So, I may not finish the Longlist before the winner is announced, but I have come to the end of the Shortlist and so thought it was time to gather and share some thoughts.
The first think that strikes me is that the Shortlist is very diverse. In the past I have found Orange Prize (as it was) novels good, but often quite ‘samey’ and this can’t be said of this year’s list.
The other important thing to note is that there isn’t a ‘bad’ book on there. There isn’t one novel on the Shortlist that I found challenging to complete. Yes, some were more interesting, erudite and original than others, but I wouldn’t discourage a friend from picking up any of them.
However (drum roll) having said that…. here is my Shortlist, in order of preference.
1. May we be Forgiven
I would be very, very surprised if I read a better book in the course of 2013. This novels subverted all my expectations, the narrative went at a madcap pace and crazy things happened all over the place. But I fell for it hook, line and sinker. It is the only book for a long, long time that I have dreamed about. I would recommend this novel to anyone, male or female.
2. Where’d you go Bernadette?
Another total surprise for me. This was a book I rated as “yellow” as I was fairly unsure how much I would enjoy it. But this book did a rare, rare thing. It made me laugh. And I almost never laugh at novels. It won my heart right there.
(Numbers 1 & 2 I would rate far, far above the remaining four for both sheer entertainment and originality).
3. Bring up the Bodies
As those of you who read my Man Booker blog will remember, this is yet another novel I didn’t expect to like (sensing a theme here?). And it is really, really good. And beautifully written. But somehow I just can’t get over the feeling that in both intent and style it is just more of a Man Booker book than a Women’s Prize book. I am yet to be convinced you can be both. And, more importantly, I would still rather read numbers 1 and 2 than this one. And for me, reader enjoyment remains the number one thing that this prize (if not all prizes?) should be about.
4. Flight Behaviour
This novel was a mixed one for me. I loved everything about the butterflies and the setting and can utterly imagine the community. But something about the way it wrote about fate and class made me uncomfortable, mostly because it seemed to do so unknowingly. I guess it comes down to the fact that I am just not entirely comfortable with the idea that people can’t escape their circumstances.
This novel suffered even more from than Flight Behaviour from reinforcing stereotypes. And maybe they hit me harder because these stereotypes are closer to home. It also lacked some narrative direction, even though at times the writing style and descriptions were highly evocative.
6. Life After Life
This novel was pretty much all hook and no substance. Not awful, just a little repetitive and dis-spiriting after a while.
Now, back to the rest of the LongList….