Sunday, 7 August 2011

Booker Longlist

So now I am embarking upon Jane Rogers' The Testament of Jessie Lamb which, although it will be quite a different flavour, I am looking forward to because she is one of the few writers on the list I have read before. I enjoyed Mr Wroe's Virgins, Promised Lands and The Ice is Singing. And I once went on an Arvon Foundation Writing course where she was one of the tutors. So she is the only writer on this year's longlist who I can claim to have met....

Initial thoughts: it's intriguing, but to begin with it seems like quite a blunt instrument. She's occupying some fiercely contested territory, of course, and while comparisons are odious (as the man says) it's impossible not to draw comparisons with novels like Oryx and Crake and Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. Her chronology is slightly disturbing, layered, dissonant: set somewhere in the near future, it nevertheless is shot through with nostalgia for a time perhaps forty years ago, and this gives the novel an interesting edginess. Well, early days in terms of both this novel and the longlist as a whole. For me, she has yet to beat Mr Wroe's Virgins.

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