Podcast: Man Booker Prize 2014 Long list Part One

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We’re back from Scotland and delving into the Man Booker Prize 2014 long list.

Kate and Rob look at extracts from the first half of the Booker Prize long list and decide which ones they like and which ones to buy!

They are:

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, Joshua Ferris (Viking)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan (Chatto & Windus)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler (Serpent’s Tail)
The Blazing World, Siri Hustvedt (Sceptre)
J,  Howard Jacobson (Jonathan Cape)
The Wake, Paul Kingsnorth (Unbound)

We’ll read and discuss the remaining one next week.

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Episode 105. An Adventures With Words production.

4 thoughts on “Podcast: Man Booker Prize 2014 Long list Part One

  1. rosario001 says:

    Hi Kate and Rob, loved the episode this week. Such a good idea to read samples of all the books!

    I’ve been reading the shortlist for the last few years, so I always start reading as soon as the longlist is announced and hope I’m choosing the right ones (often I don’t – last year I wasted weeks struggling with the joyless doorstop that was The Kills). This year I just happened to start with books which are all in your part 1. I’ve read 3 and I’m almost two thirds into another.

    My favourite so far is We’re All Completely Beside Ourselves. I knew the spoiler (one of the bookish podcasts I listen to had an interview with Karen Joy Fowler and the title of the episode gave it all away… grrr!). Still, I don’t think it ruined my enjoyment one bit. I found the book both really touching and subtle in the way it explored its themes, but at the same time really readable. You mentioned you thought there’s something really dark and horrible coming up (sorry, can’t remember the exact words), but not really. There are certainly some tough sections and I actually cried a bit, but it’s a very satisfying book.

    I also loved the Siri Hustvedt. It’s probably the most intellectual one so far, but there’s a heart there as well. Maybe it’s because it looks at sexism and how people go in denial about it, and that’s something that’s intellectually interesting but also gut-wrenching. Like you, I was really intrigued by the way it was told, through a collection of documents, and I thought it really worked to tell that story.

    I had mixed feelings about The Narrow Road to the Deep North. I thought the sections on the Death Railway and what happens after the War to everyone but Dorrigo were incredible. So powerful and haunting, and like you say, the writing is fantastic. I just wasn’t as enamoured of the bits about Dorrigo’s personal life. The beginning, especially, with the adulterous love affair… blergh. I found that pretentious and boring. Later in the book, though, the action kind of concentrates on the men on the Death Railway, and that was when I thought the book really worked.

    Now I’m reading the Joshua Ferris. I’m not completely sure how I feel about it yet, and probably won’t until I’ve actually finished it and found out what on earth is going on. There is a lot of humour there, and a lot of weirdness, which feels even weirder because of the mundane setting of the protagonist’s dental practice. I have some suspicions about what’s going on, but I hope I’m wrong, because if I’m right it’s something that would be very underwhelming.

    The other two you discussed I wasn’t particularly looking forward to reading. I meant to put them off and read them only if they got on the shortlist. However, I think Kate’s enthusiasm has convinced me that I need to try The Wake straight away!

    As for J… well, I wasn’t crazy about The Finkler Question, and I think the other thing that puts me off is that I suspect we will never find out “what happened, if it happened”! That would be exactly the sort of trick a literary author writing “genre” fiction would pull, and it would annoy me to no end.

    I’m really looking forward to your next episode. Of those, I know I’m definitely going to read the David Mitchell, whether it’s on the shortlist or not. I’m also curious about the David Nicholls. I liked One Day very much but it was definitely not Man Booker material, so I’m intrigued to see what he’s done in Us.

    • Adventures With Words says:

      Hi Rosario,

      Thanks so much for your comment – fascinating to hear from someone who’s already got a bit further on, to see if we’re along the right lines!

      What’s really interesting is that it sounds like our reactions to the openings of these first six books are actually quite close to how you’ve felt so far. I think we both felt an immediate connection with the Karen Joy Fowler and the Siri Hustvedt, we both felt the writing quality although maybe not the enjoyment of The Flanagan – although how can you enjoy a book about such a dark topic? The Ferris could be great or it could be frustrating, as could the Jacobson; I’m not sure I trust Howard Jacobson to write a satisfying ending! I would say The Wake, if it continues in the way it began, will be well worth the investment of time and effort. I really did find it a revelation.

      Thanks so much for commenting! – Kate

  2. rosario001 says:

    Hahah, yes, I don’t know if I’d trust Jacobson either! By the way, I listened to an interview with him on Front Row earlier this week, and he said the book is about a world in which Jews have all been killed, and that’s what the J with the two lines across means. So he said it’s about what happens when “the enemy” has actually been obliterated, which makes me a bit more interested in the book than I was before.

  3. Adventures With Words says:

    Oh really? Now that makes it a bit more clear! I’m very intrigued to read this now. Thanks for letting us know! – Rob

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