LBF 2016 and Man Booker shortlist party

Well I hadn’t planned to go to London book fair this year but I was very lucky to get an invite to the Man  Booker international shortlist Party. So as LBF was on the same week I decide to have a wander round especially after I found that as a Book blogger we can get in for free. It was a nice chance to catch up with my favourite Publisher Susan from Istros books who just before the Fair announced that she was joining forces with the wonderful Peter Owen which gives them one the ,most passionate people in the book world in Susan to help them get them selves out there, A glance at Peter Owens backlist is enough to make you dribble!! Whilst at their stand I also had a great chat with the Croat Poet Aleksander Hut Kono who was doing his poetry  at the LBF ,which he has translated him self into English. He also is an Opera Librettist.

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I saw the Large Books are My bag Bag at LBF . I decide to sit in on a translation session about how to promote books in translation mainly how to repeat the knausgaard effect(if only we knew hey) , I had want to ask How Ferrante sells so well is the opposite of being Knaugaard open and great to talk to also sells books maybe it is the narrative of the writer that sells . I felt a little more mention of some of the big sites online for translation would help. The editor talking about it only mention Lit Hub and Brain pickings ! , surely Complete review , three percent to name two would be worth a mention. Fiona gave a great chat about Knausgaard thou .

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I then decide to Have something to eat and make my way toward the Booker event I also had a quick look in the Oxfam on Kensington high street on my way to Kensington Palace. I had a coffee in a small cafe which by the food they were serving I will go to again the Cafe Diana for a meal having just had a snack. Then slowly walked to MAn booker event.

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I was among the first to arrive and Meet quickly David and Clare my fellow shadow bloggers I have met David before and it was nice to meet Clare and put a face to the blog so to speak. I also meet at last after nearly crossing paths over the years Simon of Savidge reads one the oldest bloggers about the net . I also had a good chat with Paul from Maclehose and a few other Maclehose folks who missed the actual shortlist but both their books are still on the Shadow Jury shortlist. We then listen to how Man booker had evolved into the new prize as the need was felt after the actual prize had changed its guidelines for all lit written in English  to be included it was felt that the Man booker international prize had to evolve and so it took over the Old IFFP and set up a replacement for the old Man booker international prize that ran every two years and was award to a writer for the body of work . Please not the last winner was the wonderful Laszlo Krasznahorkai !

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Then Boyd went through his and the Jury’s choices for the shortlist . Here is the shortlist . We had a few more drinks but I left early as I had a long trip across London and also a few hour train trip meant I wouldn’t be home till early hours friday.

Booker night, damm I’ve not read any

 

Tonight sees the booker winner announced and like last year I have not read a single book from the shortlist .I last read the full shortlist in 2009 in the early days of this blog. But my tastes have shift or have they ? I watched the artsnight show presented by Ben Okri about this years shortlist and by the end of the show went damm Stu what you doing . THis years list maybe is the one that I should have tried . I have read Anne Tyler and Tom McCarthy  before and connected with both Tyler writes great family drama and McCarthy is talented writer if a little overrated imho but C was thought-provoking. I was brought A little life by Hanya Yangihara by Amanda for my birthday, but have yet to get to it. When the list was first announced a the longlist stage I would put money on A little life, BUt it is the last three books that Ben Okri really sold me and reminded me of what years ago I loved in the booker .Marlon james has written about the attempt  killing of Bob Marley , The fisherman by Chigozie Obioma could herald a new voice in African writing it seems and draws on the oral tradition of His homeland .Then there is  Sunjeev Sahota book about immigrants in Sheffield from India (I only live ten miles from Sheffield so this appeals on the level I don’t think there is enough immigrant lit ).I wish BBC had shown the Okri show at the start of the shortlist (I know it couldn’t have been done , but they could have done all longlisted writers maybe). Next year I shall take more note and maybe raise my eyes out of my current translated read and look at what makes the shortlist and in the mean time will pick up the three books by James, Obioma and Sahota as and when I see them. I’m not going hazard a guess at a winner but for fun will pick some comparable translated books similar in one or many ways to the shortlist.

A little life by Hanya Yangihara  – The tower by Uwe Tellkamp – another epic book about growing up , not as much about abuse but the abuse of  power that they saw by the state at the time .

A spool of Blue thread by Anne Tyler -When doves disappear by Sofi Oksanen a story that goes back and forth in time like the Tyler story does.also there is a link between the two main characters .

when the doves disappeared by Sofi oksanen

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy A project for revoloution in New York by Alain Robbe-Grillet A challenging  experimental novel from France set in america as Satin island is a play on Staten island in New York .

alain robbe Grillet

The fishermen by Chigozie Obioma – Our Musseque is another tale of African life tough and brutal as well but seen through the eyes of kids .

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A Brief history of seven killings by Marlon james – The anatomy of a moment by javier Cercas another book about a moment in history , this was about the attempt coup in the early 80’s in Spain .

anatomy-of-a-moment

The year of runaways by Sunjeev Sahota – She is not me by Golnaz Hashemzadeh  Another story of immigrant life in Sweden not Sheffield thou .

 

She Is Not Me

The booker longlist is out but does it matter when most of the best books are in translation !

zone

Well my mind has been elsewhere and it isn’t to today I’ve fully come round to thinking about the booker longlist and what last years changes meant .I did say at the time the Booker prize missed a trick by not only opening it too all books written in English but they should have included all books translated into English .That would opened a global prize ,but maybe also helped get books into translation more into the limelight ,For since the list has come out there has been many newspaper articles and blog posts written about the long list ,for me I agree with Naomi and a few others ,the list is very male and very white,as some people feared the Commonwealth seems to have suffered with the Americans coming into the prize .Now as Susan pointed out in her recent piece for the blog the time is right to get a prize or more notice for books in translation .This week is a prime example I escaped into books to find solace in fiction and thus read two of the best books I have read in the last few months Bilbao – New York – Bilbao by Kirmin Uribe a Spanish lit prize-winning novel by a basque writer ,thinking on a flight to New York about the novel he is writing about his families past in fishing , that is  forthcoming from Seren Books .The other book is Zone by Mathias Enard ,now this book came out in the US last year and is one of the first two books from the new UK publisher Fitzcarldo editions ,this book strangely again about a trip we follow a French intelligence officer on a rail trip from Milan to Rome ,it is one of those sprawling books that is hard to pin down ,but drags you into another world .Now I had two thoughts about these books ,firstly would they even get a publisher if written in English as they break the mould of what is viewed as a novel ,recent case have shown books that maybe play with the novel as form or are maybe seen as to sprawling struggle to get publishers the two examples that spring to mind are A naked singularity by Sregio de Le Pava ,that did a tour of publishers to only first come out a s a self published book ,then people saw its beauty and both publishers in the US and the UK brought it out ,like wise the prize-winning A girl is a half-formed thing had a lot of rejections before it was picked up by a new small imprint and as you all know went on to win and be shortlisted for a number of prizes .I feel what translation would have brought if include in the book is challenging fiction books that break the creative writing stranglehold and market forces that  lead fiction published  in English these days .So how are we going to get the public to get books in translation a new prize is an idea ,a European booker ? a way to generate interest and like the booker maybe for once get the one or two book lit readers instead of the booker winner or shortlisted book that they have seen in waterstones or an independent bookshop for their  two weeks in say Tuscany ,and pick a book in translation because they know it has been a prize book ! One can dream but we in translation circles have to try new ways and stop scratching are goatees and thinking how clever it all is and break down the walls .SO the booker missed the chance ,we should make our own chance and make people sit up and see what they are missing .

The garden of Evening mist by Tan Twan Eng

The Garden of evening mist by Tan Twan Eng

Malaysian fiction

Now this is the second book by Tan Twan Eng to make the booker lists ,his first was longlisted in 2007 .Tan Twan Eng grew up in various places in Malaysia ,eventually becoming a lawyer in the area of intellectual property .He then decide to become a full-time writer ,he published his first book in 2007 the gift of rain ,this book like the garden of evening mist was set in Malaysia and was about the Japanese control of the area in the second world war .This his latest also looks back on that time .

Every child longs for a larger-than-life uncle and, because I had none ,Magnus Pretorious became a figure of fascination to me ,although he hardly anything more than a vague presence in my life when i was growing up .What I knew of him I heard from my parents and from things they left unsaid broken-off twigs of conversations I picked up whenever I walked in on them ,and from what Magnus told me after I got to know him better

Early on remember her past .

So garden of evening mist is a complex book that brings together many themes ,secrets ,love and hate  ,gardening and people .The garden in the title is being made by a famous Japanese gardener in  Malaysia this is after the second world war and this garden is well crafted in the Japanese style of gardening called Sakkei borrowed scenery a Japanese style from the past  that Nakamura Aritomo worked for the emperor in Japan caring for his gardens  .

According to the lay of the land, and depending upon the aspect of the water landscape, you should design each part of the garden tastefully, recalling your memories of how nature presented itself for each feature. (tr. Inaji 1998:13)

A quote found on wiki about Shakkei

The other main character in the book is a Malaysian women Teoh Yun Ling  she survived one of the hideous Japanese war camps during world war two  and hates all things Japanese since then til she meets Nakamura .She is Nakamura apprentice ,this sets up a wonderful parallel of love and hate between these two characters and there initial frostiness   .Throw in the fact that Malaysia itself is undergoing a civil conflicted  and is descending into chaos,Tan has set up to a wonderful book  that encompasses love ,loss and death and the remembrance of the dead .Also add his wonderful eye for the world around him the garden and surrounding area jumps of the page at times and you are transported to the garden of evening mist . You’ve got one of those books I have been crying out for on the booker lists  a discovery.for me this alongside the Will Self I reviewed last week are equal favourites for me .

 

It was hard for me reading this book and its setting and time not to think back to Anthony Burgess Malaya trilogy set at the same time as this book is also set ,but that book was from the view of a British officer in Malaya ,this was the view of a native and the book is mostly told from Yun Ling view both at the time and looking back as an older women at the time .There was something about Eng style of writing that drew me in at times it reminded me of Romesh Gunesekera a writer I also discovered years ago when he was short-listed for the booker with his book reef  .I think it was the style of prose , that harks back to the greats of English literature  writer like Conrad and dickens (even burgess as I ve mentioned ) .I feel this is a sign of what makes a lot of  Asian writers very readable to me as a reader , because in a way they are removed  from the here and now of what is modern fiction in the uk and tend to have read the classics growing up so on the whole their style harks back to an old age of writing  .It’s fair to say I loved this book probably the best book I ve read published in English this year or even recent years .

Have you read this book ?

Who is your favourite Asian writer ?

Umbrella by Will Self

Umbrella by Will self

English fiction in modernist style

2012

source – review copy

Now I was a fan of Self’s early books having read grey area,my idea of fun ,the book of Dave amongst a few but its been six years since I ve read him the last book was the book of Dave .So when there was a lot of interested in his new book Umbrella ,which takes its title from a James Joyce quote I decide maybe it was time to go back and see what had change with Will Self since I last read him .Will self is london based writer and was in the 1993 Granta new writer list .He is well-known in the uk for his frequent media appearances in the UK on tv .He has published nine novel and eight short story collections and numerous books of non-fiction .

A brother is an easily forgotten as an umbrella

– James Joyce

opening the book this quote is a puzzle by the end you get it !!!

 

So umbrella ,I was looking forward to this book then I saw some people didn’t like it and other had struggled with it .This is Self’s take on modernism but we should be shocked I feel Self has played with styles all his writing life great apes was a Swiftian novel a bit like Guliver travels a man wakes in an environment where he is the odd one out  and Dorian was a tribute to Oscar Wilde  with a modern retelling of the picture of Dorian Grey .So this time he is tinkering with Modernism but is it a copy or is he bring it kicking and screaming into the 21st century well I m going go with the second of those views he has updated the Modernist style .So the book itself is mainly about the De’ath family (which after hearing an  interview recently with  Self is partly based from research he had done into his own family ) anyway the main character from this family in the book is Audrey De’ath we see here in the 1920 but she ends up with the sleeping sickness that spread the world at this time ,left her like a fly caught in amber alive but not interacting with the world as she is motionless and thus is really a person caught out of time anyway the second of many storylines in this book sees the return of one of Self’s favourite character Dr Zack Busner (Self said in the same interview I heard he keeps returning to this character because of his interest in psychiatry and the working of the brain ) .So what connects there two is that Busner is working with Audrey in the 1970’s in one of the old asylums to unlock her from her state .Now I ve not read or seen the film but supposedly this is a similar thing to the book from Oliver Sacks where he helped people with the same condition as Audrey .Elsewhere we see the world war via Audrey brother who is on the frontline .We also meet Busner in the here and now looking back on what happened in the seventies .

Miss Dearth ….Miss Dearth ? She doesn’t respond but she hears ,oh yes she does .They go on and repeat the same procedure for the three male guinea pigs ,who are found becalmed in their back water of the mens dormitory .Busner has charged Inglis with ensuring that all of them are got every morning cleaned and dressed and shaved .She was sarcasm itself :Ooh ,par-don ,Doc-tor ,but you want me to pre-tend dey goin’ onna Journey ? her hands on her hips ,her breast proud ,a reddy flush in her cheeks .Busner though bitterly,was her go-slow ever called off ?

as you see time drifts and it is hard to pin .

 

Now I like some modernist writers anyone that reads this blog Know I m a huge Henry Green fan one of the best modernist writers but also like James Joyce but never quite got Woolf  and yes in places he has feel of all  these writer are in there but also a large part of Self and his earlier works ,it has a stream of consciousness style to the narrative and a jumpy style where he starts in the 1920’s and some how ends the sentence in the 1970’s or now  ,I liked this it is like a core sample you sometimes see in a museum  instead of sticking throughout with years and layers of time  and going between them ,Self has taken a core sample and driven the narrative through time this can be initially quite disturbing too me as a reader, but after a time you get use to it and I always feel as a reader you need to be pushed to the limit  .There was a punctuation tick Self  uses  that did really annoy me at the start and it was the constant use of a … here there and everywhere but after a time this blended into the narrative and I noticed it less ,also like Joyce did he makes up words by sticking ends onto them so we get toothpasting this is a very Joycean thing to do in fact I follow a twitter feed  a Joyce fan that is listing all his inventive verbs for Finnegans wake .I enjoyed this book a lot more than other people it seems I ve now heard Self is planning to writer two further books so this is just the start of his modernist era or should that be neo modernist I feel he has paid homage to Joyce ,Woolf and Green but also thrown in enough of his style to make this feel like the beginning of a new style .This is one of three booker shortlisted books I ve read and this is just second on my list so far but I could see it winning the booker prize .It was a welcome return for me to a writer I used to enjoy a lot but had drifted away from .

Have you read this book ?

Do you like new takes on modernism ?

Booker guessing 2012

Booker longlist 2012 guesses

Well I was in two minds about doing this two reasons I failed miserable last year and also I am much further away from the ebb and flow of what are the mover and shakers that are happening in English literary at this moment ,but I find twitter helps me keep up with what may be hot .I have had a love of the booker in my twenties when I read a lot of books from the lists ,so will use this years list as a guide to what I ll be buying in the next few months to read .I feel with Peter Stothard at the helm this year the list will be more to my taste than last years list .so I ll get my crystal ball out and give you my feeling for the longlist bakers dozen due out next week .

  1. Umbrella by Will Self – a change of direction for will in a way stream of consciousness writing this time but with a few familiar faces .I loved will’s early books and he should have been on a shortlist before now .
  2. Zoo time by Howard Jacobson his new one he won with his last and was writing this at the time an insight into publishing world through the novelist Guy Ableman .
  3. Capital by John Lancaster  the story of Pepys road a normal London street and via that street we see a cross-section of modern britain .as the street has all from the up and coming to the down and out 
  4. Bring up the bodies by Hilary Mantel The second part of the trilogy that started with the booker winner Wolf hall more of the life of Thomas Cromwell 
  5. Ancient light by John Banville an actor looks back at his teen years  in 50’s Ireland an illicit love affair in the fields and in the back of cars 
  6. Hawthorn and child by Keith Ridgway a couple of blogger been singing this ones praises .A middle-aged detective sorts through scatter clues an adventurous text they say ,Try Bolano I say 
  7. The casual vacancy by J K Rowling I know I may be off my head but it is her first adult book and set in an english village .I love book set in villages and would get people talking if it was there 
  8. Merivel A man of his time  by Rose Tremain ,she been on shortlists and maybe give Mantel a run for her money . Set in court of Charles II about the restoration man Robert Merivel a courtier and physician. 
  9. Pure Timothy Mo its been a long time since he had a book out over ten years I read one that made shortlist years ago be nice to see this book set in Thailand and dealing with Islam make the list 
  10. Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka a dying sportswriter tries to track the greatest cricketer in the world a spin bowler that disappeared .Mark of Eleutheropbia loved this one .
  11.  The Street sweeper by Eliot Perlman another that I know some blogs love ,Lisa from ANZ litlovers first drew my attention to it .an interwoven bunch of stories set in New York .
  12. All that I am by Anna Funder her first book stasiland was a prize winner and this is her first work of fiction set in 1933 follows a group of friends that have become outlaws due to hitler .
  13. well I going leave this blank can’t make mind up between Carey ,McEwan and strangely Amis (as TLS still seem to like him )

So what you think ?

Wonder how I will do this time ?

Trevor for booker

I ve long been a fan of the Irish writer William Trevor ,for those of you not familiar with him he is often called the irish Chekov ,Tim Adams of the observer said of him “widely believed to be the most astute observer of the human condition currently writing fiction .He has long been a booker bridesmaid with five nominations one long list in 2009 and four shortlists 1970 (Mrs Eckdorf in O’Neils hotel ),1976(The children of Dynemouth) ,1991(Reading Turgenev) ,2002(The story of Lucy Gault ).So rather than the Booker prize do what they did with the other booker bridesmaid Beryl Bainbridge and have a prize after she died why not honour the man whilst he is here I feel after the fuss this years prize caused say oh well we’ll stop for a year give it to William as a special one-off price for 2012 for the body of his work ,I would imagine many readers would be disappointed with this choice also it would honour William’s contribution to modern English literature he is a writer that has mixed Chekov, Maupassant short story talent with a touch of Irish tradition from Joyce and O’Connor with the English literature of Maugham and Greene .I love the booker I felt I gave the wrong impression last week it has led me to many good books ,my problem was with this year and recent years that I felt let down with the prize that has been dear to me .But never wanted to lessen the prize and I don’t think readability is dumbing down it is up to each of us what is readable .I felt near the prize being given some people went a little over the top with the vileness of the opinions and also the puppets that think these people are a sort of demi god of English literature !Any way if you think this is a good idea please write a post maybe if enough of us little people shout loud we can make the Horton’s of this world listen !!!! Please support this William Trevor is a writer that touches the soul !!

books ,booker ,literature prize ?

Well I stuck my nose in a conversation about the booker prize and the new prize announced this week as a counter to the booker ,now I view the new prize as a positive move the booker has been around unchallenged as the premier prize for literary fiction in the english speaking world for a long time ,so like most things that have had control of a market for a long time maybe it has got a little flabby at the waist and let its self go a bit and standards have dropped  .The new prize is in part a reaction to this years jury which in literary terms is a little lightweight and the choices of long list and shortlist have sparked much discussion on what the booker means in people’s eyes ,also a comment by the judge Chris Mullins in regards readability of the books he choose .I had long been a fan of the booker and have read many shortlisted booker books over years .

So what does the booker mean to me as a prize well I look at literary fiction a like Everest we maybe have to be like sir Edmund Hilary reach the peak  but then climbing didn’t stop and give up ,no but like all climbers we look for the new unclimbed peaks however hard ,or the new route up the mountain via a new path ,or a new way of climbing that maybe dangerous or innovative  and I think this metaphor works for the booker and reading for me in general I like to challenge myself . This is what reading  as the climbing metaphor  is ,not for climbing the same route or going to Ben Nevis and making out it is a hard as climbing Everest ! So that said what does this reader look for in his booker shortlists and winners well I ve a few things, and will use previous winners and shortlisters to show what I look for and why I think the prize has drifted of late as most of the books mention are pre 2003  –

 

Language 

I like a book that shows the bounds of the english languages and what can be done with it I perfect example would be James Kelman how late it was ,how late a book that showed the ability of language and regional accents a book wrote in a clear broad Glaswegian accent was it readable well if you were from Glasgow yes but otherwise it was a wonderful insight into how broken english can be shattered and remade in Scotland into a brutal but effective language that suits its setting .

Genre expanding  

Now I m going pick two books both works of magic realism the are Midnights children by Salman Rushdie  and Famished road by Ben Okri both winners in the 80’s They both approached the Magic realism genre in different ways Rushdie use it as a blueprint for the tale of modern India ,Okri as a way to open village life in Africa and Africa myths to the reader .Keneally Schindler’s ark also did same for biographical novels .#

sets a new mark 

I like books that when you read you can say that will be cited for years after as a turning point in fiction .I ve got a recent winner in mind Wolf hall I think even thou I didn’t really enjoy it ,I can see it being a book that has raised the bar on historic fiction and  will be the one the people say was a game changer and will be the one people read to get inspired to write historic fiction .

just talent 

Now some writers just oozes talent now around booker shortlist it is obvious who has influenced english literary fiction for years people like Beryl Bainbridge and William Trevor although neither won a booker both have had multiple short-listed books  over 20 plus years why because the constantly show the bounds of the English language Peter Carey and J M Coetzee have both won on more than one occasion and this  is due to there talent as writers both try to set a new path to follow  with each new  book and usually succeed in showing how you can be different even in the same field of fiction .

There are the things I look for in a winner books that try to climb Everest set new marks and leave me as a reader want more ,I think the rot set in with the booker in 2003 the short lists since then have been weaker that earlier ones so a new prize is welcome and well all be able to judge what difference it has made to the booker and what direction the new prize is set in .Although I must note it is a missed chance for a general prize for  literary fiction that also including translations   published within in a year .I personally think this hasn’t happened because it would show how much great fiction is coming to readers from outside the English speaking world !! that does all of what I state in the qualities of a booker winner and usually far better

What do you think ?

Deutscher buchpreis longlist is out

The german longlist for the Deutscher buchpreis has been announced ,the german version of the books of the longlist see it here in full only few on names are familar to me ,but my german friend on twitter recomends this one by Klaus Modick -sunshine ,a man in california learns of Brechts death a man he knew in a love hate relationship .

Half blood blues by Esi Edugyan

half blood blues

Source – review copy from Serpents tail

Esi Edugyan is a Canadian writer she grew up in Calgary ,she studied at university of victoria and John Hopkins her short stories have been in a number of anthologies over the last few years  .This is her second novel .The book has been on Book at bedtime in uk and was just named on the Man Booker long list for 2011 .

I ll ask you a question you ever wondered what happened to the jazz musicians you see in cabaret or read about in the Isherwood Berlin novels ? .Well if you have this is the book for you ,it follows a group of jazz musicians in pre war berlin then in Paris as the german army heads to there .so we meet Hieronymus Falk a Black German jazz musician ,Sid,chip and Delilah  his band mates ,the story has two strands the first the story in the late thirties and forties firstly in berlin then in Paris as the band try to escape the Germany army .The second strand of the story   is Sid and Chip returning to German well Berlin actually  and then Poland in the nineties to try to find out about the old band mate Hiero  ,he was the one that was left behind as he was arrested just as  the others from the band got visa’s and managed to escape the clutches of the German army .We see the tensions with in this group of friends as the all have different ways of copying with fear of getting caught by the German army as they descend on the french capital .In the nineties Sid and Chip relive the past and what happened in the first place ,this leads to old wounds being opened and in the end a wonderful twist in the tale .If you like WW2 stories or Jazz music this book will appeal to you .

It  was the four of us living here.Delilah , Hieronymus , Chip and me .Couple months before we’d spent the day nailing black sheets across the flat’s window ,but damm if that grim sun didn’t flood through anyway .The rooms felt to stale to sober up in . We needed to sweat it out in the fresh air get our heads about us .Ain’t been no breeze in weeks .

Sid talking about the gang living in berlin .

I enjoyed this book ,I like little corners of  World war two ,like this one and until I read it I never really thought about the musicians you read about in the Isherwood’s  Berlin novels in them they were just mention Esi has focused on them ,another thing I rather daftly didn’t think about was there were black German citizens in the thirties in Germany .I enjoyed the interaction of the three main characters ,the book slowly build the tension of  the german army arriving ,and the later story shows how when time has passed we are willing to open up .So is this a book worthy of the book list ,well in my humble opinion yes it is in some ways it has classic traits of a booker book so I can see this hopefully making the shortlist .

Have you read this book ?

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