When the clock struck midnight and not just any day began but International Woman’s Day, the long list for the Women’s Prize was released, and yes, I was one of those people who stayed up to see who had made it on there.
I very much like the long list this year, which has been described as ‘outward looking’, with a couple of books on there I’ve adored, some I’ve very much enjoyed, a few I’ve got piled up to read and then the sneaky couple I’ve never heard of.
I thought I’d pull the list together in one place so if you wanted you could see previous reviews of those in the running that have appeared on Dog Eared, a little summary of the ones I’ve read but haven’t blogged about, and my two pence worth on the ones I still have to delve into.
Let’s get straight to it!
H(a)ppy by Nicola Barker
This is the first of the books that I have to confess has never crossed my radar. Having now had a read of the blurb I’ll definitely be having a read now. The novel seems to focus on a future utopia, where there is no poverty, greed, fear or God. Where we are looked after and surrounded by a loving community. Every narrative must have its challenges so what is going to happen in this dreamy world?! Turns out I neeeed to know!
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
This is a contender I’ve read but didn’t blog about. It follows Selin, who is Turkish-American, in her first year at Harvard. Her new environment is quite the shock to the system as she faces up to ‘being an adult’ while studying languages, a topic she thinks about often, and raising money on the side by teaching ESL students. After meeting a fellow student, Ivan, from Hungary, the pair fall into a disjointed relationship that leaves Selin as confused as it does contented. I laughed a lot at this novel which focuses on that unsteady time of transition in life.
Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
Im actually reading this one now and only a quarter, if that, of the way in! I loved Cannon’s first book, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, so was eager to get started with this and I’m enjoying it already. We meet Florence, who is living at a home for the elderly, where the staff are always attempting to get her to join in activities she has no interest in. When we are introduced to Florence however, she isn’t taking part in an activity but is lying on her bedroom floor, waiting for somebody to find her. Things have been a little strange around the home lately, although her best friend Elsie questions if she is just getting slightly forgetful and confused, but when a new resident appears from her past it is a cause for fear not celebration. That’s all I can say so far, other than I’m looking forward to getting back to the book later!
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes-Gowar is featured next, and you can read my blog about that by clicking here
Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig
Another novel I haven’t came across. This is a novel based on the authors mother and grandmother, and the lives they led in Burma, from 1939 onwards. With a protagonist from one of Burma’s Karen ethnic minority groups, the story is told with World War Two and then a decade of civil war playing out alongside it. I’ll report back when I’ve read it!
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Egan has a firm fan base out there after her novel ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ and I’m intrigued to see if this receives as much praise. My bookish friend Emma has been reading this and I know she is enjoying it so far. This novel centres on an Irish family living in Brooklyn during the depression and the Second World War. We have the story of three different characters weaving their way through this book, the one that intrigued me most being that of a woman who becomes a diver to help the war effort. I expect good stuff from this one.
Sight by Jessie Greengrass
This book sounds goooood. It appears to be something of a mediation of motherhood. We have a woman looking at how she is ‘performing’ as a mother herself, while examining her relationship with her own mother and grandmother. Throughout the novel we then encounter moments were significant changes/discoveries were made in medical history. I think this sounds fascinating and am eager to get my hands on a copy!
Sing, Unburied, Sing
I LOVE this book, utter perfection, read about it here
When I Hit You, Or, The Portrait is the Artist as a Young Wife
I honestly cannot believe I didn’t write about this book on the site as it was easily one of my tops reads of the year, albeit not an easy one to swallow emotionally. Stunningly written, it is fiction but does have some of the authors of experience in there, the book looks at an unnamed protagonist who is a successful writer. She meets a professor who she falls for and agrees to become his wife, but soon after the marriage she finds he is a violent man who wants an ‘ideal’ homely wife, and we read in horror as he goes about stripping her of links to the outside world and independence. A remarkable book.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
The return of Roy was quite the anticipated event in the literary world and I too was caught up in the excitement yet…I still haven’t read this! To be totally honest I think the size of the book has put me off, you know when you need to be in the right mind frame to pick up a tome? This is a novel set in India over many years, turbulent war filled years, supposed ‘peace time’ and actual peace time. Again we have a trio of central characters whom we follow, looking at love and hope, what it can mean to be an outsider, how life can tear us apart and how it can heal us again.
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
Quite a few of my bookseller colleagues have read this and loved it, and I’ve been desperate to read it from all the buzz. My copy is ready to go in the next few days. The book is a retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders in America. The joy in crime fiction is not know what’s coming so that’s all I’m going to say!
Another favourite read of last year, you can find my review here
A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert
This sounds right up my street. Set in the Ukraine, not long after Germany have invaded, a young boy called Yankel finds his town is overrun by the SS, and that be has to put his self and his brothers lives at the mercy of strangers.
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
Again, why did I not review this when I read it? I really enjoyed Home Fire, which is a modern day retelling of Antigone by Sophocles. This looks at family, relationships and what happens when politics, religion and a struggle with racial identity all begin to bubble up amongst two families with very different backgrounds. I’d like to have a reread of this one.
The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal
This second outing by de Waal isn’t actually out until the end of March but if it’s half as good as ‘My Name is Leon’ I know we’ll be in for a cracking read. Here our Irish protagonist looks back at her time in 1970’s Birmingham, and an intense love affair that leads to a marriage that may not have been built on the most solid of ground.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
The much feted Miss Oliphant of course found her way on to the long list, our review can be found by clicking here
So as you can see it is quite the list! Have you read any of these? Got any already or tempted to pick up a certain one after finding out a little more about the book? Let us know! Maybe you have already predicted the winner?! As always you can join in the conversation about the books in the comments below! And until next time,