I can’t remember when or why, but for a couple of years now the Man Booker prize has really captured my imagination. One of the most famous and prestigious prizes in English literature never fails to throw up some interesting reading material and nowadays, even books that have made the shortlist, such as A Little Life, have gone on to sell well by association.
Here are some of the Man Bookers that I have read so far.
A Brief History of Seven Killings: Last year’s winner and my most recent Man Booker read was tough going but well worth the reward. That being said, this is not one that I would recommend to everyone largely due to some graphic violence and sexual scenes throughout. On reaching the conclusion of this book I was reminded of the popular TV series The Wire. I loved how this book took that atmosphere and tension into a Jamaican setting and built a story around the real life assassination attempt on Bob Marley in 1976.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North: Another hard hitting novel that dealt with the incarceration of Australian POW’s at the hands of Japanese soldiers. I read this coincidentally just before I visited Japan myself. The WW2 scenes were by far and away the best parts of the book as the prisoners struggled to survive life while constructing the Burma Railway. In between, we are told the story of the main character’s affair with his uncles young wife and about the narrators subsequent struggles later in life as a married man.
The Luminaries: This was not one of my first Man Booker reads, but it was the first one that truly assured me that reading a Man Booker winner was almost guaranteed to be gold standard literature. An immense read put together beautifully by New Zealand author Eleanor Catton, the element of mystery to the story really drew me in. The scope and breadth of this novel is breathtaking and written to be enjoyed and savoured.
The White Tiger: Set in India, this tale of oppression and borderline slavery was an eye-opener for me. The caste system is blown apart here as our narrator struggles to rise above his station. A white tiger is a once in a generation animal and so is our main character. The novels conclusion is an explosive ending to an explosive book.
Life of Pi: One of my earliest experiences of Man Booker winners. I listened to this as an audiobook and found it slow moving initially but the twist at the end was spectacular along with the now famous quote ‘And so it goes with God.’ But a bit like the popular Denis Lehane psychological thriller Shutter Island, it has to be experienced again to fully appreciate the novel’s subtle nuances throughout.
In recent years I have collected more winners than I have read. Man Bookers I find are like an expensive bottle of red wine. They are there to be admired and savoured and only taken down at time when they can be fully appreciated. Hence, I normally pull one out over the Christmas or Summer holidays. Here’s what I have waiting patiently for me!
On the bookshelf: Wolf Hall, Bring Up The Bodies, The Gathering, The Sea, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha, The God Of Small Things, Midnight’s Children, A Little Life (shortlisted)
Reading through the rest of the previous winners, here are a few that I look forward to reading in the future.
Most Wanted: True History of the Kelly Gang, The Blind Assassin
What are your favourite Man Booker books?