My Picks from The Booker Prize 2019 Longlist

Perhaps it’s a sign of a strong Longlist that some books on this list make me go, “Yes!!!” others make me go “Mnnn, not for me” and a few make me go “You’ve GOT to be KIDDING me”.

To my surprise, I’ve already read, and really enjoyed, two of the books on the Longlist. I see two more that intend to read. Based on past experience, the winner is probably amongst the rest.

Anyway, here’s my take on the Longlist


Books I’ve Read

“My Sister, The Serial Killer” both is and is not what the title and the cover would lead you to expect. 

It is a book set in Lagos about two sisters, the younger of whom, Ayoola, has, by the start of the novel, already killed three men and the older sister, Korede, has always helped clean up the mess.

It is not a “normal” serial killer book. This isn’t a who did it and how were they caught mystery, nor is it a voyeuristic gorefest. The emphasis on sister is much stronger than the emphasis on serial killer in this story.

“The Wall” is a grimly plausible, deftly told, brilliantly narrated tale of what happens when we lock the rest of the world out to protect ourselves from climate change.

“The Wall” will make you think. It will also make you cry. I recommend it to you if you want a fresh, clear voice to help you explore a possible future as a warning to our present.

Books I’m looking forward to

I’m looking forward to Frankissstein for two reasons:

  • It combines a story about Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein with a story about a doctor in post-Brexit Britain falling in love with the guy running the public debate about AI and a guy in the US trying to market sexbots and a bunch of cryogenically frozen bodies.
  • It’s written by Jeanette Winterson who always manages to deliver insight and humour with unexpected viewpoints.

“Lanny” tempts me because I have a weakness for the long shot. If this works, it will be brilliant. If it doesn’t, then it’s only 224 pages.

“Lanny” is a dark English fairy tale, centred around a contemporary English village where families have deep roots and Dead Papa Toothwort has them under his spell

Mnnn, not for me

I’m sure these are fine but they won’t be mine this year.

I treasure Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” but I’m hesitant to hear her go there again, especially given how close 2019 reality has become to her 1985 fiction.

Spending 416 pages with Salman Rushdie giving me a revised version of Don Quixote (only with the French spelling because that’s so much more erudite) this time set in Trump’s America where he’s accompanied by by and invisible friend? No. Just, NO.

I gave up on ” The Night Boat To Tangier” when I read: “This is a novel drenched in sex and death and narcotics, in sudden violence and old magic, but it is obsessed, above all, with the mysteries of love.” Not my kind of thing at all.

The other three sound… worthy. I’ve given up on worthy. Maybe I’ll come back to them if they get great press but I’m at the “So many books, so little time” stage of life so worthy doesn’t do it for me.

You’ve GOT to be KIDDING me

I may have this wrong. “Ducks, Newburyport” sounds funny in a desperate, “how did we elect this idiot and why are we sleepwalking towards an environmental apocalypse?” kind of way. Then I read Watestones’ description:

“Through one discursive sentence spread across 900 pages, an Ohio housewife catalogues the state of the American nation under the scattershot Trump regime.”

ONE discursive sentence? NINE HUNDRED pages? WHY?

I’m not bright enough for the “The Man Who Saw Everything”, story about a man who manages to get run over on the Abbey Road zebra crossing TWICE, once in 1985 and once in 2018. This seems to me to demonstrate a life-threatening inability to learn. When I read that:

“Nothing is as it appears in this novel, where everything is disputed, including perceptions of the self and others, and history…”

any interest I had in it evaporated in a the heat of my sweltering ennui.

“10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World” has one of those premises that makes a great pitch in creative writing classes put which I find rather off-putting as an actual novel. It:

“traces the memories – by turns poignant, effervescent and tragic – of Tequila Leila in the ten minutes after she dies:”

It takes 320 pages to cover these ten minutes. The novel may sustain the conceit with skill and passion but I doubt I’d be able to get over my sense of “why are you doing this to me?”

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