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text 2017-09-13 03:41
Thoughts on the Eve of the 2017 Man Booker Shortlist
Home Fire: A Novel - Kamila Shamsie
Exit West - Mohsin Hamid
Days Without End - Sebastian Barry
Autumn: A Novel - Ali Smith
The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead
Solar Bones - Mike McCormack
History of Wolves - Emily Fridlund

The Man Booker Prize shortlist announcement is hours away and I've been working hard to read my way through the list. Despite my best intentions, I was only able to completely read seven of this year's nominees as well as three others in part. That leaves three novels that are at this point a complete mystery to me, so I cannot speak on them. Here are some thoughts on who might make the list tomorrow.

I think Home Fire, Exit West, and Days Without End are the three strongest contenders from the ten I've read. I will be surprised if these three do not make the shortlist. I'll be really surprised if none of the three do.

Personally, I didn't enjoy The Underground Railroad much, but I think it also stands a good chance of being shortlisted. I'll be annoyed if wins the Prize given how much attention it has garnered this year, but a shortlist nomination would be accepted.

Rounding out the list is difficult. Autumn and Solar Bones are possible contenders.

I'd love to see History of Wolves on the list as it has been a personal favorite, so far. I know many readers had a very different reaction to this novel, however, so it's a long shot to make the list. (And it has zero chance of winning the Prize.)

If I had to put money on six and only six titles, they'd be
1. Home Fire
2. Days Without End
3. Exit West
4. The Underground Railroad
5. Autumn

6. History of Wolves (anything's possible, right?)

Have you been reading the Man Booker nominees? Have any thoughts on who might be shortlisted?

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review 2017-09-10 03:38
The Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel - Colson Whitehead

A woman attempts to escape slavery in this astounding adult historical. Let’s review!

 

An account of a young woman escaping enslavement using an underground railroad system sounds like dystopian fiction. Only it’s not dystopian. Mr. Whitehead writes a poignant yet brutal portrayal of American slavery. Cora’s journey is stunning; her perseverance and defiance of the status quo utterly breathtaking.

 

Certain liberties are taken in regards to the actual underground railroad system, but they do not detract from the historical setting. The point-of-view shifts from Cora to secondary characters throughout the novel. Chapters are not traditional in nature, tending to run very long due to their unique nature. The audio book narrator is absolutely phenomenal, hitting the right notes and tones along the way.

 

tl;dr A harrowing tale of American slavery told from multiple perspectives. You will not want to miss this one.

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text 2017-08-19 02:04
The Reading Quest
The Underground Railroad: A Novel - Colson Whitehead
In Other Lands - Sarah Rees Brennan,Carolyn Nowak
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
Nature Abhors a Vacuum (The Aielund Saga) - Stephen L. Nowland

I totally missed the official signup for this, but I'm going to go ahead and do it anyway.

 

The Reading Quest

 

I found it on Habitica, actually (apparently I am weak and will do anything for XP, including actual adulting), and it seemed very neat. Currently I am three and a half books in, working on the Rogue path, and quite enjoying the fact that I am working off a vague plan for my reading. We will see how long that lasts, since I am weak and easily distracted by random books, but the quest for experience points may keep me on my chosen path.

 

I'm going to need to do some major cleaning around here, since I may have gotten distracted from Booklikes for a bit.

 

Has anyone else seen this? Anyone manage to sign up in a timely manner and thus be eligible for prizes? Anyone else just going to do it anyway?

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review 2017-08-19 02:04
The Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad: A Novel - Colson Whitehead

I wanted to like this a lot more than I actually did.

 

My first sign of trouble was the much vaunted "the underground railroad is an actual railroad!" scene (I'm assuming that is not a spoiler since it is blatantly stated in every single synopsis, though it might have been a better scene if it wasn't?). It smacked of magical realism. Generally, I want to smack magical realism, so I should probably not be surprised that this didn't work for me, but I was still hoping to get some sense of awe from it. I didn't.

 

Overall, that was my real problem with the book: I didn't feel awe. I didn't feel much of anything. I've had more visceral reactions to textbooks about this time period. One of the "main" characters disappears partway through the book and it's somehow no big deal.

 

Our main character, Cora, has basically no emotional response to anything that happens throughout the novel. Some extremely horrific stuff happens throughout the novel. It is a novel about slavery. It is a novel about the racism that was common at the time period even of people who were not slave owners. There are murder and executions and beatings and horrible things happening. Cora remains alarmingly aloof from it all.

 

I'm almost inclined to think that this is somehow an intentional choice, that she is there to serve as author mouthpiece throughout. She has occasional bizarre knowledge (at one point she casually mentions how difficult life is in Ireland at the time period) and while she makes excellent points on several occasions, she makes narrator-style points comparing white life to slavery life aloud to moderately racist people, who never seem to respond. It feels like she's talking to the readers instead of the characters she's interacting with.

 

Maybe that is all more magical realism--I'll be completely honest and admit I don't get the genre at all--but it didn't work for me. I wanted to be right there with her in this brutal time period, and not only was I not there, she didn't seem to be there most of the time. Everything remained clinical throughout, and with a story like this, set in a time period where everything was horrifying, I was hoping for more.

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review 2017-08-14 22:16
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead
The Underground Railroad (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel - Colson Whitehead

I found this to be a painful read especially at this time.  Cora's journey from slavery to escaping it and being recaptured is told through her eyes, with short vignettes through the eyes of others whose lives intersected hers.  I do not understand why there is so much hate based on skin color.  While I hesitated to pick it up, once I did I was compelled to finish it.  The words are powerful as are the actions of many on the question of slavery and life after slavery.

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