Shadowing the Man Booker - halfway there
Jan Dawson from Warwickshire Libraries updates us on the progress of their Warwickshire Super Readers Group as they shadow this year's Man Booker Prize:
We met for the second time recently, to discuss progress, as things gather apace, and there are only two weeks left to finish the six books. What a great turn out, with everyone bar two, present. Such enthusiasm and commitment.
The discussion focused on how people were progressing, and what we thought of the books so far. Of course, discussion on each book was limited to those who had read it, (and trying not to give away anything to those who hadn't).
What we thought
Narcopolis: A very vivid and colourful picture of Bombay in the seventies, depicting the utter awfulness of life on the margins, played out in the opium haze of the city's underworld. Characters are very strongly portrayed, Dimple being a favourite, but not easy to relate to. Written by an author familiar with addiction and with all the horrors it entails. Opinion was divided on this, some enjoying the colourful decadence depicted, others unable to cope with the squalor. No one's favourite.
Umbrella: Such a lot of discussion this book has generated. Certainly not an easy read, but plenty in it, once the initial barriers of reading stream of consciousness writing, has been overcome. Inevitable comparisons with Joyce and Woolf were made, but the theme of mental illness was often thought to be well depicted, if in a self-effacing way. A couple of people's favourite.
Bring up the Bodies: Quite divided opinions on this one, many people finding it a difficult read, not least because of the plethora of characters and their various names. Generally thought to be well researched; a book which got to the heart of Tudor England, into it's characters, customs and speech. For many, the fact that it is a sequel to Wolf Hall detracts, though others think it stands on it's own well.
Garden of Evening Mists: A favourite of many, so far. Beautifully written, evocative, a book to savour. This is a work which will stay with the reader for a long time, with well drawn characters and a palpable sense of time and place. A winner.
Swimming Home: This has provoked much theorising amongst the group, is Kitty a mermaid, a lorelei or a siren? Lots of questions, great for discussion, and worthy of a re-read (though not just yet). An interesting read, unusual and compelling.
Lighthouse: A readable book, with good characterisation, particularly Futh. Characters appear to be on a non-stop track with a collision course at the end. Generally thought to be a good read, but without the weight or depth to make it particularly memorable. Favoured by some.
Our current favourite
At the end of the evening, we decided to do a quick "straw-poll" of our favourite so far, and what we think the judges will pick (as far as we can tell now). Our personal favourite at this moment is Garden of Evening Mists, with Lighthouse a second favourite. We think the judges may well pick Garden of Evening Mists but Umbrella runs a close second.
So, watch and wait. Can Warwickshire pick the same winner as the judges second-time round? We're voting on 15 October.
The Man Booker Prize winner will be announced on the 16 October.
Read Warwickshire's first blog post about shadowing the Man Booker.
Is your reading group shadowing this year's Man Booker Prize - do get in touch or post a comment below - we'd love to hear about how you are getting on and who you think the winner will be.
Man Booker have produced reader's guides for each of the titles - check them out here for your group or club.