The OF Blog: Ranking the 2012 Booker Prize finalists

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ranking the 2012 Booker Prize finalists

Due to my slow recovery from an upper respiratory illness and this weekend being tied up with the Southern Festival of Books, I won't be able to write all six planned reviews in advance of Tuesday's announcing of the winner of the 2012 Booker Prize.  I have read all six books now and while most of these differ only a little amount in my estimation, I thought I'd provide a ranking of the books by personal preference for those who like such things without the thought I prefer being given to the individual books themselves.

1.  Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies.  Took me until the second half of the novel for it all to fall into place.  The inherent drama of the mysterious events leading up to Anne Boleyn's arrest and execution is done masterfully here.

2.  Will Self, Umbrella.  At first, I was hesitant about this work, as it consciously riffs on 20th century Modernist writing (in particular, Joyce, although there are traces of other writers such as Woolf present) to present a tale that spans into our own.  It was the most "experimental" of the six and for the most part Self manages to avoid the pitfalls that come with using a stream-of-consciousness style narrative.

3.  Deborah Levy, Swimming Home.  Levy's use of language to tell a short, sharp, poignant tale was near brilliant at times.  Along with the two above and the two below, I could be content with this being a winner.

4.  Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis.  Reviewed this earlier.

5.  Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists.  This story, which is set in both contemporary and World War II Malaysia during the time of the Japanese occupation, is beautiful in its prose, with characterizations that are very well-done.  The garden motif is used very well.

6.  Alison Moore, The Lighthouse.  This work did not appeal to me as much as the other five did.  While the prose is very good, the characterizations felt a bit too hollow to me for me to consider it on the same level as the others.

Compared to last year's shortlist, this one is worlds better.  Again, over the next week or two, I'll try to write fuller reviews, but these are my personal preferences at this time.

1 comment:

Jan Rider Newman said...

So far, of this list, I've only read The Garden of Evening Mists, which enthralled and moved me more than almost any other book I've ever read. Beautiful! I look forward to your reviews.

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