Our wonderful ‘Super Readers’ book group has once again been shadowing the Man Booker prize, reading the 6 short-listed books in less than 4 weeks, a record short time span, between the shortlist being announced, and the winner.

So all respect to them!

A good discussion was had about the 6 books, and the Warwickshire winner for 2018 is Milkman by Anna Burns.  Runner-up is The Overstory by Richard Powers.

Stop Press A day after our winner being announced, the official Man Booker Prize 2018 has been won by Anna Burns for Milkman!!

It shows our group knows a good book when it sees one.

So here is a brief resume of the shortlisted books, and the discussion which followed:

Milkman by Anna Burns

This is a very Irish book, not least because it is set in the Troubles, and in an unnamed city. Its style is distinctive, and has that flow and lilt and turn of phrase, which all good Irish writers have (think Anne Enright) – handed down from James Joyce’s stream of consciousness.  Maybe it’s in the blood.

None of the characters in the book are named, but are referred to as “middle sister”, “first brother-in-law”, “maybe boyfriend” etc.  Middle sister is the protagonist throughout.

It is a densely-packed novel, with lots of humour and satire. It explores the absurdity of the sectarian conflict. The position of women is in focus, highlighting that in order to live a good and safe life; they are in need of male protection.

The group found the book very accessible, entertaining, and beautifully written.

Do look out for it—it will be on our reading group list soon!

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Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

This book is based on a true story. It is engaging and believable and imaginative. Based in the 1830’s, it is an epic story of an 11 year old boy (Washington Black) who becomes a personal servant to an adventurer, naturalist and scientist.

The story travels the world, from Barbados, to Canada, to London and Morocco.

It is, above all, a good read, one which will appeal to a wide cross-section of readers who will be totally absorbed.

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

As a first novel, this book didn’t impress the group. As they said, it is immensely forgettable. The writing style was found irritating, and it was hard to engage with the characters. The sense of place was strong though, but the author appeared to be not grounded in reality, and the Oedipus theme an afterthought.

The subject matter is topical (transgender) but it was considered a pale copy of Kate Atkinson’s first book Behind the Scenes at the Museum.

 The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

A good book, with humour, and an excellent plot. Very informative of the prison system in the US, which puts the reader into a life they cannot possibly know.

The writer holds back about grisly details, and leaves much to the imagination.

An admirable book, and not difficult to read.

The Overstory by Richard Powers

A very moving book about the plight of trees, an ecological epic.

It is a big American novel, perhaps overlong, but very clever and very well-written

It is almost a number of short stories put together—nine characters and nine lives.

The Long Take by Robin Robertson

The book is a long poem—beautifully written, but hard to engage with for some.

It tells a story of a D day veteran, with post-traumatic stress disorder, walking and living and surviving in cities—New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco.

The illustrations are a fine accompaniment to the text, and it has a jazz-like atmosphere. Also reminiscent of the Waste Land in atmosphere and language.

Wonderful, if you are looking for something unusual.

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