2014 has been another wonderful year for literature, a classic case of so many books, so little time. I ended the year having read 80 books, predominantly fiction novels, but including one play (Mike Bartlett’s perceptive and witty King Charles 111, works of non-fiction and collections of short stories.
An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine (Text)
The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol (W.W.Norton)
The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez (Bloomsbury)
Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki by Haruki Murakami (Alfred A Knopf)
Thank you For Your Service by David Finkle (Text)
Beyond the Beautiful Forever by Katherine Boo (Random House)
The Golden Age by Joan London (Random House Australia)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (Allen & Unwin)
A Winter’s Book by Tove Jansson (A Sort of Book)
His Own Man by Ribeiro Edgard (Text):
The gender division was 66-44 per cent to the blokes, the authors came from
So, which will triumph tomorrow when the Man Booker Prize winner for 2014 is finally announced? Head or heart? My heart wants it to be Richard Flanagan’s harrowing but deeply moving historical drama The Narrow Road to the Deep North largely focused on Australian prisoners of war building the Burma Railway. A close second would be Karen Joy Fowler’s stunningly original and at times very funny We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves which also raises some important and difficult ethical questions.
My head says it will be Howard Jacobson’s bleak, dystopian J or possibly Neel Mukherjee’s The Lives of Others a sweeping masterpiece about the decline of a family, set in the 1967 Bengali famine. But like everyone except the judging panel, I
“Skip the beginning. Start in the middle”, Rosemary Cooke, the narrator in Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves declares in the prologue. It is ten years since she has last seen her brother Lowell who has not been heard of since he suddenly left their home in Indiana. And it is 17 years since the unexplained disappearance of her sister, Fern. Both events haunt her, shaping the semi-solitary life she has chosen. Rosemary is at University, a distracted student, destined for ordinariness but wistful for a future being “either widely admired or stealthily influential”.
Starting in the middle gives any reader who has somehow managed to miss the reviews, or the blurb on the book jacket cover, a fighting chance of surprise when the secret to Rosemary’s past and to the novel’s main thread, is revealed: Fern, her beloved sibling,