing, and I’ll be reading it just as soon as I can. I’m also tempted by the Scudamore, whose first novel I enjoyed a year or so ago. And Me Cheeta, come to that. And I’ve got Wolf Hall waiting for me only feet away from where I’m sitting. Maybe I should just shut up and start reading…

  10. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Review of Not Untrue & Not Unkind is now up: http://kevinfromcanada.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/not-untrue-not-unkind-by-ed-oloughlin/#comment-1128

    I didn’t like the book at all, so dissenting opinions are defintely welcome.

  11. Tom Says:

    Thanks for the quote! Many of them look excellent – now, do I have to plough my way through the others?

  12. Jonathan Says:

    Nice to see Mr Coetzee on the longlist again. But his new book is another of his 3rd-person-autobiographies, so I’m surprised it’s eligible for a fiction prize.

  13. In Great Linkage « Torque Control Says:

    […] roundup of the Booker Prize longlist Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)The 2009 Hugo Short Fiction NomineesReminder: […]

  14. My Favorite Lit-Blog Things – August 12, 2009 « Hungry Like the Woolf Says:

    […] The Fiction Desk has an excellent guide to blog coverage of the Booker. […]

  15. Adrian Chavey Says:

    It would be very disappointing if Brooklyn even made it to the shortlist. It read like a very light teen historical novel. Certainly nothing extraordinary.

  16. William Rycroft Says:

    Hello again. I now have reviews of Brooklyn and The Glass Room up too. The latter is my favourite so far

  17. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Rob: I’ve met my goal of reading and reviewing all the longlist titles before the shortlist is announced. The Glass Room is still my favorite, pending some rereadings next month.

  18. Sarah Says:

    I’m (more) slowly (than I’d like) working my way through the Booker Prize list. I do, however, have a few thoughts on Brooklyn, which I offer here: http://www.redroomlibrary.com/2009/05/colm-toibins-brooklyn.html

  19. Guy Savage Says:

    Just wanted to add my comment here–I agree about Brooklyn so you are not (completely) alone on this one.

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