Each of us on the (Wo)Man Booker Shadow Panel put forward our personal list of six favorites yesterday from which we negotiated our group shortlist that will be posted tomorrow. The collage above more than hints at my favorite read from this bit of judging fun. If I had more time and more skill making collages, I would have found a way to make Satin Island larger than the smallish image companions it now sits by equally. Because it deserves a greater recognition. It is a fabulous novel. But that aside, here is my list of personal favorites in order of preference:
- A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James - A novel of this scope could have been a loose and messy thing, but James gives unique voice and purpose to each of a large cast of characters in an astounding fashion. I saw him last weekend at the National Book Festival where he said that at a point, he just let the characters go and develop as each required. I will be shocked if this does not make the official shortlist so I will save my in depth comments for that happy moment.
- Satin Island by Tom McCarthy - No one plumbs the depths of contemporary isolation like McCarthy, and few succeed in finding humor in it. I'm set to re-read this one in a couple of weeks. It was that good.
- Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg - This one took me by surprise and grew in my estimation as I read through the longlist. Of all the "family" novels on the list this year (and there were too many for my tastes), this was the only quiet one. Restrained. Elegant. And devastating. No excess of dialogue. Each character spoke to me in the circumstances of their isolation, their personal makeups revealed slowly through their interactions with others and the choices they made rather than explicit and clumsy exposition.
- Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy - There is an obvious comparison here to be made with A Little Life, and Roy's slim novel trumps the larger tome in a number of ways including (here's that word again) restraint and a willingness to not neatly tie up all ends of a story that would not be tidy in reality.
- The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota - Completely took me by surprise at the end of reading! The things done for love are explored here in incredibly thoughtful and unique ways. Large scope, well paced, succeeds in its ambitions.
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara - The sixth slot here was tricky for me. I went back and forth for days but ultimately decided that no matter the stylistic choices that annoyed me about this one, I could not put it down. Just like a whole lot of other folks. And that merits something. That's a whole lot of pages to stay compelling and keep readers invested. Having read the author's first book and enjoyed it, I'm still a little confused about the shifts in writing style she made for this one, but that is something I can go back and examine again if this appears on the official shortlist.
My plan is to post more extensively on the official choices after they come up on Tuesday. Our panel will also weigh in with a winner the day before the official winner is announced. I'm very curious about what the list Tuesday will look like. I'm predicting that two novels I eliminated from my own list - the Enright and the Robinson will pop up then. But I hope I'm wrong.
Do you have a shortlist prediction?