So the challenge was to read all 13 Booker nominated novels before the prize is announced – and that is tomorrow evening GST. Well I have not done too badly – just having completed the 12th one today. I have reviewed the earlier ones in a series of blogs (https://wordpress.com/posts/sitanaiksblog.wordpress.com) – and will this time give a little about Elmet (book 11) and History of wolves (book12) – both of which I read on my Kindle
Both these are by women authors and with Ali Smith, women make half of the short list. I also believe both are debut novels.
Fridlund’s ‘History of wolves’ is a coming of age book, the protagonist being a young teenager who lives in the periphery of society in a remote Minnesota community. Linda in her mid-30s, recalls the events of one year in her life when she was fifteen old. She is awkward, gawky with little social skills and left to fend for herself by a very distant and detached mother – who she even wonders may not be her mother at all, and a quiet father who has very little to say, but teaches her to be one with the nature around them. She is comfortable on the lake in the canoe and trekking thro the forest – the descriptions of the area is evocative. The story itself is about her friendship with the mother-son duo who come to live in a summer cabin. The mother is devoted to four year old Paul, for whom Linda becomes a regular baby sitter. She just about senses that everything may not be alright, especially when the father joins the family. But her secluded life has not given her enough sense of how things ought to be, what is right and what is wrong….. and it leads to a tragic end, with the sudden death of Paul. There is a parallel narrative involving a school teacher, who is caught out for molesting a young student in Linda’s class. Through the years, she follows his progress through the internet, and much later exchanges letters with him. Except for Linda, the other characters are sketchy, and many aspects leaves you unsatisfied. There is little to look forward to, the story does not really progress……..and it left me with a feeling of having been let down.
Elmet on the other hand is a compact, more linear tale with strongly etched characters and a haunting end. It is set in an undefined time and place, somewhere in rural England. The landscape is bleak but described beautifully. The central characters, a father and his two children, are trying to lead a self-reliant life, in which they have little interaction with others, the children are being rather casually home schooled by a neighbor and between them they cater to their rather simple needs. The tale is related by the son, who is the younger of the two children. They live close to nature and have minimal needs – but, the outside world does intrude. The father’s efforts to protect the children comes to naught and events cascade to an inevitable if unexpected end. The book is well written, taut and enjoyable.
All this leaves only the 13th book, Lincoln in the Bardos, the bookmakers favorite, half read! Lets see if I am motivated to finish it in the next 24 hours