What is your ranking? Who is your winner? I am glad to have read most of the shortlist – rooting for #s 1 and 2! Click each title for the full reviews.
#6 The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed
I think Susanna Clarke won the Women’s Prize, not Piranesi. Similarly, I think this got nominated because the true story behind it deserves the platform, not because of brilliant writing. It is okay but nothing special. Although it tells a true story, somehow the characters didn’t ring true to me.
#5 No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
Check out my post from August if you fancy it. But be warned, not a fan here. I think the books is one long, overrated affectation. No offense. More annoying than The Fortune Men but at least it tried to do something. Luckily I already read it months ago when it was inflicted upon me by Women’s Prize.
#4 A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam
Evocative and memorable, a novel I still think about. The tone is formal which was actually surprisingly refreshing amidst the more experimental or stylised tones of recent novels. I would have ranked it higher if not for sometimes long sentences developing into repetitive and ultimately redundant clauses.
#3 Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
Full review coming soon. For me, less memorable than A Passage North, but overall, more consistent. This might be an unfair assessment – there were weaker or throwaway passage that simply listed character history or aircraft information, but because the book is long, it gets away with it. If comparing the strongest passages from A Passage North with the strongest from Great Circle, the former wins. And yet. Great Circle is still a feat, as most of the writing is impressively consistently good, and to cover the lifetime of a protagonist while retaining her mystery is not easy.
#2 Bewilderment by Richard Powers
Wonderful use of language with lyrical passages mixing beautifully with the real and fictional science of the novel. The extreme vilification of psychoactive drugs concerned me but the heart-breaking ending makes ambiguous whatever messages the book set out to impart, which if a book has a message, that’s usually the best kind.
#1 The Promise by Damon Galgut
All about language and form, which I think is what literary prizes should be about. The most legitimately unique of the bunch, it takes ownership of the famous stream of consciousness and makes it its own. As I’ve said before, what clinches it for me is how the novel captures the absurdity of being human and trying to retain any measure of dignity. It soars high and plumets low in the scale of human experience, and the characters are not very good people. Fun fun fun.