Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Season's readings Antonia Fraser to Jackie Kay: writers and politicians pick the best books of 2008 Compiled by Ginny Hooker, guardian.co.uk, Saturday November 29 2008
By far the best novel I read this year was Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture (what on earth were the Booker judges thinking about?). I have always admired Barry's work, both on stage and off it, but I feel this is the finest thing he has done. The book has two narratives, one being the story of a very old woman indeed, possibly over a hundred, and the other the doctor who has to assess her when the mental asylum where she lives is being shut down. Dr Grene's life is woven in to hers in a way the reader does not foresee (and should not), but the real narrative is that of Ireland in the 20th century, a romantic Ireland indeed, but a cruel one to its outcasts - thankfully or hopefully it's dead and gone.
There was a small and slightly silly outcry when Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith (Simon & Schuster) was longlisted for the Booker. A thriller! What is the world coming to? The fact is, it's an enormously well written book with a fantastic premise: in the 1950s, the Soviet government has decreed that crime is a thing of the past. In a perfect communist state everyone has everything they need. The central character is a police chief who gets drawn into a nightmare Alice Through the Looking Glass world, in which, by investigating crimes, he becomes a wanted man himself.