Anna Burns has won the 2018 Man Booker Prize

Anna Burns has won the 2018 Man Booker Prize with her unique take on the troubles in Northern Ireland.  Her novel Milkman has been praised for its distinctive voice and dark humour. She is the first Northern Irish writer to receive the prize. Its portrayal of a divided society in which a man uses these troubles to sexually pursue a young woman has been lauded. Anna Burns manages to deal with major, serious issues that can be found in many cultures in a common sense fashion that also contains elements of humour.

The book has been described as “incredibly original” by the Booker’s chair of judges, the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah. The novel’s themes whilst local also manage to cover the same experiences in a universal fashion. Anna Burns said of her life changing Booker win, “It’s nice to feel I’m solvent. That’s a huge gift.”

Milkman / Burns, Anna
“Written in a perfectly-rendered Irish vernacular Set in an un-named city but with an astonishing, breath-shorteningly palpable sense of time and place Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. The story of inaction with enormous consequences and decisions that are never made, but for which people are judged and punished.

Middle sister is our protagonist. She is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her nearly-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with milkman (which she herself for the life of her cannot work out how it came about). But when first brother-in-law, who of course had sniffed it out, told his wife, her first sister, to tell her mother to come and have a talk with her, middle sister becomes ‘interesting’. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous…” (Catalogue)

Nobel prize winning author VS Naipaul dies aged 85

Nobel prize winning author V.S. Naipaul died over the weekend. He was acknowledged by all as a master story teller with a sharp eye for the human condition, but he was also a highly controversial figure — his statements on gender, race and Islamic culture were often extreme. He leaves behind a challenging and complicated body of work, his acknowledged masterpiece being A House for Mrs Biswas (link and synopsis below).

You can read obituaries for V.S. Naipaul at the links below:

Syndetics book coverA house for Mr Biswas / V.S. Naipaul ; with an introduction by Karl Miller.A House for Mr. Biswas
“In the comic masterpiece which established him one of the greatest writers in the English language, Naipaul follows the fortunes of Mr Biswas, the outsider who refuses to conform to the customs of his grander in-laws whose house he lives in. Finally finding a house of his own, he triumphs over the smaller minds who would repress him.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Man Booker Prize 2018 longlist announced

The Water Cure book cover

…and the longlist includes a graphic novel!

So polish your reading glasses people, or if you’re not occularly enhanced, get comfy and prepare to join the judges’ dilemma of who wrote it better. Or with the most finesse, or used the most raw material. In short, which of these will be the one to grab you?

Author (country/territory) –  Title (imprint)
Belinda Bauer (UK) – Snap (Bantam Press)
Anna Burns (UK) –  Milkman (Faber & Faber)
Nick Drnaso (USA) – Sabrina (Granta Books) (Graphic Novel)
Esi Edugyan (Canada) – Washington Black (Serpent’s Tail)
Guy Gunaratne (UK) – In Our Mad And Furious City (Tinder Press)
Daisy Johnson (UK) – Everything Under (Jonathan Cape)
Rachel Kushner (USA) – The Mars Room (Jonathan Cape)
Sophie Mackintosh (UK) – The Water Cure (Hamish Hamilton)
Michael Ondaatje (Canada) – Warlight (Jonathan Cape)
Richard Powers (USA) – The Overstory (Willian Heinemann)
Robin Robertson (UK) – The Long Take (Picador)
Sally Rooney (Ireland) – Normal People (Faber & Faber)
Donal Ryan (Ireland) – From A Low And Quiet Sea (Doubleday Ireland)

There are some clear favourites amongst Wellington readers.  Warlight by Michael Ondaatje has been one of July’s most popular library lends.  Ondaatje recently received the Golden Man Booker for The English Patient.


Warlight / Ondaatje, Michael
“In a narrative as mysterious as memory itself – at once both shadowed and luminous – Warlight is a vivid, thrilling novel of violence and love, intrigue and desire. It is 1945, and London is still reeling from the Blitz and years of war. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, are apparently abandoned by their parents, left in the care of an enigmatic figure named The Moth.  A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all he didn’t know or understand in that time, and it is this journey – through reality, recollection, and imagination – that is told in this magnificent novel.” (Catalogue)

The water cure / Mackintosh, Sophie
Imagine a world very close to our own: where women are not safe in their bodies, where desperate measures are required to raise a daughter. This is the story of Grace, Lia, and Sky kept apart from the world for their own good and taught the terrible things that every woman must learn about love. And it is the story of the men who come to find them – three strangers washed up by the sea, their gazes hungry and insistent, trailing desire and destruction in their wake.” (Catalogue)

Snap / Bauer, Belinda
“On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she’d said. I won’t be long. But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever. Three years later, Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother… ” (Catalogue)

The overstory / Powers, Richard
The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond… There is a world alongside ours – vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

In our mad and furious city / Gunaratne, Guy
“For Selvon, Ardan and Yusuf, growing up under the towers of Stones Estate, summer means what it does anywhere: football, music, freedom. But now, after the killing of a British soldier, riots are spreading across the city, and nowhere is safe. While the fury swirls around them, Selvon and Ardan remain focused on their own obsessions, girls and grime. Their friend Yusuf is caught up in a different tide, a wave of radicalism surging through his local mosque, threatening to carry his troubled brother, Irfan, with it. Provocative, raw, poetic yet tender, In our mad and furious city marks the arrival of a major new talent in fiction.” (Catalogue)

The long take : or, a way to lose more slowly / Robertson, Robin
“Walker, a young Canadian recently demobilised after war and his active service in the Normandy landings and subsequent European operations. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and unable to face a return to his family home in rural Nova Scotia, he goes in search of freedom, change, anonymity and repair. We follow Walker through a sequence of poems as he moves through post-war American cities of New York, Los Angles and San Francisco.” (Syndetics summary)
You can find this title in the Wellington City Libraries poetry collection.

Kamila Shamsie: Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018

Kamila Shamsie, author of Home Fire has won the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018. The prize was previously known as the Bailey’s and the Orange Prize. The author is described as creating a book that “spoke for our times. Home Fire is about identity, conflicting loyalties love and politics.” Commended for her mastery, the book is written in five parts, each voicing their truth in the tale. Based on the struggles of Antigone who wrestled with loyalty to family or the ruling elite, this modern setting places characters sensitive to ethnicity, religion and ideologies. British Muslim characters, with family connections to extremism, face prejudice and personal dilemma in reaction to family, the state and justice.

Home fire / Shamsie, Kamila
“Isma is free. After years spent raising her twin siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she is finally studying in America, resuming a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London – or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream: to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Handsome and privileged, he inhabits a London worlds away from theirs. As the son of a powerful British Muslim politician, Eamonn has his own birthright to live up to – or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined in this searing novel that asks: what sacrifices will we make in the name of love? A contemporary reimagining of Sophocles’ Antigone, Home Fire is an urgent, fiercely compelling story of loyalties torn apart when love and politics collide – confirming Kamila Shamsie as a master storyteller of our times.” (Catalogue)

Pulitzer and Booker Prize-winning author Philip Roth dies aged 85

Syndetics book cover
Pulitzer and Booker Prize-winning author Philip Roth has died at the age of 85. Roth drew much of his inspiration from his Jewish background as well as his hometown of Weequahic in Newark, New Jersey. Over the course of his career he was lauded as one of America’s greatest–and most controversial–novelists, especially for his sexually explicit novel Portnoy’s Complaint which scandalised America and turned Roth into a major celebrity.

Roth wrote prolifically over the course of his career, which he self-consciously ended in 2009 after publishing more than 30 books and winning the Pulitzer Prize for his 1997 work American Pastoral. This body of work included several highly-acclaimed historical novels, however the question of identity, especially in the huge melting pot of America, was his lifelong writing obsession.

“Roth is an extremist. He loves to shock, to go beyond the limits of acceptability. That’s why he’s so funny. But it’s also why he’s not to everyone’s taste,” wrote author William Skidelsky in the Guardian in 2011.

Tom Wolfe, one of America’s leading literary figures, has died

Syndetics book coverSyndetics book coverThomas Kennerly Wolfe, one of America’s leading literary figures, born 2 March 1930, has died on 14 May 2018. He was perhaps best known for his novel The Bonfire of the Vanities which was about the fall of a young Wall Street trader. It is often described as the novel that defined the 80’s and turned Wolfe into a superstar author, a role he relished with his famous flamboyant suits. He was however very far from a one book wonder. The Right Stuff was his non-fiction account of America’s first manned space flights and was turned into a multiple Oscar winning movie. Likewise, his account of Ken Kesey and the merry pranksters’ LSD soaked voyage of discovery across America in the sixties came to be one of the books that defined the flower power generation in much the same way as The Bonfire of the Vanities did for the 80s.

Wellingtonian author Pip Adam wins top NZ fiction prize!

Local Wellingtonian author Pip Adam has won the top fiction prize at the Ockham NZ Book Awards with her fantastic novel The New Animals. Published in 2017, this is Pip’s second novel. The award win includes a $50,000 cash prize and has been won previously by Catherine Chidgey, Eleanor Catton, Emily Perkins and other fantastic writers.

In November we interviewed Pip about The New Animals, so make sure to give the blog post a read if you haven’t already. We have the book in our collection in both print and ebook formats, so be sure to reserve it now!

Syndetics book coverThe new animals / Pip Adam.
“Carla, Sharon and Duey have worked in fashion for longer than they care to remember, for them, there’s nothing new under the sun. They’re Generation X: tired, cynical and sick of being used. Tommy, Cal and Kurt are Millenials, they’ve come from nowhere, but with their monied families behind them they’re ready to remake fashion. They represent the new sincere, the anti-irony. Both generations are searching for a way out, an alternative to their messed-up reality. Pip Adam’s new novel walks the streets of Auckland city now, examining the fashion scene, intergenerational tension and modern life with an unflinching eye. From the the wreckage and waste of the 21st century, new animals must emerge.” (adapted from Syndetics)

Pip Adam's The New Animals

Anita Shreve has died, aged 71

Syndetics book coverThe literary world will be a much sadder place after the announcement of the death of Anita Shreve. Syndetics book coverShe was a very popular, internationally acclaimed, bestselling author. Before becoming a full time novelist she was a teacher and a journalist. She really came into the public arena with “The weight of water” published in 1997 which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and turned into a film by Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow. Her most recent novel was “The stars are fire” published in 2017. Her books often revolved around the after effects of one single dramatic event and she liked to explore the subtleties of human relationships in often a highly nuanced and skilled fashion.

 

Popular fiction writer Philip Kerr has died

Syndetics book coverThe very popular historical thriller writer Philip Kerr has died of cancer aged 62. Born in Scotland he became a full time writer in 1989, beginning his career with the character Bernie Gunther and the ‘Berlin Noir’ trilogy. He continued with ten more novels featuring Bernie Gunther and the third titled, If the Dead Rise Not, published in 2009, won several Crime Writing awards. Fifteen other novels were published, two non-fiction and ten books of fiction for children, these under the pseudonym of P. B. Kerr.
Syndetics book cover
His last novel published this year is titled Greeks Bearing Gifts, again featuring the character Bernie Gunther.

Veteran feminist writer Beryl Fletcher has died

Syndetics book coverThe accomplished feminist New Zealand writer Beryl Fletcher has died aged 80.
She graduated from Waikato University in 1979 with a master’s degree in Sociology. She went on to study and lecture, until her first short story was published in 1964, and she decided to become a fiction writer. Her first novel The Word Burners, published in 1991 won the 1992 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Best First Book, Asia/Pacific region. Four other novels followed, her last published in 1999 titled The Bloodwood Clan. She spent many years as writer in residence in universities located in Waikato, New York, and Wellington. She also taught memoir at Humboldt University in Germany. She believed the role of a feminist writer was to open and expand ideas by exploring older texts, situations or opinions.