Man Booker Prize 2012

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Booklists.jpg Man Booker Prize 2012

The long list was announced on 25 July and the shortlist on 11 September. The winner was announced on 16 October. Read more...



Review of

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Thomas Cromwell is now very far from his humble beginnings. He is Henry VIII's chief minister. Katherine of Aragorn is no longer Queen. The Princess Mary has been disinherited. Anne Boleyn wears the crown and has produced a daughter, Elizabeth. But there is no sign of a son and Henry is beginning to regret his secession from Rome. We pick up from Wolf Hall during the royal progress of 1535 and from there, we chart the destruction of the new Queen. Full Review

Other Shortlisted Books


Review of

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Malay Chinese Teoh Yun Ling travels to the Cameron Highlands of Malaya to meet the legendary Japanese garden designer and expert, Nakamura Aritomo. As the sole survivor of a World War II Japanese slave labour camp, Yun Ling has many reasons to hate the Japanese but some things are stronger than hatred. For, whilst in the camp, she promised her sister a Japanese garden. When life became difficult during interment, the sisters discussed and visualised the finished result to keep them hanging on. Ling's sister perished but the dream of a memorial garden drives her on. Nothing is that straightforward, though. The designer refuses the commission. Instead he suggests that she stays, as his apprentice, learning the art in order to become her own designer. Yun Ling agrees and discovers more than horticultural finesse. Full Review


Review of

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Joe, a poet and Isabel, his war-correspondent wife and their teenage daughter Nina rent a luxurious villa in the South of France and invite their friends Laura and Mitchell to join them. On their first day there Nina finds what appears to be a naked body floating in the swimming pool, but it's Kitty Finch. She pleads a mix-up over booking dates and when told that all the local hotels are fully booked for some days Isabel offers her the use of the spare bedroom at the villa. There's no obvious reason for why she does this, but what does become clear is that Kitty suffers from depression - and she's stopped taking her medication. Full Review


Review of

The Lighthouse by Alison Moore

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

When we first meet Futh he's on a North Sea ferry on his way to a walking holiday in Germany. There's no sense of enthusiasm or anticipation: Futh's middle aged and recently separated, seemingly without friends or family. He always wanted a dog, but keeps stick insects. The holiday seems to be something which, when it is over, he will have done it and will then return to his new flat. It begins and will end at Hellhaus, a guesthouse run by Bernard and his wife Ester. He gets on well enough with Ester but is at a loss to understand a rather hostile encounter with Bernard. He sets out the following morning for a week of walking, thinking and remembering. Meanwhile Ester - untouched by her meeting with Futh - continues her lonely life punctuated by the occasional casual sexual encounter which she barely hides from Bernard. Full Review


Review of

Umbrella by Will Self

2.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Will Self's Umbrella spans a century taking three interwoven strands. One features Audrey Dearth, who in 1918 is a munitions worker who falls ill with encephalitis lethargica, a brain disease that spread over Europe after the Great War rendering many of its victims speechless and motionless. She is incarcerated in Friern hospital where, in the early 1970s a psychiatrist, Zach Busner wakes her from her stupor using a new drug. In the final thread, in 2010 the asylum has closed and the now retired Busner travels across north London seeking the truth about his encounter with his former patient. While that sounds like a fascinating story in its own right, be warned. Self's approach is ambitiously modernistic making this a very heavy going tome even by Self's standards. Full Review


Review of

Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Novels about narcotic substances are notoriously hard to pull off. The challenge is to make the induced events interesting and meaningful to the, presumably, non-induced reader. In Narcopolis, Jeet Thayil pulls this off surprisingly well for me, although it's fair to say that it won't be everyone's taste. It's not a book that the Bombay/Mumbai tourist office will be keen to promote. A cover quotation links the book to a similar vein (OK, that's a poor choice of words in the circumstances) to Trainspotting and that's not far from the mark. Full Review

Other books on the Long List


Review of

The Yips by Nicola Barker

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Stuart Ransom is a golfing has-been and he's the only one who doesn't realise it. If his recollections are anything to go by (and who can tell?) he was on a par with the best. Times have changed though; the handicap isn't what it once was and age and alcohol have taken their toll. However, hope springs eternal and there's always one more match, so perhaps this is it. Meanwhile Gene, who splits his time between working at the hotel in which Stuart is staying and reading electricity meters, encounters an agoraphobic, exotic tattooist. Valentine is a woman struggling with an unhealthily precocious 2 year-old, a brother flirting with criminality and a brain-injured mother who has become more than a little eccentric. Add Gene's wife Rev Sheila and her personal crisis into the mix and it becomes a recipe for disaster, it's just a case of waiting for it to erupt. Full Review


Review of

The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman

4star.jpg General Fiction

It's hard to know where to start in reviewing Ned Beauman's Booker long-listed The Teleportation Accident. Reading it, you feel like the parent of an ADHD-suffering child. At times it is lovable, brilliant and entertaining, at others you just want to reach for the Ritalin and tell it to sit in a corner quietly while it composes itself. A clue to both the brilliance and frustration of Beauman is in the vast range of writers to whom he has been compared in both this and his first novel Boxer, Beetle. There are hints of people as wide ranging as David Mitchell, P G Wodehouse, Douglas Adams, Raymond Chandler even Angela Carter to name just a few. Beauman takes a huge range of styles and genres and pushes them and bends them often to glorious effect, but it can be a challenge keeping up with him at times. Full Review


Review of

Philida by Andre Brink

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Philida falls in love with Frans, the son of Cornelis Brink and they have four children together creating a tragedy on two counts: only two children survive and their love is troubled. For this is South Africa in 1830 and Philida is only the Brinks' 'knit girl': a slave specialising in the family's knitting. Full Review


Review of

Skios by Michael Frayn

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Set on a Greek island, a cultural foundation is preparing for the biggest event in its year at which renowned academic Dr Norman Wilfred is due to give the keynote speech. Also heading to the island on the same plane is Oliver Fox, a morally vacant but charming Lothario, who has arranged an assignation with a girl who he has met for only five minutes but has invited to spend a week with him at the villa that he was due spend a week with his ex-girlfriend before she threw him out. But when the girl sent to collect Dr Wilfred from the airport, Nikki, turns out to be irresistibly charming Oliver decides to play the role of Dr Wilfred and follow her to the foundation while the real Dr Wilfred, minus luggage is transported to the villa at the other end of the island. Someone still has to give the speech though - will it be the real Dr Wilfred or the fake Dr Wilfred? Full Review


Review of

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Harold and Maureen Fry were unremarkable: one long marriage, one adult offspring and a long retirement stretching out in front of them like a prison sentence. One morning everything changed. The catalyst was a letter from Queenie, an ex-colleague of Harold's. He knew he needed to respond and thought that posting a letter would suffice. However, a chat with a girl at the local petrol station made him realise that a letter couldn't be enough. He had to provide Queenie with hope... he had to walk. Full Review


Review of

Communion Town by Sam Thompson

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Communion Town – one city but it may as well be many as each person's perception of it is coloured by their experiences within it. Each chapter introduces us to a different story, a different viewpoint and therefore, practically a different city. Starting with the ominous, creepy story of Nicolas, through stories encapsulating such themes as recaptured friendship, murder and an enigmatic take on the life of a private investigator, we start to piece together the nature of Communion Town... or do we? Full Review


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