Friday, September 5, 2008

Trevor's Review of the 2008 Longlist

I just finished reading all but one and a half of the thirteen books on the 2008 longlist (didn't finish The Northern Clemency and didn't start Girl in a Blue Dress.

It wasn't a good year in my opinion. Here is my ranking of the books. If you click on them, you can get my full review with comments from other readers.

1. Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill
2. The Clothes on Their Backs, by Linda Grant
3. A Fraction of the Whole, by Steve Toltz
4. Sea of Poppies, by Amitav Ghosh
5. From A to X, by John Berger
6. The Secret Scripture, by Sebastian Barry
7. The Lost Dog, by Michelle de Kretser
8. The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga
9. A Case of Exploding Mangoes, by Mohammed Hanif
10. The Enchantress of Florence, by Salman Rushdie
11. The Northern Clemency, by Philip Hensher
12. Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith

While I liked aspects of almost all of the books, only the top three were enjoyable to read throughout. And I'm not sure they were particularly strong or not. Still, it's a great prize, and I look forward to seeing which one of the luck books takes it away this year!


  1. I'm completely impressed Trevor! First, that you've read all the books already. And second, that you created this handy post for all of us Booker addicts.


  2. Thanks for your work reviewing the novels on the 2008 Booker longlist. Since I enjoy reading the books on each year's short list, your comments are quite helpful to me.

    As of this writing, I've finished "The White Tiger" and "A Fraction of the Whole," both of which I enjoyed, and I've just started "Sea of Poppies" (and my local library's just e-mailed me that "The Secret Scripture" is ready for me to pick up. That's what happens when you reserve more than one book -- contrary to what you hope will happen, they all become available at the same time.)

    To me, "Tiger" presents quite a contrasting view to the picture we in the West currently get of the "new" India -- how much technological change and social justice have altered the country. Adiga's anti-hero protagonist presents quite a different view.

    "Fraction" was quite a ride -- it's as if "Candide" had been told not only from the viewpoint of the main character but from his father as well.

    You may recall a line of text somewhat near the end of the book, when Anouk, by now the widow of the media magnate's son (his father seems to be a dead ringer for the real-life Rupert Murdoch), trying to convince Jasper to help her run her late husband's conglomerate, says to him, "I think it would be fun to run a media empire" (or words to that effect.)

    Reading that line caused me to smile, because of a similar line said by a character in Orson Welles's wonderful film "Citizen Kane." Kane, now a young man about to inherit a huge fortune, instead of selecting a more lucrative occupation, chooses to run a defunct New York City daily newspaper and writes to his guardian, "I think it would be fun to run a newspaper."