I really didn’t expect to be saying this today – but I think the judges made the right choice. I mis-judged them. I expected them to pick something pretentious, and literary (un-readable) and probably would have put my money on Will Self.
But I admit, I was wrong. They chose a novel which is readable and engrossing, yet clearly original and deeply skilled. This novel managed to turn me on to historical fiction, a genre I had always denegrated. More to the point, it clearly met my criteria (which I know the MBP judges had been having sleepless nights about):
It wasn’t all doom and gloom – despite telling what is a fundamentallt depressing story, there were regular moments of humanity and humour which kept it alive for me.
Things happened – even though I knew the basic premise, there were plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing. But that didn’t mean Mantel skimped on the characterisation – the characters were well-rounded, unusual and fascinating.
It was quoteable – I underlined more sections of this novel on my kindle than any other book I read as part of this project.
It was memorable – I read this in early August. Two months later, I can still picture the scenes and even smell some of the smells. I have read more than ten books inbetween, almost none of which I could say the same of.
Bring up the Bodies. A good choice. The right choice.
Now that doesn’t mean it was my favourite. For me, that was far and away The Garden of Evening Mists. But I can accept that, although the plotline and characterisation were spectacular, and the language spookily evocative, this was a less original and less skilled novel. The Man Booker judges did well to balance readability and skill and have earned my respect.
I never thought I’d say this, but I may well do this again next year. As Bring up the Bodies tells us:
“There are no endings. If you think so you are deceived by their nature. They are all beginnings”.