Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September Reading Roundup

Yes, yes, I know it's not the end of the month yet, but in 2 short days at this time I'll be having a late lunch in Trinidad so I've got to post this before I go.

Obviously, most of September was taken up with the Booker Prize Longlist, which I finished last night about 11 p.m.  Hooray for me. Although the list loomed large in my literary life, there were other books as well.

Here's the summary:

Fiction from the UK
The Last Hundred Days, Patrick McGuinness (review soon)
- The Testament of Jessie Lamb, Jane Rogers (review soon)
- On Canaan's Side, Sebastian Barry (review soon)
- The Stranger's Child, Alan Hollinghurst (review soon)

-The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes
- Pigeon English, by Stephen Kelman
-Jamrach's Menagerie, by Carol Birch
-A Cupboard Full of Coats, by Yvvette Edwards

translated general fiction
Aside from the crime fiction, nada.

once again, nada

scandinavian crime fiction
The Hand That Trembles, by Kjell Eriksson
The Demon of Dakar, by Kjell Eriksson
Dregs, by Jorn Lier Horst

japanese crime fiction
The Devil's Disciple, by Shiro Hamao (just finished, not yet reviewed)

other book-related stuff:
1) my book group read and disagreed about State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. Next month it's The Submission, by Amy Waldman

2) Added to the Amazon wishlist this month
Requiem, by Antonio Tabucchi
Bharathipura, by U.R. Anantha Murthy
Witness the Night, by Kishwar Desai
Close Sesame: Variations on the Theme of African Dictatorship; Sardines: Variations on the Theme of African Dictatorship; Sour Milk: Variations on the Theme of African Dictatorship, all by Nuruddin Farah

3) Books bought this month:

Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez
News of a Kidnapping, by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez
The Dinosaur Feather, by Sissel Jo-Gazan
Tin Kin, by Eleanor Thom
Noon, by Aatish Taseer
The Breaking of Eggs, by Jim Powell
Crossbones; Links; Knots, by Nuruddin Farah
Mad Toy, by  Roberto Arlt
Jimmy the Terrorist, by Omair Ahmad
The Thing About Thugs, by Tabish Khair
Books Burn Badly, by Manuel Rivas
You Deserve Nothing, by Alexander Maksik
Extensions, by Myrna Dey
The Unlucky Lottery, by Hakan Nesser
The New Finnish Grammar, by Diego Marani
Cell 8, by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom

4) Indiespensable (from Powells Books) and the Signed First Editions book club at BookPassage finally straightened things out and aren't sending duplicates: from Indiespensable is The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides and from Book Passage, The Barbarian Nurseries, by Hector Tobar.

So that's it.  October will be a focus on books that are mercifully short and hopefully sweet.  Actually I'm ready for a LOT of escape reading to clear my fatigued brain.

finally finished!

Finally -- I'm finished with all of the books on this year's longlist!  The books in the home stretch were:

On Canaan's Side, by Sebastian Barry
The Last Hundred Days, by Patrick McGuinness
The Stranger's Child, by Alan Hollinghurst
and The Testament of Jessie Lamb, by Jane Rogers

With a big "whew!" as I turned the last page of the Hollinghurst novel last night, it was all done. Hooray. I seriously don't know why I do this to myself each year, but I do. It sort of reminded me of reading for my PhD exams -- the many volumes in a short space of time, except for then I slept for about 3 days straight immediately after, and I couldn't pick up a book for about a month.  Now I just want to get to my still-growing tbr pile.

I will be posting my thoughts on the final four after I get back from my little mini-vacation.  I don't really have the time right now because I'm leaving in a couple of days & there are tons of things to do, but I'll definitely get to it.  And if anyone is interested in which one I'd pick to win, I'd go with Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes -- that was a little gem of a book!  Of course, every year I am completely wrong, so I don't expect my record to be broken this year. 

Yay yay yay it's over, and I can move on now.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Testament of Jessie Lamb book winner is....

It's Ellie!!! Random.org decided that today's number would be number two, and that was Ellie/aka Anonymous.

I'll be contacting you, Ellie, and hopefully get the book out before I leave on my little mini-vacation on Thursday.

Congratulations, and I'll definitely be back with more -- my bookshelves runneth over.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

book giveaway: The Testament of Jessie Lamb, by Jane Rogers

Having finished this book yesterday, I've decided not to keep it, so I'm giving away my copy.  It is the trade paper edition, very gently read, but still in beautiful shape. This book is on this year's Booker Prize longlist, but it is also very suitable to readers of YA novels. In fact, it's probably MORE suitable for YA readers than as a work of literary fiction. 

I'll be offering this until September 24, and on Sunday, September 25 the book will have a new owner. Just leave a comment with some kind of contact info. One comment only, please.   I'm not doing this to gain followers, just to find my book a new home.  I know somewhere out there someone really wants to read this novel!

I will be posting my thoughts on this book later this week.

Friday, September 16, 2011

and midway through the month,

This picture pretty much says it all.  It's a combination of aaarrggghhh and zombie/dead-brained woman -- exactly how I feel right now.  And I did it to myself, so I can't really complain!

 Here's what's on my plate at this moment in time:

The Booker-prize longlisted books progress:
 I've finished the shortlist now, yay! but still have the following left to read

- The Last Hundred Days, Patrick McGuinness -- past the 100-page mark
- The Testament of Jessie Lamb, Jane Rogers
- On Canaan's Side, Sebastian Barry
- The Stranger's Child, Alan Hollinghurst

I'm at the point where I figure if I don't finish by the end of September, I don't really care any more.  And I have a ton of new books (and an even bigger ton of old ones) to get to, and they call my name whenever I pass by. 

The CWA International Dagger Award-eligible books (a year-long project, going through July)
A list of these books was compiled by Karen at Euro Crime
I've read exactly nine out of 55. Good thing I'm giving myself up to the very last minute on this one! My real problem with this list is that if a book is part of a series, and I haven't read the ones that come before, I absolutely must read them prior to starting on the one I'm intending to read.  This does create gridlock in my reading, but I'm a series purist.  Some might call me an idiot.

The Europa Challenge -- a total labor of love, so this one doesn't bother me so much, and I had a ton of Europa books on the tbr pile before the Challenge began so there's not a lot of extra cost or waiting.

 Just finished Maksik's You Deserve Nothing; now moving onto From the Land of the Moon, by Milena Agus.

That's it. Now I will be getting back to my books. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

*The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes

Jonathan Cape, 2011
150 pp

   "History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation."

I don't often expect much out of a book that is only 150 pages long -- actually, I don't remember the last time I read one this short that I walked away from simply dazzled.  But there's so much in this little book that gives one pause to think about his or her own life, especially when you get to a certain age and something happens to make you look back over the past.  And like the main character, Tony, in this novel, you get older physically but inside your head you tend to hold on to the you of an earlier, more youthful age, often revisiting those times in your memory every now and then.   The trouble is, how accurate are those memories? Memory, like time, is malleable, and when confronted with a reality that doesn't exactly coincide with how you remember it, what do you do?  How do you deal with your younger self from the point of view of your older self? I think this is why this book kept me engaged ... it's something that happens to everyone.

There's a mystery at the heart of this novel: Tony Webster, retired, has received a letter from an attorney informing him that he's been left 500 pounds from the mother of his first girlfriend Veronica.   The second part of his inheritance is the diary of his school friend Adrian, a larger-than-life figure from Tony's school years, who had, later in his life, committed suicide.  As he's pondering what all of this means, he begins to go back through his memories of Adrian, Veronica and his own life, or at least what he thinks he remembers.  As he notes, he feels no "nostalgia" for his school years, but he needs to "return briefly to a few incidents that have grown into anecdotes, to some approximate memories which time has deformed into certainty." 

The story is related in two parts: the first is the story of Tony Webster  looking back over his time at school in the 1960s in the sixth form (it's equivalent to our American senior year) with his group of friends, then on to his days with Veronica at university.  The second part (which throws into question some of what Tony remembers from the first part) follows Tony as he tries to piece together the real story.  He attempts to get hold of Adrian's diary, which Veronica refuses to give up, hoping that the real story is in there somewhere.  Veronica has only allowed him a small piece of Adrian's writing, enough to tantalize him into discovering what part he might have played in later events.  But what he discovers will bring him around the inevitable conclusion that
 "You get towards the end of life -- no, not life itself, but of something else: the end of any likelihood of change in that life.  You are are allowed a long moment of pause, time enough to ask the question: what else have I done wrong?"

and by then he realizes that there's no way to go back and change either the situation or himself, that any possibility for change has long-since ended.  

Considering its brevity, there is a great deal in this little book, and like all good books, it gives the reader a great deal of material for thought.  There is a great deal of insight in here, as the narrator reflects on memory and its influence, the gap between our older and younger selves, aging and regrets. But one of the most important things I take away from this novel is the question of what I think I know about myself juxtaposed with the reality of memory as an imperfect entity. It's a lovely and poignant book, very well written, very thoughtful.  Julian Barnes never disappoints, and this book is no exception.

fiction from the UK

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

You Deserve Nothing, by Alexander Maksik

Europa Editions/Tonga Books, 2011
320 pp.

"You do. The thing. Anyway."...You do the thing anyway. Yes. Yes. You do it in spite of fear. You do the thing anyway. No matter what. Because you have to. Because you know it's right. Because you believe in it. Because by not doing it you're betraying yourself."

I don't know why, but the last few books I've chosen to read have been on the dark side of reading; you know, those kinds of novels you definitely do not want to read while you're in a funk or while you're having a case of the blues or whatever (with apologies to Will Silver for that last word).  You Deserve Nothing is no exception -- it's a novel that long after you've finished reading will stay on your mind as you replay it in your head.  And to me, that is what makes a book good and rise well above the ordinary.  It is, unbelievably, Alexander Maksik's first novel, and if this is only his opening shot into the book-reading world, I can't wait for his second. 

You Deserve Nothing is a character-driven story,  told through multiple perspectives, centering around  one man, Will Silver.  Will is a 33-year old English teacher at the International Foreign School in Paris. He teaches a senior seminar in English -- a popular class where he introduces the students to existentialism in literature.  He believes that literature is "irrelevant" unless the questions which arise from it also have some impact on the reader's lives.  This point of view doesn't always sit well with the head  of the school, who feels that Silver's only job is to guide the students through literature and help them to understand it, without any challenges to their individual beliefs.  But Silver's seminar students, for the most part, love him. He's  that rare breed of teacher who lets his students know that their thoughts matter as much as those of the writers of the material he gives them.  Will finds it "the truest, rarest, sweetest thing" when the students are actively making connections and listening to each other, when there's a palpable enthusiasm among the students over what they're doing in that class, and when "they're all there together."   But at the same time, for Will, this coming alive is as he notes, all he has, and believes erroneously that  it's all that the students have as well.  Not all of Silver's students are so enchanted with him; one of his students, Ariel calls him a fake, knowing full well what's going on with him outside of class; and Colin, another member of the class,  senses something, but gives him a chance until the cracks start to show in Will's teachings.  Will battles with the strain between his public and private lives throughout the novel.

The other voices belong to  Gilad, one of Silver's seminar students, and Marie, a student at the IFS.   Gilad is the son of an American diplomat and lives a chaotic life, moving from place to place.  His father and mother live behind a facade  -- once the dinner parties are over, Gilad's father absuses his wife.  Gilad  looks up to Will in a hero-worshipping sort of way, and takes the lessons he learns about  from Will seriously, using them as a path toward his own self awareness.  Gilad sees Will as a champion for  living one's beliefs and acting accordingly, as "righteousness in a sea of ugliness"  but all too soon this will change as Gilad witnesses Will's failure to act at a crucial moment.

Marie is the beautiful daughter of wealthy parents; she avoids talking to her mother because her mother sees in her only disappointment -- she's not French enough, she doesn't dress right, and her mom leaves pictures cut out from fashion magazines on Marie's bed to make her point.  Although Marie is a student at IFS, Silver isn't one of her teachers, and Marie is highly sexually attracted to him and soon begins a relationship with him -- a clandestine one, or so Will believes. Her view of Will changes as  she watches Will lapse into inertia and become a "phantom," little by little, making all the right noises during a crisis, but ultimately slipping away in the long run.

You Deserve Nothing is an amazing book. The characters are realistically portrayed; the author  is equally able to capture the intensity of  a 33 year-old man in the midst of his own existential crisis and the pettiness  of a jealous, teenaged girl.  I'm always amazed when a male author  can write a woman's character so well; to capture the inner essence of a teenage girl in the throes of her first love must have been more difficult but he pulls it off.   Then there's the  sense of place that  is so well evoked that the streets of Paris come alive. For some Paris is a magical place, the city of light as it were; for others its streets are cold and unfeeling.

If life is the sum of all the choices a person makes,  there is also a divide between the decisions one makes and the courage to act on them, and this theme is well  emphasized throughout the novel, as is its concomitant  consideration of betrayal -- to one's self or to others.   You Deserve Nothing is a highly-intelligent work, sifting through these ideas as they apply to each of the main characters and to those in the world in which they all live.  What could have been just a mundane story is elevated to a level where the reader is left with several questions and a great deal of food for thought long after the last page is turned.   I most highly recommend this book; it's one of the most thought-provoking and intelligent novels I've read in a very long while. Simply put, it's amazing.

This review is cross posted at the Europa Challenge Blog.

fiction from the U.S. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Friday, September 9, 2011

*Pigeon English, by Stephen Kelman

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
263 pp

Pigeon English is Stephen Kelman's first novel. It has had an interesting journey, moving from potential obscurity in a publisher's slushpile to the Booker Prize shortlist. Although the story is set in London, the issues it describes are just as relevant in major cities here in the US or anywhere else.  It is structured so that each section pertains to a month in a young Ghanian immigrant boy's life in a London housing project.

The story is told through the eyes and voice of Harrison (Harri) Opuku, eleven years old. Harrison is just eleven; he came to the UK from Ghana with his mother and his older sister Lydia. The family was able to get a council flat in an poor area of London, but Harrison's father and his baby sister Agnes had to stay behind in Ghana until there's money enough to bring them out. The story begins just after another boy (a "half-friend" of Harrison's) has been stabbed to death. Harrison and his friend Dean decide that the police are never going to solve this crime so they take it upon themselves to do so.  Dean is a huge fan of CSI, and knows all of the things the two will need to do: surveillance, gathering fingerprints on tape, getting DNA, and watching potential suspects for any signs of guilt. They plan to take the reward money and buy new bicycles.  This bit of child's-play detective work is really the frame for the novel rather than the real story.

Harri may be eleven, but he's different from the other kids.  Not because he's from Ghana (there are a number of immigrant families in the complex), but because of his innocence.  He tries very hard to fit into his new life, taking the time to memorize the "rules," over one hundred of them, but for the most part they're general kid-type rules for fitting in, and he forgets a lot of them:
"No running on the stairs
No singing in class...
Jumping in the puddle means you're a retard
Going around the puddle means you're a girl
The first one to answer the question loves the teacher...
The library stairs are safe...
He has a crush on a girl at school, paints his tennis shoes to look like Adidas, likes stuff kids his age normally like, is fascinated with Haribo gummy candies, and in general is a typical boy. He is friendly with everyone, and when the Dell Farm Crew gives him an opportunity to join with them he's tempted, even taking but failing their entry tests.

While Harri is offering his often-delightfully innocent viewpoints throughout the book, things are going on all around him that he misses. He sees and hears things that even at his age should make him put two and two together and come out with four, but doesn't get it.  How ironic, if you think about it...here this boy is playing at being a detective, but has no clue how to put all of the facts together once he has them all within his grasp. It's not that he's dense; he's an intelligent kid, but he's been sheltered. Harri's brief memories of life in Ghana reveal that he came from a place where the extended family and others in the community were a part of his upbringing. Moving to London, that support system's been removed, and his mom and sister try to shield him from the negative realities of living there. They get it:  mom has succumbed to some shady dealings, his sister is peripherally involved in what's going on with the Crew, and his Aunt Sonia's story speaks for itself -- but  their attempts at protecting him, along with his natural optimism and quirky views on life, sadly leave him without the resources he needs to adjust and conform. 

I liked this book, and with a few exceptions, found Harri's voice to be pretty consistent throughout. I also found this story to be convincing and once I started it, couldn't put it down.  So many people have taken an ardent dislike to this novel, mostly to do with the issue of the child narrator.  That didn't bother me, even though sometimes it got too cutesy and sometimes wore a bit thin;  my beef is with the pigeon.  I can sort of get where Kelman is coming from, but it just didn't work for me. A pigeon as a spokesperson was just too much, dropping the credibility factor a point or two.  But when all is said and done, if you can get past the annoying bits, there's a good story in here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

*Jamrach's Menagerie, by Carol Birch

Doubleday, 2011
295 pp.

"...the time before the dragon and the time after are not the same."

I love all things Victorian; I love Victorian novels, well-written Victorian imitations, and I just have a thing for this time period in general.  Two things about this book grabbed me from the very start: first, the fact that it's set in 1857 and second, the only illustration in the book, that of a fiendish-looking waterspout on the open sea standing just behind a ship at full sail.   And as it turns out, most of the way through the novel I was a very happy reader.  More on this later. 

Jamrach's Menagerie is Carol Birch's eleventh novel; she published her first book in 1988. It is told in the style of a Victorian narrative, although probably not as well imagined as Derby Day, which to me is a much better imitation of the style and better use of idiom. The story is related through the eyes of one Jaffy Brown, who is eight years old at the outset of the novel, and follows Jaffy through to adulthood.  It is told in three parts: Jaffy's childhood and his fateful meeting with a tiger on the loose in the streets of London's East End; the events during a three-year sea voyage on which Jaffy was a crew member, and finally, Jaffy's return from the sea.

In Part One, we are introduced to Jaffy, his mother and the streets of the East End. Having been forced to move to Watney Street, one day Jaffy is out running an errand and comes upon a tiger moving down the middle of the Ratcliffe Highway.  Awed by its beauty, and without fear, Jaffy lifts his hand to touch it, and is snatched up in the beast's jaws.  Jaffy is fine, but the meeting with the tiger leads to a meeting with its owner, the Jamrach of the title.  It is then that Jaffy's life changes -- he gets a job with Jamrach tending to his menagerie of exotic beasts. It is also then that Jaffy meets several people who will remain important in his life throughout the story.   But it is how Jamrach obtains these creatures that is important to Jaffy's story, and which  leads us to part two of the novel -- Jamrach arranges expeditions to capture and import the animals after a collector has decided upon his choice.  As part two begins ("So much for Jaffy the child. He didn't last long, did he?"), a Mr. Fledge, "who always wanted what no one else had ever had," has decided that now he must have a dragon, an "ora".  One of Jamrach's associates, a sea-faring adventurer named Dan Rymer, had related that he knew of a place where he could obtain this creature, on an island east of the Java Sea.  Jaffy and his friend Tim are recruited to go on Fledge's ship the Lysander along with Rymer and the ship's whaling crew to catch and return the dragon.  Promised that upon their successful return, they would never have to work again, the ship sets sail.  While there is much speculation as to the nature of the dragon before the ship arrives on the island, it is finally captured (it turns out to be a komodo dragon or something along those lines) and caged on board the ship.  But it isn't long until mayhem ensues and the ship is wrecked, forcing the crew to take to the whaleboats.  The rest of part two is the story of the crew's adventures on the sea, reading much like the narrative of Owen Chase in The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex, also retold in Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea. If you've read either of those, you will know how things come out; if not, well, you're in for something pretty gruesome. (As an aside, I can highly recommend both books).   In Part Three, Jaffy returns to England (neither surprise nor spoiler since Jaffy's telling the story), where he tries to make sense of his experiences and to find his own sense of place and peace after the horrible events of the voyage of the Lysander.

This book has so many good things to offer, but there are also a few things that bothered me.  Birch gives us a vivid picture of street life in London -- the mix of colors and smells, the descriptions of  people at their occupations, the  living conditions of the poor, the circus of people on the Ratcliffe Highway.   The sense of place is well evoked; the East End comes alive.  Life at sea is also well described, and through her characters, Birch manages to get across that the whaling industry is on the wane;  a longstanding way of life for so many is about to end.  And even here, it's like she'd been on a whaling ship herself: the scenes where the crew captures a whale and its guts are all over the decks are so real I was kind of gagging just picturing it.   Later there are some pretty tense moments during the capture of the dragon on the island and  on board the ship,  but surprisingly, even though what comes afterwards in the whaleboats will both haunt and  come to define Jaffy's post-Lysander life, the telling of these events comes across as rather flat.  And even more surprisingly, other than the group of three main characters Tim, Rymer and Jaffy,  I didn't find the rest of them  to be as well developed, always staying on the periphery of becoming real people to which readers could relate, maybe with the exception of Skip.

Other than those issues with the novel, I actually ended up liking Jamrach's Menagerie -- it may have been a bit on the shallow side at times but overall it was one of those books you want to call a "rollicking good yarn."  Seen in that context, it was a pretty good read.

*A Cupboard Full of Coats, by Yvvette Edwards

Oneworld  Publications, 2011
260 pp

 A Cupboard Full of Coats is Yvvette Edwards' first novel, and I'm happy to see that it was made available via an independent publisher, Oneworld .  I went to their website and found a few more little gems I'm probably going to check out in the near future.  I love that Indie publishers are represented on this year's Booker Prize longlist; let's hope that this is a trend that continues well into the future. 

A Cupboard Full of Coats is another one of those novels that I probably would never have read had it not been placed on the Booker Prize longlist this year.  It skirts the boundary of what I consider "women's fiction," but at the same time, there's another story embedded within dealing with the experiences of Afro-Caribbean immigrants, so it's a bit difficult to affix any particular label to this novel.   It has a very well-developed sense of place, and even the mentions of the food throughout the book add to the overall atmosphere of the story. 

The main storyline follows and is related primarily by the main character, Jinx, a young woman who works as a cosmetologist at a funeral home.  She is living apart from her husband and her little boy, largely because she seems to have no capacity for caring for anyone. She's cold as ice, and even when her son comes for his visits, she has no idea how to relate to him.  She's happier to be around dead people -- all of which stems from an incident fourteen years earlier when her mother was murdered in the family home.   Throughout all of those years, Jinx has felt guilty about her role in her mother's death; that event and her guilt have left her emotionally paralyzed.   Now, as the novel opens, it's all brought back to her in the person of Lemon, who wants to relive the events of the past -- all symbolized by the cupboard full of coats left behind by Jinx's mother.

My feelings about this novel are a bit mixed -- I am not a huge fan of this type of story at all and  it's tough to get past the fact that this is the story of a young girl who comes of age while living under the same roof as her mother's abuser. You know, the kind of stuff you could tag as dysfunctional family lit.  And while I am fully conscious of the fact that abuse against women is prevalent and needs to be brought out into the open, those types of novels just aren't my thing.  At the same time, I'm very interested in novels dealing with the stories of immigrants, especially about children born to immigrant parents, and that was the novel's selling point for me.  The story of Sam, Jinx's best friend in high school, offers a look at the kind of dilemmas these children face, as does the story of Jinx's mother being left behind and finding a way out in marrying a much older man.  I only wish there had been much more along these lines; for the most part, the past story (the story of how Jinx's mother came to be murdered) was much more interesting than the narrative occurring in the present.  I also found Jinx as a character to be emotionally overwrought in that melodramatic sort of way that makes for great women's fiction, but a bit overdone for my own particular tastes.

However, I will say that many people absolutely LOVE this book, and that 4- and 5-star ratings abound everywhere a rating can be given.  And considering the fact that this is Ms. Edwards' first novel, it's a good debut -- and how many first novelists end up on the Booker Prize longlist?  I'd probably give her next novel a go if it's more about immigrant experience and less women's fiction-y. This one is just a bit more mainstream than literary for my own enjoyment.

fiction from the UK

the Booker Prize shortlist -- hmmm

The Booker Prize shortlist has been announced and here are the final six:

  1. The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes (reading now)
  2. Jamrach's Menagerie, by Carol Birch (read, review this week, liked it)
  3. The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick deWitt (read, reviewed)
  4. Half Blood Blues, by Esi Edugyan (read, reviewed)
  5. Pigeon English, by Stephen Kelman (to be read)
  6. Snowdrops, by A.D. Miller (read a long time ago, reviewed)
Not that I'm a literary critic or anything, but this year's longlist didn't grab me, and this year's shortlist, well, I'll read Pigeon English and let you know what I think afterwards.  As of now, I'm hoping it's  either the Barnes or the deWitt that comes out on top.  To be really gut-level honest, normally by this time I'm quite excited to see the shortlist announcement but I don't have that same feeling this year. Sad.

Next year, please, more literary-minded judges!!