The Booker Longlist is Here!

Booklists–who doesn’t love a booklist? Especially when it’s the just-released Booker longlist! This year’s selection includes The Testaments, Margaret Atwood’s sequel to her celebrated 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale. With The Testaments not due for publication until September, it’s being kept thoroughly under wraps by the Booker judges, so the rest of us will have to wait to draw our own conclusions. Deborah Levy’s The Man Who Saw Everything is also yet to be released, and will be her third entry in the Booker listings. September will also bring us the menace and banter of Kevin Barry’s Night Boat to Tangier.

Check out the full ‘Booker’s dozen’ below!

Margaret Atwood (Canada), The Testaments (Vintage, Chatto & Windus)
Kevin Barry (Ireland), Night Boat to Tangier (Canongate Books)
Oyinkan Braithwaite (UK/Nigeria), My Sister, The Serial Killer (Atlantic Books)
Lucy Ellmann (USA/UK), Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar Press)
Bernardine Evaristo (UK), Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton)
John Lanchester (UK), The Wall (Faber & Faber)
Deborah Levy (UK), The Man Who Saw Everything (Hamish Hamilton)
Valeria Luiselli (Mexico/Italy), Lost Children Archive (4th Estate)
Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria), An Orchestra of Minorities (Little Brown)
Max Porter (UK), Lanny (Faber & Faber)
Salman Rushdie (UK/India), Quichotte (Jonathan Cape)
Elif Shafak (UK/Turkey), 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking)
Jeanette Winterson (UK), Frankissstein (Jonathan Cape)

The Testaments / Atwood, Margaret
“In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the question that has tantalized readers for decades: what happens to Offred? When the van door slammed on Offred’s future at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her–freedom, prison or death. With The Testaments, the wait is over. Margaret Atwood’s sequel picks up the story fifteen years later, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.” (Adapted from the catalogue)

 My sister, the serial killer : a novel / Braithwaite, Oyinkan  (print) (eBook)
“Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works is the bright spot in her life. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become . . .” (Adapted from the catalogue)

Girl, woman, other / Evaristo, Bernardine
“Teeming with life and crackling with energy – a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.” (Catalogue)

The wall / Lanchester, John (print) (eBook)
“Kavanagh begins his life patrolling the Wall. If he’s lucky, he only has two years of this, 729 more nights. The best thing that can happen is that he survives and gets off the Wall and never has to spend another day of his life anywhere near it. He longs for this to be over; longs to be somewhere else. He will soon find out what Defenders do and who the Others are. But somewhere, in the dark cave of his mind, he thinks: wouldn’t it be interesting if something did happen, if they came, if you had to fight for your life?” (Adapted from the catalogue)

The man who saw everything / Levy, Deborah
“It is 1988 and Saul Adler, a narcissistic young historian, has been invited to Communist East Berlin to do research. As a gift for his translator’s sister, a Beatles fanatic who will be his host, Saul’s girlfriend will shoot a photograph of him standing in the crosswalk on Abbey Road. As he waits for her to arrive, he is grazed by an oncoming car, which changes the trajectory of his life . . .” (Adapted from the catalogue)

Syndetics book coverLost children archive / Valeria Luiselli (print) (eBook), (eAudiobook)
“A family in New York packs the car and sets out on a road trip. They head south west, to the Apacheria, the regions of the US which used to be Mexico. Meanwhile, thousands of children are journeying north, travelling to the US border from Central America and Mexico. They have been met by a coyote: a man who speaks to them roughly. They cross a river on rubber tubing and walk for days. Then they climb to the top of a train and travel precariously in the open container on top.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

An orchestra of minorities : a novel / Obioma, Chigozie
“Umuahia, Nigeria. Chinonso, a young poultry farmer, sees a woman attempting to jump to her death. Horrified, Chinonso hurls two of his most prized chickens into the water below to demonstrate the severity of the fall. The woman, Ndali, is moved by his sacrifice. Chinonso and Ndali fall in love. But Ndali is from a wealthy family, and when they officially object to the union because he is uneducated, Chinonso sells his possessions to attend a college in Cyprus. But once there, he discovers that all is not what it seems.” (Adapted from the catalogue)

Syndetics book coverLanny / Max Porter (print) (eBook)
“Not far from London, there is a village. This village belongs to the people who live in it and to those who lived in it hundreds of years ago. It belongs to England’s mysterious past and its confounding present. It belongs to Mad Pete, the grizzled artist. To ancient Peggy, gossiping at her gate. To families dead for generations, and to those who have only recently moved here. But it also belongs to Dead Papa Toothwort who has woken from his slumber in the woods. Dead Papa Toothwort, who is listening to them all.” (Syndetics summary)

Quichotte / Rushdie, Salman
“Quichotte, an ageing travelling salesman obsessed with TV, is on a quest for love. Unfortunately, his daily diet of reality TV, sitcoms, films, soaps, comedies and dramas has distorted his ability to separate fantasy from reality. He wishes an imaginary son, Sancho, into existence, while obsessively writing love letters to a celebrity he knows only through his screen. Together the two innocents set off across America in Quichotte’s trusty Chevy Cruze to find her and convince her of his love.” (Adapted from the catalogue)

Frankissstein : a love story / Winterson, Jeanette
“Funny and furious, bold and clear-sighted, Frankissstein sees Jeanette Winterson take on identity, technology and sexuality to breathe new life into Mary Shelley’s classic story. Told in part through Shelley’s eyes as she dreams up her monstrous creation, Winterson launches us into a modern-day nightmare where consumerism and politics are set to bring humanity to breaking point. Spanning three centuries and multiple narratives, Frankisssteinis at once a moving love story and a feminist rallying cry for our times.” (Adapted from the catalogue)

Author Interview: Vogel Award-Winning Kura Carpenter!

The Sir Julius Vogel Awards are New Zealand’s annual celebration of home-grown science fiction and fantasy, with awards covering books, dramatic presentations, fan publications and more. One of the most competitive categories is Best New Talent, and this year’s winner was Dunedin-based author Kura Carpenter!

Kura’s debut novel, The Kingfisher’s Debt, tells the story of Tamsin Fairchild, a translator who must team up with rookie cop Scott Gale to investigate the disappearance of a newborn baby. But this is no ordinary crime: beneath familiar New Zealand locations is a world rich in danger–and magic. Vogel Award judges described The Kingfisher’s Debt as “very cleverly set in an urban fantasy world overlaying (or underlying, depending on your perspective) Dunedin, New Zealand. The writing is crisp, the plot excellently designed and executed.”

We contacted Kura to discuss her writing process, the Vogel Awards and what it’s like to be a fantasy writer in New Zealand. For more on her writing check out her website, and for the full Sir Julius Vogel Awards list, click here. Enjoy!

You’ve described The Kingfisher’s Debt as urban fantasy–a genre combining both fantasy and mystery. How did elements of these two genres complement each other in the shaping of the story?

My story follows a typical mystery structure–crime discovered, investigation, clues revealed, case solved–but the world it’s set in is an alternative New Zealand where magic exists, but most regular people don’t encounter it, in much the same way that you don’t know anything about crime unless it directly touches your life.

The crime in my story is connected to the people who deal in magic, I guess maybe that’s what you mean by shape. The mystery and magic are interconnected. Without the magic, there would be no desire to try and steal it.

Reviews of The Kingfisher’s Debt have praised your descriptions of real-life locations–Dunedin’s midwinter darkness and the “80s kitsch of St Clair”. Were there many challenges in bringing this familiar world to the page?

None. Although I was going for a 90s vibe, so I guess I failed.

There has also been a lot of positive feedback about the characters in The Kingfisher’s Debt–their grittiness, unusualness and dialogue. How did the character of Tamsin–and her excellent first person perspective–come about?

She just popped into my head and I wrote down what she said.

I’m an introvert, I feel awkward meeting people, so I talk to myself all the time, practice conversations, that kind of thing. It’s probably the only benefit of anxiety, all the internal practice improves ones writing ability to capture ‘voice’.

Was it difficult to create a story with both past and present timelines? Was there much planning or re-drafting required with this?

No. I don’t plan, I’m a pantser, an intuitive writer, (which often surprises people who assume I must be a strict outliner). I’m just fortunate to have better than normal intuition for pattern and structure.

I’d come across the zipper-structure (alternating timelines) when reading a novel years ago, and after I’d written my first draft I realised that’s what I’d inadvertently created, it just needed some shuffling of scenes to get the timeline straight and make sure the subtext was as I wanted.

It’s always exciting to have a story that includes a library! You’ve previously worked in Dunedin City Library–what was it that drew you to the library as one of the locations in The Kingfisher’s Debt?

Yes. I’m lazy. It was the easiest thing to do, use locations I’m familiar with.

How do you feel about the fantasy writing scene in New Zealand at the moment? How do you think it might develop in the future, especially with WorldCon taking place in New Zealand next year?

That’s a hard one. On the one hand adult-reading level fantasy has been all but deserted by New Zealand’s traditional publishers, not for lack of talent, but because it’s simply not profitable. Talent wise I think the scene is stronger than it ever was. With the rise of self and indie publishing, has come a lot of opportunity.

While in many fields New Zealand punches above its weight internationally, for example film, sport, and even our P.M. is beloved globally, however when it comes to fantasy writing, we haven’t managed to carve out a spot beyond our borders.

Other New Zealand writers who write realist fiction consider what I write to be commercial and appealing to the masses, but because I’m not writing American or U.K. stories my story is actually non-commercial, it only has local appeal. WorldCon will shine a spotlight on us briefly, but the trouble ultimately remains that we’re a small market for telling our own stories, our own brand of fantasy. If we’re going to develop in the future then we must become leaders and not just followers.

The Man Booker International and Translated Fiction!

The Man Booker International Prize recognises material that has been crafted in concert by both an author and translator, and the importance of their relationship in shaping the language and understanding of the story. This year the Man Booker International Prize went to Omani writer Jokha Alharth and translator Marilyn Booth for Celestial Bodies, the first time an Arabic writer has been awarded the 14-year-old prize.

Also on the shortlist: Guzel Yakhina’s Zuleikha, a fictionalized account of the author’s grandmother and her expulsion to Siberia as part of Stalin’s forced de-kulakization program of the 1930s. Conflict and close proximity of your enemies is addressed in Homeland while in Death is Hard Work Khalid Kahlifa looks at the division within a family as a deathbed wish places siblings on a dangerous road.


Full Man Booker International Prize Shortlist

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
The Years by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison L. Strayer

The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, translated by Anne McClean

The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zerán, translated by Sophie Hughes

The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann, translated by Jen Calleja


For access to the shortlisted titles (as well as a few bonus works!) simply click on the items below:

Drive your plow over the bones of the dead / Tokarczuk, Olga (print) (eBook)
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead takes place in a remote Polish village, where Duszejko, an eccentric woman in her sixties, recounts the events surrounding the disappearance of her two dogs. Filled with wonderful characters like Oddball, Big Foot, Black Coat, Dizzy and Boros, this subversive, entertaining noir novel offers thought-provoking ideas on our perceptions of madness, injustice and getting away with murder.” (Adapted from the catalogue.)

Overdrive cover The Years / Annie Ernaux (ebook)
The Years is both an intimate memoir “written” by entire generations, and a story of generations telling a very personal story. Like the generation before hers, the narrator eschews the “I” for the “we” (or “they”, or “one”) as if collective life were inextricably intertwined with a private life that in her parents’ generation ceased to exist.” (Adapted from the Overdrive description.)

The shape of the ruins / Vásquez, Juan Gabriel
“When a man is arrested at a museum for attempting to steal the bullet-ridden suit of a murdered Colombian politician, few notice. But soon this thwarted theft takes on greater meaning as it becomes a thread in a widening web of popular fixations with conspiracy theories, assassinations, and historical secrets; and it haunts those who feel that only they know the real truth behind these killings.” (Adapted from the catalogue.)

The pine islands / Poschmann, Marion
“When Gilbert Silvester, a journeyman lecturer on beard fashions in film, awakes one day from a dream that his wife has cheated on him, he flees–immediately, irrationally, inexplicably–for Japan. In Tokyo he discovers the travel writings of the great Japanese poet Basho. Suddenly, from Gilbert’s directionless crisis there emerges a purpose: a pilgrimage in the footsteps of the poet to see the moon rise over the pine islands of Matsushima.” (Adapted from the catalogue.)

Homeland / Aramburu, Fernando
“Miren and Bittori have been best friends all their lives, growing up in the same small town in the north of Spain. With limited interest in politics, the terrorist threat posed by ETA seems to affect them little. When Bittori’s husband starts receiving threatening letters from the violent group, however–demanding money, accusing him of being a police informant–she turns to her friend for help. But Miren’s loyalties are torn: her son Joxe Mari has just been recruited . . .” (Adapted from the catalogue.)

The old slave and the mastiff / Chamoiseau, Patrick
“In the darkness, an old man grapples with the spirits of all those who have gone before him; the knowledge that the past is always with us, and the injustice that can cry out from beyond the grave. From a writer hailed by Milan Kundera as the “heir of Joyce and Kafka,” The Old Slave and the Mastiff portrays the demonic cruelties of the slave trade and its human costs–a wise, loving tribute to the Creole culture of Martinique.” (Adapted from the catalogue.)

Death is hard work / Khalīfah, Khālid (print) (eBook)
“Abdel Latif, an old man, dies peacefully in a hospital bed in Damascus. Before he dies, he tells his youngest son Bolbol that his final wish is to be buried in the family plot in their ancestral village of Anabiya in the Aleppo region. Though Abdel Latif was not the ideal father, Bolbol decides to persuade his older brother Hussein and his sister Fatima to accompany him and their father’s body to Anabiya. But the country is a warzone . . .” (Adapted from the catalogue.)

Zuleikha / I︠A︡khina, Guzelʹ
“Soviet Russia, 1930. Zuleikha, the “pitiful hen,” lives with her brutal husband Murtaza and her mother-in-law. When Murtaza is executed by communist soldiers, she is sent into exile to a remote region on the Angara River in Siberia. Hundreds die of hunger and exhaustion on the journey and over the first difficult winter, yet exile is the making of Zuleikha. As she gets to know her fellow survivors, Zuleikha begins to build a new life far removed from the one she left behind.” (Adapted from the catalogue.)