I’m not sure how I’m feeling about book prizes at the moment. I picked up a couple more books from the Man Booker Prize longlist at my library, read them and didn’t enjoy them half as much as the last two books I read and reviewed. They’re good but I didn’t think they were that good. I found KevinfromCanada’s post and the comments about the list helpful. There is a lot of interesting discussion happening around the choices and the process of choosing books for prize lists. Fascinating.
A Cupboard Full of Coats By Yvvette Edwards
One World Books, Oxford, 2011
Jinx is trying to live her life but carries the memory of living with abuse and of her mother, murdered when Jinx was fourteen. When an old family friend comes to visit they spend a weekend trying to deal with and honor the past.
Jinx is closed off from her ex-husband and her son. She has walled herself in and it takes honesty and hard work, facing the truth of her past, to break down the walls. This book is well-written, filled with the sights and sounds of the immigrant West Indian community living in London. I have to say it never really grabbed me.
Snowdrops by A.D. Miller
Doubleday, New York, 2011
I heard about this one way back in January on the Guardian Books page, wanted to read it and waited for it to be released in the U.S.
I found the structure of this small novel interesting. The protagonist is writing to his fiance, telling her about his past in Russsia. He is writing because he wants her to know a truth about whom she is planning to marry. As he tells this story we learn how during his time in Russia he constantly lied to himself about what was going on around him. It reminded me a lot of how blind people can be to their own actions, even when they know better. It is a snapshot of an amoral society, one we may be on the edge of falling into.
Nicholas Platt is a lawyer. Leaving what he considers a dull life in England he has travels to Moscow and joins a law firm. Nick is questioning his life and all he believes in when he helps two women who have been robbed. Maybe one of these women is “the one”. He is drawn into a love affair and imagines bringing Masha home to England.
The smell of the poplar trees crept in through the open windows of my kitchen, along with the sounds of sirens and breaking glass. Some of me wanted her to be my future, and some other me wanted to do what I should have done, and throw the ticket with the phone number out the kitchen window and into the pink and promising evening air. from page 19.
There are signs all around him, a deal his firm is cutting that is not as sound as it should be. His neighbor’s best friend disappearing. But it is just easier to ignore the signs, to go along with it all, after all that is live in Moscow.
He opened his bag and took out a card with a double-headed eagle on one side and on the other a photo I.D. It stated that he worked for the economic affairs secretariat at the Kremlin. He twirled his contraband card between his fingers. “Forbidden,” he said, “only means expensive.” from page 192.
I actually enjoyed this one, felt is was an honest portrayal of a man adrift in modern culture. I just wanted to scream at him, tell him to wake up.