There can be little doubt that the Man Booker judges picked a real winner in awarding this year’s prize to Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders [London: Bloomsbury, 2017]. This is a highly original and beautifully written book.
This is a powerful and surprising novel from a debut writer who now finds herself on this year’s Man Booker short list: Elmet by Fiona Mozley [London: JM Originals, 2017], and she’s only 29! It is also a real page-turner that some readers will work their way through in a couple of days or less. There is no question that it is valid contender for the Prize. We shall see very soon.
There are two debut novels in the Man Booker shortlist this year and History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund [London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2017] is both powerful and beautifully written. The story is narrated by Madeline, looking back from her mid-thirties on a fascinating and out-of-the-ordinary Minnesota childhood. Her parents made their first home in a hippy commune and she was something of a loner in the school she went to, involving a hike through the woods to the road and the nearest township. It seems to be based on Spirit Lake, one of a chain of fishing lakes on the Ripple River in north Minnesota where summers are hot and humid, though short while winters are long and cold. Fridlund coveys a wonderful sense of place.
I liked it so much that I sat down and straightaway reread Autumn by Ali Smith [London: Penguin, 2017]. Short-listed for this year’s Man Booker, what’s not to like about it? Apart from Smith’s gift for language, patterning, sound games, literary allusions (two in the first two lines) and alliterations, reminding and moving to and fro with such a light touch, the front cover of my copy has a wonderful David Hockney and the inside back cover is illustrated by that fascinating yet too little known female British Pop artist, Pauline Boty. If the Tate do a Boty retrospective I hope Ali Smith will be invited to open it. She also deserves credit for the first ‘Brexit’ novel and, had I been revising my dissertation on the influence of Margaret Thatcher on contemporary fiction, I would need to include this quotation.