Countdown to the Booker Begins

Now that the Booker longlist has been announced I'm eager to clear off my reading plate and sink my teeth into a few of the most likely candidates to eventually win the prize. In the blogging circuit two books seem to be getting the most buzz, David Mitchell's Black Swan Green and Kate Grenville's The Secret River. Can't discount the idea of a dark horse cutting ahead of the pack, of course, but these are the two I'm seeing as frontrunners so far at least as far as gossip goes.

One Mississippi by Mark Childress has been getting most of my reading attention this week. Being native to that state I can testify this is the genuine deal. Childress has captured the "southern thing" perfectly, and in a hilarious way. Very entertaining, though probably one I won't retain very long once I've finished it.

Switching gears, late last week I finished Dede Crane's deeply sympathetic novel about a character who retreats into a catatonic state after having survived the horrific crash that killed both her husband and son. Sympathy is a novel I wouldn't have ever found if I weren't a compulsive review reader, but I'm very glad my library system had the book or it would have likely slipped off the radar completely, lost to the ages.

Rounding out my recent reading, I also completed Amy Ephron's A Cup of Tea, Jim Lynch's The Highest Tide and Adele Geras's The Tower Room, the first book in her Egerton Series aimed at the young adult market.

Ephron's book is what I'd term Wharton Lite. Set at the turn of the century, it reminds me somewhat of Wharton's novels set in New York, mostly because the characters are embroiled in a torturous love triangle you can see is doomed from miles away. Entertaining reading fairly quickly forgotten. Lynch's The Highest Tide, however, is a more sophisticated and far more hauntingly enduring sort of book. The theme deals with the mysteries of life, and the beauty and wonder of sea life, and even if you aren't a marine biologist this is a lovely sort of read. As far as the Geras book, in The Tower Room she puts a modern twist on the Rapunzel fairy tale. What's perhaps a bit disconcerting is underage sex plays a role in this book geared toward the 12 and up crowd. Hard to imagine a 12 year old being quite ready for that concept, so I'd issue a caveat on that.

Next up: some of the Booker nominees. Best to start from the top, I always say, so I'm thinking the Grenville and the Mitchell may be the way to go. Some of the titles are only published in the U.K. as of now, with U.S. publication dates set for, in some cases, 2007. I've tracked down advance reading copies of some, but a few will have to be allowed to slip right through the reading net, unfortunately. Such is the unfortunate nature of the reading life.

- Lisa Guidarini

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