Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The Man Booker Prize 2009

The winner for the Man Booker Prize 2009 was announced earlier tonight/last night. The winner is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

My official statement yesterday (on other people's blogs and social networking sites) in reply to who I wanted to win was "my heart says Mawer; my head says Coetzee; either would make me happy but the former richer. I will possibly cry and throw things if Byatt wins because that was possibly the most turgid reading experience that I have had all year."

I have read 5/6 of the shortlisted novels so far. I have yet to read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and of course the one I have yet to read is the one to win! My review of The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds will follow later this week. I read 10/13 of the longlist and, for the most part, consider it a rewarding experience. My time and interest have been invested in this year's prize and I am thankful for some of the great books that it introduced me to whilst others I had discovered myself and through fellow bloggers before the longlist was announced.

I have intensely followed this year's prize and I am grateful that my present circumstances allowed me the time to devote to it. In preparation for the award last night I watched Friday October 2nd's episode of Newsnight Revew on BBC iplayer as it was devoted to discussion of the Booker contenders; if you do have access to iplayer then try to watch it if you can as the discussion of these titles is interesting, especially in the differing impressions that they evoke in the panel and the viewer. They called Mantel or Byatt to win even though their opinion of the Byatt wasn't always favourable and quite resembled mine at times; some of the few negative comments about the Mantel could have been applied to Byatt in my mind (chunkster in need of a good edit).

It was interesting that the one from the shortlist that they thought a "page-turner" -The Glass Room- is the one they thought didn't have a chance of winning. Despite it being second popular favourite at the bookmakers and mine for the reasons that it engaged me and I actually cared about the characters and thought the narrative was propelled by plot and the language and descriptions of the house and fluid architecture were sumptuous, it didn't win the critics' vote (nor that of the Booker judges). Is it curious that the winning novel is not one that you cannot put down but one that you have to read slowly to apparently appreciate was their one of two contenders for the prize; a contender that ended up losing to the other chunkster on the list.

I have the utmost respect for the judges who read the contenders three times each and imagine that they did discover new attributes and failures in them all but if I never read The Children's Book again it will be too soon; I'm relieved it didn't win as I was very reluctant to break any of my possessions and didn't have my own copy of the novel (thankful for small mercies) to throw out of the window into upcoming traffic. I will eventually read Wolf Hall but currently I am still fifth in line at the library.


Darlene said...

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your reviews and comments on the books being considered for the Booker. So many were rooting for Hilary Mantel to win, I'm sure there was a heck of a lot of merriment going on tonight.

Rebecca Reid said...

i haven't read any of them. From the descriptions, The Glass House most intrigues me. But I think what the judges were looking for was slow and ponderous writing that makes you think and appreciate. And many bloggers seems to say that Wolf House is the most mature or thought-provoking (or boring, depending on the blogger). Not sure that's always the best thing, but then the general public aren't the judges, huh.

Teresa said...

I was rooting for Coetzee, as I think you know, because I was do think it was the most sophisticated offering on the list, but still completely readable. My heart was hoping for Waters, just because Coetzee has gotten it twice, and I'd like to see an atmospheric supernatural thriller get a prize like this. Honestly, I thought Coetzee and Waters were just about flawless.

But Wolf Hall was my third choice. I love the period, and she took it in a very interesting direction. If she writes a follow-up, and I hear she might, I'll be reading it.

Diane said...

Wow...I'm impressed 5/6. I want to read them too, but I better stop talking about it and start reading them...LOL

Steph said...

I haven't read any of the books on the shortlist, but to be fair, I think only the Byatt has been released here, and only just recently at that!

So, not having read any of the books, I have to say that I am perhaps least excited about Wolf Hall winning. The subject matter really doesn't appeal to me in the slightest (I just can't get on the Tudor England bandwagon... perhaps because I know nothing about the era), and the snippets of writing I saw posted just didn't do it for me. Of those that made the short list, I know I'll read the Coetzee, and I'd like to read The Glass Room and The Quickening Maze.

Paperback Reader said...

Darlene, I'm glad that you've enjoyed what I've had to say about the Booker. It was fun but now it seems a little ant-climactic. Ah well, the Nobel Prize for Literature is announced tomorrow!

Rebecca, The Glass Room was by far my favourite from the shortlist and was certainly the one I found most enjoyable. Summertime, however, was the most sophisticated and thought-provoking in my mind.

Teresa, the Coetzee was phenomenal and I am still wrapping my thoughts around it.

I would love to see Sarah Waters win one day, and I have no doubt that she will, but I am happy she didn't win for The Little Stranger as it wasn't her best book to date. I thought it was flawed and dry but there it is also very accomplished and just not to my liking.

I have read a number of things since last night about a proposed sequel to Wolf Hall, which intrigues me. I have no overt interest in the period, which may be what has put me off since the beginning.

Diane, it's certainly time-consuming! It's nice to be free now yet have a number of good books under my belt and the discovery of some new authors.

True, Steph, there aren't many available yet in North America.

From the outset, Wolf Hall held no appeal to me; that period of history simply holds no interest for me. Your choices are all good and the ones from the shortlist that I enjoyed most. I am particularly in what you will think of the Coetzee, although I think it isn't released until January in US.

verity said...

I am so impressed at your commitment to this challenge. I'm sorry you didn't get a chance to read the winner first!

Rachel said...

Typical isn't it? You read 5 out of 6 and the 6th is the winner!

Well I am just glad A S Byatt didn't win!!!

Personally I have found your reviews and discussion of the prize fascinating Claire and you have introduced me to books I'd never have read otherwise so thank you for your coverage of this event! I feel I have slightly participated by reading The Children's Book, but as I had no idea it was up for the Booker anyway when I got it, I don't know if that counts!

JoAnn said...

This year, I've been better informed about the Booker contenders than ever before...and much of that has come from reading your blog! Thank you for all the great reviews. But how disappointing that after reading 5/6, the unread book wins. I'm looking forward to the US release in a few days. A trip to the bookstore will be in order!

Tracey said...

Great post. I had a hunch that A.S Byatt would win, not sure why as I haven't read any of the shortlist! Congratulations on the 5 you have read - what are the odds that the one you didn't get to wins it!

Vivienne said...

I thought it would either be A.S Byatt or Sarah Waters. I haven't read Wolf Hall, but I won it last week in a competition, so I can't wait to read it now.

Paperback Reader said...

Verity, it goes to prove that Wolf Hall was indeed the popular choice seeing that it has taken so long to borrow from the library.

Rachel, that rotten luck doesn't surprise me much! Although I have been lucky in other literary areas/competitions recently so can't complain too much...

The fact that Byatt hasn't won is definitely keeping me upbeat; I would have loved to see Mawer or Coetzee win but just as long as it wasn't Byatt.

I am so pleased that you enjoyed my coverage. The experience has (mostly) been a good one and some of the books I read before they were longlisted but I still count those!

JoAnn, it is, I believe, sod's law! I'm glad that I contributed greatly to you being informed about this year's prize; it's the creme de la creme and does deserve a little bit of focus for less than a quarter of the year (anymore though would be definite overkill!)

Tracey, I should have put a bet on those odds rather than any other horse!

Vivienne, congratulations on your win! Especially now that it is the winning novel.

Bloomsbury Bell said...

Thanks to you my Wednesday evening is now sorted as I will be going straight onto iPlayer when I get home.

I hope you enjoy Wolf Hall - it is a fantastic read and I am looking forward to the sequel which Hilary Mantel is working on now.

Your commitment to reading the longlist is admirable and I have failed miserably in the task! Still, there is always next year.

Paperback Reader said...

Naomi, it's an interesting show; the first five minutes are about a rapper but the great thing about iPlayer is that you can fast forward.

I'm not sure when I'll manage to read Wolf Hall but hopefully before the end of the year. It intrigues me how divided opinions are amongst bloggers.

I had the time this year to read the longlist but we'll see about next year - if there's a new Byatt on it then I'm definitely not!

Annabel Gaskell said...

Good write-up.

I've yet to read any of the short-listed books, although I now own 5 out of 6, (The Quickening Maze is the missing one), Wolf Hall has been the one I wanted to read the most, and the AS Byatt the least!

Once my current reading trail is over, I will spend some time with Mantel and Sarah Waters for sure.

Paperback Reader said...

Thanks, Annabel. I hope you enjoy them when you read them (I can't promise that for the one I hated and the one I haven't read) and that you obtain a full set.

Anonymous said...

I am going to seek out The Glass Room soon. Ugh. I really can't be bothered with Wolf Hall. There's something about it that's just off-putting. I'll probably leave it alone for a bit, and see how I feel about it come December.

I don't know - maybe if you read each book three times, you'll see them differently as well.

With respect to this bit from your post:

Is it curious that the winning novel is not one that you cannot put down but one that you have to read slowly to apparently appreciate was their one of two contenders for the prize; a contender that ended up losing to the other chunkster on the list.

Last year's winner was The White Tiger. It was probably the easiest book to read - ever! I really don't know what makes the judges and critics tick, but, I would've bet that Adiga's book didn't win the Prize. Oh well, what do I know?!

Amy said...

I have added all of these to my TBR list, the Byatt with some trepidation, but I have enjoyed some of her other books. I'm looking forward to The Glass House and The Quickening Maze for sure. It's such a careful process, not sure I'd want to read all of these books 3 times, bless those judges.

Your post is wonderful, thank you!

verity said...

I saw a student walking out of the library with our copy of Wolf Hall yesterday. I'm glad that as we only purchased one of the shortlist, that we had the winning book!

Paperback Reader said...

anothercookie, I feel similarly put-off by Wolf Hall but will probably read it in November.

I think you are bound to view a book different if you read and reread it in such close proximity but they don't have my sympathies for some of them!

I found Life of Pi incredibly accessible so it's not always substance/style over plot but in regards to the Newsnight Review discussion, it was (and one of the panel was Michael Portillo who was the chair last year when Adiga won). I must read White Tiger soon as I have heard such good reviews.

Amy, thank you :). I hope you enjoy them, even the Byatt (and as you have had positive experiences reading her books in the past then it is certainly possible).

Verity, how opportune to have ordered the winner! I notice that my council has finally ordered another 3 copies but only now that it has won.

farmlanebooks said...

Such a shame! I was really hoping that Wolf Hall wouldn't win. I look forward to your thoughts on it and am really interested to see if you prefer it to Byatt.

I wasn't a fan of White Tiger, so I'd love to know your thoughts on that too! At least the Booker prize makes for good discussion about books!

Paperback Reader said...

Jackie, I think that the choice of Booker winners has been so diverse over the years that it is unlikely that individuals will enjoy and like every one that they read. Differing opinions definitely makes for interesting discussion.