The longlist so far…

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This week the Man Booker Prize longlist was published, ahead of the shortlist announcement in September and the actual winner being revealed in October. The prize, awarded to literary fiction written in English, tends to make a big name of its winner, at least for a while, and this year’s longlist is full of books you might have seen on a bookshop table, looking shiny and new (or brown and new in the case of Ali Smith’s Autumn).

Whilst you can read the longlist here, I’m going to write some mini reviews of the five books from the list I’ve already read, with links to longer reviews where they exist. Expect a few reviews of others in the coming weeks (any help sourcing copies is appreciated!).

  • Days Without End by Sebastian Barry – A moving story of love, family, and living outside of society during the American Civil War, which can be horrific at times, but also shows how two men loved one another despite these conditions. Searing descriptive writing and worth trying even if the setting doesn’t sound appealing (as it didn’t to me).
  • Solar Bones by Mike McCormack – The single sentence novel that is actually split up using line breaks and feels poetic in its execution, as well as being a kind of microcosm of life held within this sentence. Far more readable that that description may sound. (full review)
  • The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy – Roy’s highly anticipated book weaves together the stories of different characters across the Indian subcontinent, such as the life of a transgender woman who finds community in different ways and how fighting and spying can come together through one woman who is loved by many. (full review)
  • Autumn by Ali Smith – I hate to call this her ‘Brexit’ novel, but in some ways it is, a book about divisions and modern British society in the mundane, which is also about finding your place and trying to follow other people’s stories, written in her characteristically witty style. And yes, she is meant to be writing more for the other seasons.
  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith – The lives of two girls who dream of dancing, though only one of them can dance. The characters form the core of the novel, which feels distinctly Zadie Smith (though I still prefer N-W). (full review)

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

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The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is the eagerly-awaited follow up to The God of Small Things, a moving novel that spans decades and goes across the Indian subcontinent to show a cast of interconnected characters and how their lives are shaped by conflict, joy, and circumstance. Depicting the stories of a variety of characters, it does not have a main narrative as much as it puts pieces of different individuals together to form a woven novel showing a modern world and its battles.

The storytelling is expectedly vivid and gives detail to different episodes such as the experiences of a transgender woman, Anjum, who finds community and makes her home in a graveyard, and the complex relationships and life of Tilo, who has been loved by fighters and intelligence officers. These female characters in particular are difficult to forget, with stories that combine family, religious and ideological conflict, and love. Roy’s style suits this storytelling, leading the reader between different narratives easily and making the novel easy to follow and join up the pieces of. From the bustle of Delhi to the countryside of Kashmir, Roy’s descriptions are intricate and show a conflicted and modern world, a world with ancient conflicts in close proximity to branches of Nando’s.

The novel is unlikely to disappoint Roy’s fans who’ve been waiting for her next book. It is a fantastic story full of vivid characters whose struggles are varied and real.