Two weeks beyond the reach of technology, living the simple life and reading reading reading. And I return to find the longlist already redundant, the shortlist having been published a couple of days ago, but so glad to see that Jamrach's Menagerie has made it, and On Canaan's Side, The Sisters Brothers, and Half Blood Blues (all of which more anon). But to resume where I left off: Pigeon English - this also made it to the shortlist and onto the Guardian First Book Award longlist (which I'm also hoping to be blogging over the next few weeks). Of all the ones that made it to the shortlist Kelman's novel was the one I felt most dissatisfied with in the end. I like the relationship between the boy and the bird. And there were aspects of this novel which were genuinely moving, especially the end. But in the end, for me the narrator's voice was just too forced, and disconcertingly he seemed to be a good few years younger than his ostensible age, which had the consequence of making you wary of him, critical rather than wholly on-side. Could it win? Oh, certainly. But if it does, it will overshadow far finer novels: novels which are more elegant (Snowdrops), more elaborately conceived (Jamrach's Menagerie and Half Blood Blues) more moving (On Canaan's Side) and more exuberantly written novels (The Sisters Brothers). All of which I urge you to read. And of course, there is the Julian Barnes which I haven't read yet, but shall before the deadline. Might Pigeon English win the Guardian First book Award then? Well, it's the only one I've read on that longlist so far. Its quirkiness and social commentary will recommend it to the judges, I'd have thought. Should it make it to the shortlist for the GFBA? Probably. One of the criteria we've always used in the Oxford group as a deciding factor is the question: would I read this author again? In this case I think his second book will be far better than his first, and I look forward to it.
All in all though a much more robust and exciting shortlist for the Booker than last year's.And an intriguing and rewarding romp through the longlist, the highlights of which I shall be posting shortly.