And the Oscar goes to … oops, sorry, wrong golden moment. Just as the stars were celebrating winning an illustrious bald statue, 15 authors were having their own, quieter, moment of pleasure having been named on the longlist for the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction. Sir Walter Scott, the Scottish novelist and poet, is considered by many a founding father of the historical novel with Ivanhoe, one of the collection known as the Waverley Novels, amongst his most famous books.
In coming up with the award longlist, which increased from 12 last year, the judges did a considerable amount of time travelling from 11th Century England (The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth) to 17th Century Amsterdam (The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton) to 20th Century Europe (The Zone by Martin Amis) and occasionally, even further afield. The shortlist will be announced next month with the final winner being revealed at the Borders Book Festival in June. Previous winners are: Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall), Andrea Levy (The Long Story), Sebastian Barry (On Canaan’s Side), Tan Twan Eng (The Garden of Evening Mists) and Robert Harris (An Officer and a Spy).
The full long list is:
Happy New Year. I am not a great one for making New Year resolutions, maybe I just don’t have the imagination for setting grand, life-changing targets and I certainly don’t have the fortitude for using an arbitrary deadline to, say, begin the diet I should undertake, or cease imbibing alcohol when I know there’s too many days of holiday living to make do with soda water.
Book-related resolutions are, however, a bit easier. In 2014 I am going to stick with 2013 plan to log every book I read during the year. Not only was it invaluable in doing the end-of-year round-up of my Top Ten books of the year but it is also a wonderful reminder of some of the gems (and not so gem-like) during the year. It always seems ridiculous how
The hype that always surrounds the prestigious Booker Prize has already begun with the news that the Long List for 2013 will be announced on July 25th.
Last year’s list provided some treasurers. Apart from winner Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists was probably my favorite read of the year and a book that everyone to whom I recommended it seems to have enjoyed too, Other memorable ones are Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, The Lighthouse by Alison Moore and Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil.
It’s a big deal, for reputation and sales, to make it onto even the Long List of what is one of the world’s most prestigious literary competitions. So, who will make it into the spotlight in 2013? Apart from the judges, my guess is as good as any, so here are some possible contenders.
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann: McCann’s novel, is divided into a series of narratives
Malaysian born Tan Twan Eng has been awarded the 2012 Man Asia Book Prize for his wonderful The Garden of Evening Mists. He beat an impressive list of finalists to the $30,000 prize including Indian Jeet Thayil, whose Nacropolis was like Eng was also short-listed for the Booker, and Silent…
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng, one of my favoutie reads in 2012, is on the shortlist for the Man Asian literary prize which was announced this week. So too is Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil, a former addict who recreated the squalid yet intimate world of a…
Can you ever read too many books? Author and Poet Michael Bourne raised the question this week writing in The Millions when he revealed he had read 56 books in 2012, slightly down from the average of 60 books per year he had set himself when he entered a new millenium. To achieve his target he had to read five books a month or just over one book per week.
“For years now, reading has been something like training for a marathon,” he writes. “I keep mental tallies of how many pages I’ve read per night, and how many more pages I need to read in the next few days to keep to my average. In 2011, after years of hovering in the mid-50s, when my annual average hit precisely 60 — that is, 720 books read over 12 years — I did a private victory lap.”
Bourne keeps track of his reading habits by listing every book he has read dating back over the past 12 years so he can quickly tell how he is tracking, month by month, to ensure that he fulfills his target. Unfortunately the result wasn’t just a considerable amount of great reading but also a compulsion to stick to his timetable and achieve his quota and that took over from pure reading pleasure as motivation. No More.
As seems to be the increasingcustom at this time of year I have listed below my top ten books for 2012. There is no method in the madness and they are not in any particuar order. They are simply the books which I enjoyed reading, would happily return to read them again and, perhaps most important of all, would not hesitate to recommend to my friends. The cut off date for 2012 was Christmas Day. Why is this important? Because over the past few days I have read two outstanding books. But more of them later.
Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng.
All is not as it seems in this carefully layered garden set in Malaya just before the invasion by the Japanese. Not for the characters nor the reader. It is poetic and thrilling; a story that continues to haunt you long after the final page is turned.
Bring Up The Bones by Hilary Mantel.
The sequel to the highly successful Wolf Hall, this is a lavish re-take of the ill-fated marriage between Henry VII and Anne Boleyn as seen through the fox-like eyes of Oliver Cromwell.
The Yellow Bird by Kevin Powers
Debut novel from a returned US serviceman attempting to answer the repeated question : What was it like fighting in Iraq? It has been criticised for being over-lyrical (perhaps a result of Powers’ first love, poetry) but I have returned to this book a couple of times after first reading it, and it retains its initial impact.
With the announcement of the Booker Prize winner imminent, and having read five of the books on the shortlist, I am declaring my hand and announcing my winner now: Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel. It was a close thing though. Right up to the end I have been…
All is not as it seems in Tan Twan Eng’s Garden of Evening Mists. Not for the characters, nor the reader. The story glides between three stages in the life of Teoh Yun Ling, Chinese born and Cambridge educated, recently-retired after long service as a judge in post-Independent Malaysia. She has…