Booker Project Status Report, and a Review Copy of Mark Haddon’s Latest

Booker Longlist reading has kept me pretty occupied over the past week or so, and it's been the source of some fantastic reads, unsurprisingly.

David Mitchell's phenomenal Black Swan Green was Booker Book # 1, and without having read the other books I'm putting my early money on this one to grab the prize. The voice of the budding adolescent main character is so authentically done and the style out of this world wonderful. The book manages to be very funny at times, quite serious at others, and genuinely literary all the way through. Though the book flirts with a stream of consciousness style it never becomes so dense you find yourself having difficulty wading through it. Some passages forced me to slow down my reading, or go back and read some things twice, but it was never obscure. A definite contender.

Booker Book # 2 was Edward St. Aubyn's Mother's Milk, another story told from the perspective of a child but this one younger than the main character in Black Swan Green. Though I found this one poignant, and at times thigh-slappingly funny, I'm not quite as sure it's up to Booker Prize snuff. A great read, yes, but I'm thinking probably not the ultimate winner.

Mary Lawson's The Other Side of the Bridge was book # 3, and this one completely blew me away. Absolutely gorgeous stuff. Think Margaret Atwood crossed with Margaret Laurence and you'll have an idea of the sort of quality writing in this family saga set in rural Ontario, Canada. I would give this one my highest recommendation, but I'm not sure Lawson has a high enough literary profile to win the Booker. If she does I'll cheer, but I don't know if I dare dream of it.

I'm currently working on two other Booker Longlisters, Kate Grenville's magnificent The Secret River and M.J. Hyland's Carry Me Down. Carry Me Down is, no pun necessarily intended, unputdownable. I started it just to see how I'd like the style and didn't surface for another 80 breathless pages. It's yet another book told from the perspective of a child, yet possibly even more edgy and dark than Black Swan Green. We'll see how it goes.

Aside from the Booker books, Mark Haddon's (the curious incident of the dog in the night-time) publisher sent me a copy of his upcoming book, A Spot of Bother: A Novel. Again Haddon's exploring the often very dark recesses of the mind, this time with an older male character who may or may not be losing his sanity. If I had to guess I'd say this is going to be nearly as brilliant as his first offering. Can't wait to work it into the reading rotation.

- Lisa Guidarini

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