February 2008 archive

The Costa Book Award Project

I was very excited when Sharon of Ex Libris told me she was going to host The Costa Book Award Project. The goal is to read all of the winners from several categories. I love reading from the award lists, and these perpetual challenges are perfect for me – low key, no stress! I have read almost nothing from the Costa Awards list, and this challenge will stretch me to read poetry and Biographies…a neglected aspect of my reading.

Below are the books I’ve read and what I hope to read in 2008.

Read previous to the challenge:
White Teeth, by Zadie Smith (read in 2001; unrated)

Books I hope to read in 2008:
What Was Lost, by Catherine O’Flynn (First Novel 2007)
The Tenderness of Wolves, by Stef Penney (First Novel 2006)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon (Novel Award 2003)
Behind the Scenes at the Museum, by Kate Atkinson (First Novel 1995)
The Queen of the Tambourine, by Jane Gardam (Novel Award 1991)

Below is the complete list of winners. As I read books from the list, I’ll cross them off, and provide date read, rating, and link to review.

2007

  • First Novel Award – What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn
  • Novel Award – Day by A L Kennedy***
  • Biography Award – Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore
  • Poetry Award – Tilt by Jean Sprackland
  • Children’s Book Award – The Bower Bird by Ann Kelley

2006

  • First Novel Award – The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney***
  • Novel Award – Restless by William Boyd
  • Biography Award – Keeping Mum by Brian Thompson
  • Poetry Award – Letter to Patience by John Haynes
  • Children’s Book Award – Set in Stone by Linda Newbery

2005

  • First Novel Award – The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw
  • Novel Award – The Accidental by Ali Smith
  • Biography Award – Matisse: The Master by Hilary Spurling***
  • Poetry Award – Cold Calls by Christopher Logue
  • Children’s Book Award – The New Policeman by Kate Thompson

2004

  • First Novel Award – Eve Green by Susan Fletcher
  • Novel Award – Small Island by Andrea Levy***
  • Biography Award – My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots by John Guy
  • Poetry Award – Corpus by Michael Simmons
  • Children’s Book Award – Not the End of the World by Geraldine McCaughrean

2003

  • First Novel Award – Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
  • Novel Award – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon***
  • Biography Award – Orwell: The Life by DJ Taylor
  • Poetry Award – Landing Light by Don Paterson
  • Children’s Book Award – The Fire-Eaters by David Almond

2002

  • First Novel Award – The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht
  • Novel Award – Spies by Michael Frayn
  • Biography Award – Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self by Claire Tomalin***
  • Poetry Award – The Ice Age by Paul Farley
  • Children’s Book Award – Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay

2001

  • First Novel Award – Something Like a House by Sid Smith
  • Novel Award – Twelve Bar Blues by Patrick Neate
  • Biography Award – Selkirk’s Island by Diana Souhami
  • Poetry Award – Bunny by Selima Hill
  • Children’s Book Award – The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman***

2000

  • First Novel Award – White Teeth by Zadie Smith (read in 2001; not rated; no review)
  • Novel Award – English Passengers by Matthew Kneale***
  • Biography Award – Bad Blood by Lorna Sage
  • Poetry Award – The Asylum Dance by John Burnside
  • Children’s Book Award – Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin

1999

  • First Novel Award – White City Blue by Tim Lott
  • Novel Award – Music and Silence by Rose Tremain
  • Biography Award – Berlioz, Volume 2 by David Cairns
  • Poetry Award – Beowulf by Seamus Heaney***
  • Children’s Book Award – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

1998

  • First Novel Award – The Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden
  • Novel Award – Leading the Cheers by Justin Cartwright
  • Biography Award – Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman
  • Poetry Award – Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes***
  • Children’s Book Award – Skellig by David Almond

1997

  • First Novel Award – The Ventriloquist’s Tale by Pauline Melville
  • Novel Award – Quarantine by Jim Crace
  • Biography Award – Victor Hugo by Graham Robb
  • Poetry Award – Tales from Ovid by Ted Hughes***
  • Children’s Book Award – Aquila by Andrew Norriss

1996

  • First Novel Award – The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester
  • Novel Award – Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge
  • Biography Award – Thomas Cranmer: A Life by Diarmaid MacCulloch
  • Poetry Award – The Spirit Level by Seamus Heaney***
  • Children’s Book Award – The Tulip Touch by Anne Fine

1995

  • First Novel Award – Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson***
  • Novel Award – The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie
  • Biography Award – Gladstone by Roy Jenkins
  • Poetry Award – Gunpowder by Bernard O’Donoghue
  • Children’s Book Award – The Wreck of the Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo

1994

  • First Novel Award – The Longest Memory by Fred D’Aguiar
  • Novel Award – Felicia’s Journey by William Trevor***
  • Biography Award – D. H. Lawrence: The Married Man by Brenda Maddox
  • Poetry Award – Out of Danger by James Fenton
  • Children’s Book Award – Gold Dust by Geraldine McCaughrean

1993

  • First Novel Award – Saving Agnes by Rachel Cusk
  • Novel Award – Theory of War by Joan Brady***
  • Biography Award – Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life by Andrew Motion
  • Poetry Award – Mean Time by Carol Ann Duffy
  • Children’s Book Award – Flour Babies by Anne Fine

1992

  • First Novel Award – Swing Hammer Swing! by Jeff Torrington***
  • Novel Award – Poor Things by Alasdair Gray
  • Biography Award – Trollope by Victoria Glendinning
  • Poetry Award – The Gaze of the Gorgon by Tony Harrison
  • Children’s Book Award –The Great Elephant Chase by Gillian Cross

1991

  • First Novel Award – Alma Cogan by Gordon Burn
  • Novel Award – The Queen of the Tambourine by Jane Gardam
  • Biography Award – A Life of Picasso by John Richardson***
  • Poetry Award – Gorse Fires by Michael Longley
  • Children’s Book Award – Harvey Angell by Diana Hendry

1990

  • First Novel Award – The Buddha of Suburbia by Nicholas Mosley
  • Novel Award – Hopeful Monsters by Nicholas Mosley***
  • Biography Award – A A Milne: His Life by Ann Thwaite
  • Poetry Award – Daddy, Daddy by Paul Durcan
  • Children’s Book Award – AK by Peter Dickinson

1989

  • First Novel Award – Gerontius by James Hamilton-Paterson
  • Novel Award – The Chymical Wedding by Lindsay Clarke
  • Biography Award – Coleridge: Early Visions by Richard Holmes***
  • Poetry Award – Shibboleth by Michael Donaghy
  • Children’s Book Award – Why Weeps the Brogan? by Hugh Scott

1988

  • First Novel Award – The Comforts of Madness by Paul Sayer***
  • Novel Award – The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
  • Biography Award – Tolstoy by A N Wilson
  • Poetry Award – The Automatic Oracle by Peter Porter
  • Children’s Book Award – Awaiting Developments by Judy Allen

1987

  • First Novel Award – The Other Garden by Francis Wyndham
  • Novel Award – The Child in Time by Ian McEwan
  • Biography Award – Under the Eye of the Clock by Christopher Nolan***
  • Poetry Award – The Haw Lantern by Seamus Heany
  • Children’s Book Award – A Little Lower than the Angels by Geraldine McCaughrean

1986

  • First Novel Award – Continent by Jim Crace
  • Novel Award – An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro***
  • Biography Award – Gilbert White by Richard Mabey
  • Poetry Award – Stet by Peter Reading
  • Children’s Book Award – The Coal House by Andrew Taylor

1985

  • First Novel Award – Oranges are not the only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
  • Novel Award – Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
  • Biography Award – Hugh Dalton by Ben Pimlott
  • Poetry Award – Elegies by Douglas Dunn***
  • Children’s Book Award – The Nature of the Beast by Janni Howker

[Note:  The issuance of a Book of the Year award began in 1985.  Between 1971 and 1984, categories shifted and awards were not given in all categories. ]

1984

  • First Novel Award – A Parish of Rich Women by James Buchan
  • Novel Award – Kruger’s Alp by Christopher Hope
  • Biography Award – T S Eliot by Peter Ackroyd
  • Short Story Award – Tomorrow is our Permanent Address by Diane Rowe
  • Children’s Book Award – The Queen of the Pharisees’ Children by Barbara Willard

1983

  • First Novel Award – Flying to Nowhere by John Fuller
  • Novel Award – Fools of Fortune by William Trevor
  • Joint Biography Award – Vita by Victoria Glendining and King George V by Kenneth Rose
  • Children’s Book Award – The Witches by Roald Dahl

1982

  • First Novel Award – On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin
  • Novel Award – Young Shoulders by John Wain
  • Biography Award – Bismarck by Edward Crankshaw
  • Children’s Book Award – The Song of Pentecost by W J Corbett

1981

  • First Novel Award – A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd
  • Novel Award – Silver’s City by Maurice Leitch
  • Biography Award – Monty: The Making of a General by Nigel Hamilton
  • Children’s Book Award – The Hollow Land by Jane Gardam

1980

  • Novel Award – How Far Can You Go? by David Lodge
  • Biography Award – On the Edge of Paradise: A C Benson the Diarist by David Newsome
  • Childen’s Book Award – John Diamond by Leon Garfield

1979

  • Novel Award – The Old Jest by Jennifer Johnston
  • Autobiography Award – About Time by Penelope Mortimer
  • Children’s Book Award – Tulku by Peter Dickinson

1978

  • Novel Award – Picture Palace by Paul Theroux
  • Biography Award – Lloyd George: the People’s Champion by John Grigg
  • Children’s Book Award – The Battle of Bubble & Squeak by Philippa Pearce

1977

  • Novel Award – Injury Time by Beryl Bainbridge
  • Biography Award – Mary Curzon by Nigel Nicolson
  • Children’s Book Award – No End to Yesterday by Shelagh Macdonald

1976

  • Novel Award – The Children of Dynmouth by William Trevor
  • Biography Award – Elizabeth Gaskell by Winifred Gerin
  • Children’s Book Award – A Stitch in Time by Penelope Lively

1975

  • Novel Award – Docherty by William McIlvanney
  • Autobiography Award – In Our Infancy by Helen Corke
  • First Book Award – The Improbable Puritan: A Life of Bulstrode Whitelock by Ruth Spalding

1974

  • Novel Award – The Sacred & Profane Love Machine by Iris Murdoch
  • Biography Award – Poor Dear Brendan by Andrew Boyle
  • Joint Children’s Books – How Tom Beat captain Najork & His Hired Sportsmen by Russell Hoban & Quentin Blake, The Emperor’s Winding Sheet by Jill Paton Walsh
  • First Book Award – The Life & Death of Mary Wollstonecraft by Claire Tomalin

1973

  • Novel Award – The Chip Chip Gatherers by Shiva Naipaul
  • Biography Award – CB: A Life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman by John Wilson
  • Children’s Book Award – The Butterfly Ball & The Grasshopper’s Feast by Alan Aldridge & William Plomer

1972

  • Novel Award – The Bird of Night by Susan Hill
  • Biography Award – Trollope by James Pope-Hennessey
  • Children’s Book Award – The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden

1971

  • Novel Award – The Destiny Waltz by Gerda Charles
  • Biography Award – Henrik Ibsen by Michael Meyer
  • Poetry Award – Mercian Hymns by Geoffrey Hill

Six Pieces of Trivia Meme

My friend Karin from You Heard Me has tagged me for a meme…it’s a fun one.

The Rules:

1) Link to the person who tagged you.
2) Post the rules.
3) Share six non-important things / habits / quirks about yourself.
4) Tag at least three people.
5) Make sure the people you tagged KNOW you tagged them by commenting what you did.

I had to sleep on this one – my brain is a bit fuzzed from being sick for two weeks; and I admit I’m not feeling terribly creative. Here are my six things:

I.   In 1977 I was the NH State half mile champion and in 1978 I was a member of the mile relay team that won the New England Championships. This is a fact I share rarely with others…and I can’t even imagine running that fast today as I creep through middle age.

NE Champions 1978: Tina Guerin, Wendy Ward, Maureen Ferns, Megan O’Sullivan

II.   I stay in my pajamas most days until 11:00. Now, don’t assume this equates to laziness. I work as a physical therapy consultant and much of that requires typing reports and making phone calls which I do in the mornings. I usually get up, pour myself a cup of coffee and work on the computer for the first few hours of each day. Why bother getting dressed?

III.   I stole my pet rat, Grete, from the college lab at the end of the semester. I was taking a behavioral psychology class at the University of Rhode Island whereby we were given baby rats and the task of teaching these tiny rodents how to press a lever to get water. I grew attached to my rat and when I discovered that all the rats would be gassed at the end of the semester, I decided to save Grete’s life. A friend helped me break into the lab and steal her one night. I think the professor was well aware of the theft, but conveniently looked the other way.

IV.   I like to paint my toenails red. How trivial is that?

V.   I joined a Sorority in college. Most people do not know this and would not picture me being a Sorority girl. Truth be told, I hated dorm living and joined the Sorority for the great living quarters, and some of the best food on campus.

VI.   I have three novels in rough draft I’ve written. Maybe someday I’ll finish them.

I’m supposed to tag three people – but I’m feeling quite lazy. Consider yourself tagged if you are reading this!

Sunday Salon – February 10, 2008


February 10, 2008

10:40 AM

Another Sunday – where do the days go?  I slept in this morning – still battling a chest cold that has been lingering for two weeks now.  It is a beautiful sunny day here in Northern California and the snow is melting in rivulets down the driveway and off the roof. It makes me think of Spring and tulips and warmer days ahead.

I finished Theft of the Master this week (read my review) and  am currently reading The Night Watch, by Sarah Waters. This book has sat on my TBR stack for more than a year…I have no idea why it has taken me so long to get to it. I’ve not read anything by Waters before, and I am loving her voice and skill at character development. Writers who wonder how to create believable characters need to pick up this book. Waters writes with sensitivity and an ear for dialogue. The Night Watch is a story told in reverse – beginning just after WWII in London and then working back in time to end at the beginning. There is a certain tension which develops with this technique. The characters are introduced and bring with them the mystery of their past, which is then gradually revealed as the novel progresses. I’m about half way through the novel and hope to finish it by tomorrow.

Waiting for me is a stack of early review books from various sources….The Story of Forgetting, by Stefan Merrill Block due to be published in April 2008 (sent to me by Jen at Observed in Books), The Translator: A Tribesman’s Memoir of Darfur, by Daoud Hari due for publication by Random House in March 2008 (from Library Things’ early review program);  Belong to Me, by Marisa de los Santos to be published by Harper Collins in April 2008 (received through Shelf Awareness). These all look like wonderful books which I am looking forward to reading.

My good friend Lois surprised me this week by sending me a hard cover copy of The Hearts of Horses, by Molly Gloss. I’ve not read anything by this author and the book looks fabulous. I’ve got it on my bedside table, lined up in the queue.

Which leads me to once again ponder on the vast array of books I want to read and how short life seems in the face of it. Do any of you feel this way? That there are more books out there to be read then there can possibly be time to read them? I imagine this is better than the reverse…and for some people in the world gaining access to books is difficult. What would I do without my piles of books?

The day is calling to me – the pull of Spring is in the air. I plan to take a short walk today in the neighborhood just to feel the sun on my face and smell the clean fragrance of the pines and snow. I’ll be curling up later on the couch with the cats to read more of The Night Watch…until then, enjoy the afternoon, Saloners!

The Night Watch – Book Review

‘I go to the cinema,’ said Kay; ‘there’s nothing funny about that. Sometimes I sit through the films twice over. Sometimes I go in half-way through, and watch the second half first. I almost prefer them that way – people’s pasts, you know, being so much more interesting than their futures.’ -From The Night Watch, page 110-

In The Night Watch, Sarah Waters has created tension and mystery by peering backwards into the past – beginning in 1947 and regressing back in time so that the end of the novel is actually the beginning of the story. This structure is at once unsettling and fascinating.

The novel spins around four Londoners and their significant others and explores the impact of war on relationships. The reader is introduced to each character – Kay, Helen, Viv and Viv’s brother, Duncan – immediately following WWII in the year 1947. Each character carries secrets and is struggling with events in their history which are undisclosed to the reader. As the novel progresses, Waters carefully unwraps the past, drawing the threads of the characters’ lives together to create a stunning expose about sexuality and the tenuous nature of love amid the historical significance of war.

One of the aspects of the novel which touched me was the exploration of the repercussions of war on youth.

How long did they have to go on, letting the war spoil everything? They had been patient, all this time. They’d lived in darkness. They’d lived  without salt, without scent. They’d fed themselves little scraps of pleasure, like parings of cheese. Now she became aware of the minutes as they passed: she felt them, suddenly, for what they were, as fragments of her life, her youth, that were rushing away like so many drops of water, never to return. -From The Night Watch, page 357-

Waters’ prose – nuanced and full of empathy for her characters – is a bit like reading a narrative poem. Her descriptions set the reader into the novel, revealing the beauty of the human spirit amid the horror of night-time air raids and causalities. The story is a beautifully rendered, character driven look at World War II from 1941 to 1947.

The Night Watch was shortlisted for the Booker and Orange Prizes – and it is easy to see why. This was my first Sarah Waters novel, but it will not be my last.

Highly recommended.

Another thank you – Make My Day Award

I am tremendously flattered to have had my blogs acknowledged for the Make My Day Award again!

Alisia from Book Haven recognized this blog earlier in the week and said: “Her book selections are eerily similar to my reading tastes, and her reviews are so well-thought out, they always stimulate that somewhat neglected intellect portion of my brain!

Thank you, Alisia – I always enjoy reading your reviews as well!!

Then today my blog A Novel Challenge was recognized by Lynne over at Lynne’s Little Corner of the World. Thank you, Lynne!

Theft of the Master – Book Review

And so this masterpiece, itself commemorating an ancient slaughter, five centuries later will become the trigger for bloodshed and betrayal… -From Theft of the Master, page 4-

Priceless works of art and cultural artifacts were stolen by the Nazis before World War II ground to a halt.  Edwin Alexander’s debut novel – Theft of the Master – is based on this historical fact. The novel opens in 1493 in Estonia with the commission of a carving of Christ. It then fast forwards to 1992 where the reader is introduced to The Templars – modern day Nazis intent on preserving “German cultural heritage.” Alexander sets up the novel carefully – structuring it after a game of chess – while he moves from Germany to the coast of Northern California where a young woman is drowned under suspicious circumstances. Enter Al Hershey, a private investigator small in stature but big in street smarts and Marine experience. Hershey is a likable character who is adept at getting himself out of tight situations. Hired by the dead girl’s parents, Hershey wastes no time unraveling the mystery from California, to Paraguay, to Estonia to Germany and back to California.

While the novel faltered at times with some cliche  characters and plot gaps, Alexander’s ability to tell a story with plenty of twists and turns keeps the reader flipping the pages. One of the strengths of the book is its reliance on historical fact to support the fictional elements…and I have to admit that was my initial interest in the book.

Alexander has a web page which includes an interview with him about this book, along with some additional information about the history of the novel. He is currently working on his second Al Hershey novel.

Theft of the Master was a quick and ultimately satisfying read and I can recommend it to readers who enjoy thrillers and historical fiction.

WINNER – Valentine’s Day Book Giveaway


February 15th
WINNER ANNOUNCED

Congratulations to Karin who won the drawing for the book!! Karin, I have sent you an email to get your snail mail address so that I can get your book in the mail!

***********************************

As a way to show my appreciation to my faithful readers, I’ve decided to give away a brand new, soft cover edition of:


Lisey’s Story
, by Stephen King.

If you would like your name to go into the drawing, please leave a comment here by midnight (PCT) on February 13th. I will be drawing a winner on the morning of February 14th!

The Orange Prize Project


No Time Limit

In the spirit of some of the other award winning perpetual reading challenges, I decided to host this long-term project in which the participants will read all books that have won or been short listed for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction AND the Orange Broadband Award for New Writers. There is no time limit.

For those readers who want to go further than the short lists, I have also provided a list of the titles which appeared annually on the long list for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Reading from the long lists is not required, by could be viewed as “extra credit!”

I have started a blog dedicated to this challenge which is open for contribution by challenge participants. Please go to The Orange Prize Project blog for further guidelines and to join up!

My Progress List and goals:

Below the books I’ve read from winners and shortlists are highlighted in orange. The books I’ve read from the longlists are highlighted in green; ratings, links and reviews as indicated.

I’ve gone through my current stacks of TBR books and found a number of Orange Prize winners and nominees. In the lists below, I have italicized those books I hope to read in 2008.

The Orange Prize for Fiction

2007

Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – WINNER (Read January 7, 2007; rated 5/5; read my review)
Arlington Park, by Rachel Cusk
The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai (Read March 17, 2007; rated 4.25/5; read my review)
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, by Xiaolu Guo
The Observations, by Jane Harris
Digging to America, by Anne Tyler

From the Longlist:
What Was Lost, by Catherine O’Flynn

2006

On Beauty, by Zadie Smith – WINNER
The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss
Beyond Black, by Hilary Mantel
The Accidental, by Ali Smith
Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living, by Carrie Tiffany
The Night Watch, by Sarah Waters (read February 12, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)

From the Longlist:
Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson (read in 2006; rated 2/5)
Minaret, by Leila Aboulela

2005

We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver – WINNER
Old Filth, by Jane Gardam (read May 29, 2007; rated 3.5/5; read my review)

The Mammoth Cheese, by Sheri Holman
Liars and Saints, by Maile Meloy
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, by Marina Lewycka

From the Longlist:
Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson

2004

Small Island, by Andrea Levy – WINNER
Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood (Read in 2006; rated 3.5/5)
The Great Fire, by Shirley Hazzard (Read August 9, 2007; rated 4/5; read my review)
Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Read January 24, 2007; rated 5/5; read my review)
Ice Road, by Gillian Slovo
The Colour, by Rose Tremain

From the Longlist:
The Amateur Marriage, by Anne Tyler

2003

Property, by Valerie Martin – WINNER
Buddha Da, by Anne Donovan
Heligoland, by Shena Mackay
Unless, by Carol Shields
The Autograph Man, by Zadie Smith
The Little Friend, by Donna Tartt

From the Longlist:
What I Loved, by Siri Hustvedt

2002

Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett- WINNER
No Bones, by Anna Burns
The Siege, by Helen Dunmore
The White Family, by Maggie Gee
A Child’s Book of True Crime, by Chloe Hooper
Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters

From the Longlist:

2001

The Idea of Perfection, by Kate Grenville – WINNER
The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood (Read August 4, 2007; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
Fred & Edie, by Jill Dawson
Hotel World, by Ali Smith
Homestead, by Rosina Lippi
Horse Heaven, by Jane Smiley

From the Longlist:

2000

When I Lived in Modern Times, by Linda Grant – WINNER
If I Told You Once, by Judy Budnitz
Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
The Dancers Dancing, by Eilis Ni Dhuibhne
White Teeth, by Zadie Smith (Read in 2003; unrated)

From the Longlist:
The Translator, by Leila Aboulela (Read March 23, 2007; rated 4.5/5; read my review)

1999

A Crime in the Neighborhood, by Suzanne Berne – WINNER
The Short History of a Prince, by Jane Hamilton
The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
Paradise, by Toni Morrison
The Leper’s Companions, by Julia Blackburn
Visible Worlds, by Marilyn Bowering

From the Longlist:

1998

Larry’s Party, by Carol Shield – WINNER
Lives of the Monster Dogs, by Kirsten Bakis
The Ventriloquist’s Tale, by Pauline Melville
The Magician’s Assistant, by Ann Patchett
Love Like Hate Adore, by Deirdre Purcell
The Weight of Water, by Anita Shreve

From the Longlist:

1997

Fugitive Pieces, by Anne Michaels – WINNER
Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood (Read May 14, 2007; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
One by One in the Darkness, by Deirdre Madden
Accordion Crimes, by E. Annie Proulx (Read 2006; rated 2/5)
Hen’s Teeth, by Manda Scott
I Was Amelia Earhart, by Jane Mendelsohn

From the Longlist:
Fall On Your Knees, by Ann-Marie MacDonald (Read April 28, 2007; rated 4/5; read my review)

1996

A Spell of Winter, by Helen Dunmore – WINNER
The Book of Colour, by Julia Blackburn
Spinsters, by Pagan Kennedy
The Hundred Secret Senses, by Amy Tan
Ladder of Years, by Anne Tyler
Eveless Eden, by Marianne Wiggins

From the Longlist:

Orange Prize for New Writers


2007

The Lizard Cage, by Karen Connelly – WINNER
Poppy Shakespeare, by Clare Allan
Bitter Sweets, by Roopa Farooki

2006

Disobedience, by Naomi Alderman – WINNER
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, by Yiyun Li
The Dream Life of Sukhanov, by Olga Grushin

2005

26a, by Diana Evans – WINNER
Lucky Girls, by Nell Freudenberger
How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff


Sunday Salon – February 3, 2008


February 3, 2008

7:45 AM

Welcome to another Sunday Salon at my house. The snow is four feet deep outside the windows, the fire is toasty, the coffee is brewed and filling the house with the comforting smell of roasted beans. Why not grab the rocking chair (if you can push the cats off it) and read with me?

I finished reading David Mitchell’s debut Ghostwritten (read my review) this week. What a ride. Here is an author that knows how to tell a story. He’s been criticized for telling “crowded” stories … too much going on, too many disparate characters. But although there is a lot going on and there are a lot of characters, Mitchell knows about pacing and symbolism and connection; he knows about humanity. Reading a Mitchell story is full immersion. I highly recommend it.

My current read is an early review from Harper Collins – another debut novel; this one by Sadie Jones, a Londoner. The Outcast is a deliberately written, slowly paced novel about a young boy growing up in a small English town after losing his mother in a tragic accident. It is written in an omniscient voice – a point of view which I typically don’t enjoy, but works here. The story is about family and identity and secrets and redemption…it is a bit depressing, but quite readable.  I’m nearly finished with it – about 50 pages to go – and I’m eager to see how Jones will wrap things up.

I hope to finish The Outcast this morning and start my next book (Theft of the Master, by Edwin Alexander) this afternoon.

More later…

1:45 PM

Earlier today I turned the last page of The Outcast and it left me feeling just a tad bit empty inside. This is not a feel good novel, but it is well written. To read more of my thoughts, check out my review.

I feel in the mood for something completely different now – and I think I’ve found it with my next book: Theft of the Master, by Edwin Alexander. This book was published in 2007 in the UK and first published in the US in 2008. Its opening prologue is set in the year 1493 and deals with the commission of a wooden carving of Christ, seated and preaching.

And so this masterpiece, itself commemorating an ancient slaughter, five centuries later will become the trigger for bloodshed and betrayal… -From Theft of the Master, page 4-

Alexander apparently based his thriller on the real life events surrounding Hitler’s orders to steal valuable German cultural artifacts…which is what first piqued my interest in reading the book. Visit Alexander’s official website related to the novel to read more about the author and his research in writing the book.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress and thoughts later…

The Outcast – Book Review

If one didn’t mention a thing afterwards, it was as if it hadn’t happened. -From The Outcast, page 76-

Sadie Jone’s debut novel – The Outcast – is a disturbing and provocative story about loss, adolescent struggle for understanding, familial relationships and secrets, and finally redemption.

When ten year old Lewis Aldridge loses his mother to a tragic accident, he finds himself on the outside of his father’s love and understanding. Wrapping himself in a cloak of silence, and converting his grief to anger, Lewis detaches himself from his friends and family. Eventually, Lewis’ anger boils over and he lashes out at not only himself, but a community which has turned against him. 

The novel actually begins with Lewis’ release from prison after serving two years for his crime,  then rewinds to his childhood to show the reader Lewis’ relationship with his mother, the carefree Lizzie; and his cold and distant father, Gilbert. After Lizzie’s death, Lewis’ father remarries the younger Alice – a woman whose floundering self-esteem and desire to be “liked” results in further alienation of her stepson. The community where Lewis grows up is filled with damaged characters – all who believe primarily in “appearances,” while harboring dark secrets. The Carmichael family (with the violent Dicky, and his two daughters and ineffective wife) parallel the lives of the Aldridges.

Jones deliberately sets down the story of Lewis’ early years, casting the narrative in an all seeing omniscient voice which gives the reader a sense of impending doom.  By the time the reader has caught up to the present with Lewis returning home after his imprisonment,  the story has taken on a pace of its own. The layers of Lewis’ psyche begin to unfold, and the closely held secrets of the characters are exposed.

Jones weaves her story with the careful precision of architect The characters – who are not terribly likable – demand to be read. The cruelty heaped upon Lewis seems interminable. And there were moments when I wanted to scream at his uncaring father and insipid stepmother. The intertwined lives of all the characters seem too broken and damaged to be mended, but Jones ultimately leaves the reader with the hope of understanding and redemption.

The result of all of this is an emotionally driven and powerful novel which is compulsively readable. I can recommend this debut by Sadie Jones for readers who enjoy a character driven novel which explores the deeper meaning behind what it means to be human.

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