Halfway through my fourth Man Booker Longlist selection for this year (Hystopia), having read My Name is Lucy Barton, Eileen, and The Many, I needed to break away for awhile. After reading Mary Lawson’s Crow Lake, I looked for her second book – on the Man Booker longlist for 2006, and immediately got lost in its characters.
I found publisher’s summaries for the 2006 books and wondered how the world has changed in the last ten years to create this year’s longlist – or has it? In 2006, The Other Side of the Bridge shared its distinction with a few familiar authors. Sadly, not all the books on the list are in my local library. Have you read any?
- Peter Carey’s Theft: A Love Story
“Michael ‘Butcher’ Boone is an ex-“really famous” painter, now reduced to living in a remote country house and acting as caretaker for his younger brother, Hugh. When a mysterious young woman named Marlene walks out of a rainstorm and into their lives, she sets in motion a chain of events that could be the making–or the ruin–of them all.”
- Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss – the 2006 Winner
“Explores the lives of characters trapped in India’s class system—both the lower class and the upper class. The characters’ hopes and dreams are conveyed in the novel, along with their ultimate dream of immigrating to America and finally escaping the rigid caste system of their homeland. The story is set in the 1980s in Kalimpong, located in the northern part of India near Darjeeling.”
- Robert Edric’s Gathering the Water
“Set in 1848, the story is of engineer Charles Weightman sent to The Forge Valley to oversee the gradual flooding of the village, an enterprise undertaken by The Water Board for almost nefarious financial reasons. Of course the locals resent both his task and his presence, and Weightman’s life is not made easy. He finds a friend in the middle-aged Mary Latimer, herself also a partial outsider, who has returned to the village to arrange alternative accomodation for her previously incarcerated mentally ill sister.”
- Nadine Gordimer’s Get A Life
“A young man’s treatment for cancer inspires profound changes in his family.
Paul Bannerman, an ecologist in South Africa, believes he understands the trajectory of his life, with the usual markers of vocation and marriage. But when he’s diagnosed with thyroid cancer and, after surgery, prescribed treatment that will leave him radioactive, for a period a danger to others, he enters an unthinkable existence and another kind of illumination: the contradiction between the values of his work and those of his wife.”
- Kate Grenville’s The Secret River
“The first book in a trilogy, this historical fiction set in Australia tells the story of an early 19th-century Englishman transported to Australia for theft. The story explores what may have happened when Europeans colonised land already inhabited by Aboriginal people.”
- M J Hyland’s Carry Me Down
“John Egan is an extremely tall 11-year-old boy living in the small town of Gorey, Ireland. As he faces the trials of home and school life, John feels he has no place in the world, and his frustration fuels odd obsessions: with the Guinness Book of World Records , with physical human contact and with his “gift” for detecting lies. His parents, already sorting through their own uneasy relationship, puzzle over their only son with doctors and teachers, pushing John to a moment of crisis, which may prove his undoing.”
- Howard Jacobson’s Kalooki Nights
“Cartoonist Max Glickman recalls his childhood in a British suburb in the 1950s, surrounded by Jews, each with an entirely different and outspoken view on what it means to be Jewish. After his friend Manny Washinsky is released from prison, Max is compelled to uncover the motive behind Manny’s crime—the discovery of which leads Max to understand the indelible effects of the Holocaust and to explore the intrinsic and paradoxical questions of a post-war Jewish identity.”
- James Lasdun’s Seven Lies
“Tells the story of Stefan Vogel, a young East German, whose yearnings for love, glory, and freedom express themselves in a lifelong fantasy of going to America. By a series of increasingly dangerous maneuvers, he makes this fantasy come true, his past seemingly locked behind the Berlin Wall and a new life of unbounded bliss ahead of him. But then his world begins to fall apart.”
- Mary Lawson’s The Other Side of the Bridge
- Jon McGregor’s So Many Ways to Begin
“David Carter is an obsessive collector, and the curator of the local history museum. In addition to overseeing the community’s archives, he has, since boyhood, diligently archived the items that tell his own life story: birth certificate, school report cards, movie and train tickets. But when a senile relative lets slip a long-buried family secret, David is forced to consider that his whole carefully cataloged life may be constructed around a lie.”
- Hisham Matar’s In the Country of Men
“The book follows the plight of Suleiman, a nine-year-old boy living in Tripoli in Libya, stuck between a father whose clandestine anti-Qaddafi activities bring about searches, stalkings and telephone eaves droppings by Qaddafi’s state police, and a vulnerable young mother who resorts to alcohol to bury her anxiety and anger. The only people he has to turn to are his neighbor Kareem, and his father’s best friend Moosa. The book provides a description of Libya under Qaddafi’s terror regime, and a narration of ordinary people’s lives as they try to survive the political oppression.”
- Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children
“The novel focuses on the stories of three friends in their early thirties, living in Manhattan in the months leading up to the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Each of the three is well-educated and privileged, but struggles with realizing the lofty expectations for individual personal and professional lives.”
- David Mitchell ‘s Black Swan Green
“An autobiographical coming-of-age story. The main character, Jason Taylor, like the author Mitchell in his youth, is a geeky 13-year-old poet living in a yuppifying subdivision in Black Swan Green, a Worcestershire village. Also like Mitchell, he struggles with a formidable stammer .”
- Naeem Murr’s The Perfect Man
“Young Rajiv Travers hasn’t had much luck fitting in anywhere. Born to an Indian mother who was sold to his English father, Raj is abandoned by his relatives into the reluctant care of Ruth, an American romance writer living in Pisgah, Missouri. While his skin color unsettles most of the townsfolk, the quick-witted Raj soon finds his place among a group of children his own age. While the friends remain loyal to one another through the years, it becomes clear that their paths will veer in markedly different directions. But breaking free of the demands of their families and their community, as well as one another, comes at a devastating price.”
- Andrew O’Hagan’s Be Near Me
“Tells the story of David Anderton, a Catholic priest born in Edinburgh and educated in England who is assigned to a parish in a decaying Irish town with different residents sympathetic to the Orange or IRA causes. Anderton, though, takes no interest in his parishioners, enduring their ill will towards him. He’s been grieving for thirty years for the man he loved who died in an auto accident. The only people in the city with whom he spends time are the local teenagers who live life on the edge, committing petty crimes and indulging in drugs. He senses the life in them that he misses, and finds himself attracted to one of them, Mark.”
- James Robertson’s The Testament of Gideon Mack
“When Reverend Gideon Mack, a good minister despite his atheism, tumbles into a deep ravine called the Black Jaws, he is presumed dead. Three days later, however, he emerges bruised but alive-and insistent that his rescuer was Satan himself. Against the background of an incredulous world, Mack’s disturbing odyssey and the tortuous life that led to it create a mesmerizing meditation on faith, mortality, and the power of the unknown.”
- Edward St Aubyn’s Mother’s Milk
“The fourth of the Patrick Melrose series of five books – In this mordant British comedy, a father determined to protect his sons from the miseries of his own childhood inadvertently initiates new and different ordeals for his family.”
- Barry Unsworth’s The Ruby in her Navel
“Set in mid-12th century Sicily in the reign of King Roger II, it’s the story, told in the first person, of a young would-be knight named Thurstan Beauchamp, who works as a purveyor of entertainments and occasional envoy and spy in the palace. Thurstan finds himself embroiled in a plot that threatens to destroy all he holds dear.”
- Sarah Waters’ The Night Watch
“Moving back through the 1940s, through air raids, blacked-out streets, illicit partying, and sexual adventure, to end with its beginning in 1941, The Night Watch tells the story of four Londoners—three women and a young man with a past—whose lives, and those of their friends and lovers, connect in tragedy, stunning surprise and exquisite turns, only to change irreversibly in the shadow of a grand historical event.”
I’m reading a previous Man Booker prize winner, Wolf Hall, right now. I doubt I will be able to read any of the current long list contenders as there are only 5 available in the local library!
This is the first of Hilary Mantel’s wonderful series. I loved them all. Enjoy!
Only read The Inheritance of Loss, which I remember liking. I’m a big fan of books set in India.
I, too, feel there’s been a shift in the Man Booker nominees. In fact, I rarely feel compelled to read them anymore although, individually, there are always a couple that I like. This year, both the Strout and Tyler books seemed like very odd choices to me.
I was surprised Lucy Barton made the list too. I had not planned to read it but after it got nominated, I did. Not sure who Tyler is? Thein?
Forgot that was last year. . . Used to love Anne Tyler, but her last couple of books were disappointments.
She said in an interview she keeps writing the same story over and over – same place, different characters.
Just got it. Anne Tyler on last year’s list. I agree; she didn’t seem to fit in with the rest.