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,, Saturday November 29 2008

Antonia Fraser

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.

Charlie Higson

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.
Read the picks of all the contribuotors at The Guardian online.

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