Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist

All posts tagged Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

Published May 24, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

What did I think?:

If you haven’t read this book yet and have been umming and aahing about picking it up, please finish your current read and read it next! I put off reading this book for the longest time, even after it won the Costa Award for Best Debut Novel and even still when it was long-listed for The Women’s Prize For Fiction this year. I have heard so many rave reviews and sometimes all the hype can make me steer clear of a book rather than gravitating towards it. After all, what if it isn’t as good as everyone says? What if I’m the lone wolf in a sea of popular opinion? I’m delighted to tell you, I’m most definitely a sheep. I ADORE THIS BOOK. Janel from Keeper Of Pages (please follow her, she’s one of my blogger bezzies and a wonderful reviewer!) finally convinced me to pick this novel up in our second buddy read this month and like The Fireman last month, we both can’t speak highly enough of it. Please check out her awesome review HERE. This novel has the strange accolade of being heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time. It made me laugh, it brought me close to tears and finally, now I see what all the fuss is about.

Gail Honeyman, author of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

So, is Eleanor Oliphant Completely Fine? Well, no she’s not. You know that very British thing that most of us do when we’re feeling rubbish and yet someone asks us how we are and we say: “Fine, thank you,” when we’re clearly not?! This is poor Eleanor. Her life consists of working nine to five, five days a week in an accounting firm in Glasgow. She barely interacts with anybody except to do her job and her social awkwardness and blunt way of speaking does not endear her to her co-workers. In fact, she becomes quite the figure of fun. As soon as Friday hits, Eleanor grabs a couple of bottles of her favourite vodka, shuts herself up in her house and doesn’t speak to another living soul until Monday morning when the whole cycle starts again. This is until she meets Raymond who works in IT at her company and they both help a stranger when he falls ill in public. From here on, Eleanor’s life changes dramatically and will never be the same again. She begins to realise she is not in the slightest “fine,” and never wishes to be so miserable or lonely again.

Glasgow, Scotland where our story is set.

I can’t even deal with how many emotions this book evoked from me. I felt an instant connection when I realised it was set in Scotland, as my veins do run blue with Scottish blood but besides the setting, this is such a stunning piece of debut fiction that it took my breath away. Beginning in quite a melancholy way, where we see the loneliness and hopelessness of our female lead’s life was gut-wrenching to say the least. However, then it changes and the story is so very uplifting that it made me cheer silently multiple times as I got to know Eleanor, broke my heart for her, rooted for her and at the end, felt real and definite hope for her future. Eleanor is a complex character that really gets under your skin. Because of her past, she is not aware of the intricate niceties of interacting with other people and can come across rude, abrupt and brutally honest.

I couldn’t believe some of the things that she came out with sometimes, there were plenty of laughs but I remember at the same time shaking my head in disbelief and sadness at her naivety when facing the modern world. Things like smartphones, going to gigs and getting her nails done are big deals for Eleanor and as she continued to force herself into new, sometimes scary situations, I couldn’t help but smile at the endearing nature of it all. You don’t find out what has happened in Eleanor’s past until quite late on in the novel and although Janel and I desperately wanted to know what had gone on with her, I completely believe this was the perfect way to structure the book. You fall in love with Eleanor first as a character and it only makes it more heart-breaking when the trauma of her past is finally revealed in full, horrific detail.

Please do me a favour and read this book if you haven’t already. Eleanor is such a special character and both her and her story will play on my mind for a long while to come.

Thank you once again to Janel for an amazing buddy reading experience!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

 

Advertisements

Five Books I’d Love To Receive For My Birthday

Published April 13, 2018 by bibliobeth

Happy Birthday to me! April is my birthday month and like any other regular bookworm, the only thing I want for my birthday is BOOKS. I’m trying to do a post each month based on a meme I’ve liked (or an idea I’ve developed myself) and this month is the perfect opportunity to show you all what I might be asking for for my birthday. Obviously I’m not expecting to get all five but if I’m lucky enough to get any vouchers, this is what I’ll be buying. Let’s get on with it.

1.) Three Things About Elsie – Joanna Cannon

What’s it all about?:

There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you many things, but here are three of them:
1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.

Why do I want it?:

I loved The Trouble With Goats And Sheep and I’ve been eyeing this book for a little while now, even before it was long-listed for The Women’s Prize For Fiction this year. That cover, that synopsis and a host of fantastic, gushing reviews. It needs to be mine.

2.) The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock – Imogen Hermes Gowar

What’s it all about?:

This voyage is special. It will change everything… 

One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.

As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost.

Where will their ambitions lead? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess?

In this spell-binding story of curiosity and obsession, Imogen Hermes Gowar has created an unforgettable jewel of a novel, filled to the brim with intelligence, heart and wit.

Why do I want it?:

Like Three Things About Elsie, The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock has been getting rave reviews. It joins Elsie on the Women’s Prize For Fiction long-list and looks to be a cracking piece of historical fiction.

3.) Sight – Jessie Greengrass

What’s it all about?:

The extraordinary first novel from the author of the prizewinning An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It.

It seemed, at times, an act of profound selfishness, to have a child so that I might become a parent; but selfish, too, to have a child and stay the same, or not to have one – unless the only honest choice would have been to try to become this kinder version of myself without the need to bring another into it . . .

Sight is about X-rays, psychoanalysis, and the origins of modern surgery. It is about being a parent, and being a child. Fiercely intelligent, brilliantly written and suffused with something close to forgiveness, it is a novel about how we see others and how we imagine ourselves.

Why do I want it?:

I hesitated about going to see this author speak at an event and now I’m kicking myself. This is a debut novel about motherhood so could potentially be quite a difficult read for me but I’ve heard such great things I think I’m just going to dive in and do it. Oh yes and it’s on the Women’s Prize For Fiction long-list.

4.) The Trick To Time – Kit de Waal

What’s it all about?:

Mona is a dollmaker. She crafts beautiful, handmade wooden dolls in her workshop in a sleepy seaside town. Every doll is special. Every doll has a name. And every doll has a hidden meaning, from a past Mona has never accepted.

Each new doll takes Mona back to a different time entirely – back to Birmingham, in 1972. Back to the thrill of being a young Irish girl in a big city, with a new job and a room of her own in a busy boarding house. Back to her first night out in town, where she meets William, a gentle Irish boy with an easy smile and an open face. Back to their whirlwind marriage, and unexpected pregnancy. And finally, to the tragedy that tore them apart.

Why do I want it?:

Shamefully, I still haven’t read the author’s first book, My Name Is Leon yet, although I have put it on my most recent Five Star TBR Predictions so I WILL be reading it soon. Again, I’ve heard fantastic things about this novel and guess what? It’s long-listed for The Women’s Prize For Fiction! I sense a pattern appearing here….

5.) Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History – Bill Schutt

What’s it all about?:

For centuries scientists have written off cannibalism as a bizarre phenomenon with little biological significance. Its presence in nature was dismissed as a desperate response to starvation or other life-threatening circumstances, and few spent time studying it. A taboo subject in our culture, the behavior was portrayed mostly through horror movies or tabloids sensationalizing the crimes of real-life flesh-eaters. But the true nature of cannibalism–the role it plays in evolution as well as human history–is even more intriguing (and more normal) than the misconceptions we’ve come to accept as fact.

In Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural Historyzoologist Bill Schutt sets the record straight, debunking common myths and investigating our new understanding of cannibalism’s role in biology, anthropology, and history in the most fascinating account yet written on this complex topic. Schutt takes readers from Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains, where he wades through ponds full of tadpoles devouring their siblings, to the Sierra Nevadas, where he joins researchers who are shedding new light on what happened to the Donner Party–the most infamous episode of cannibalism in American history. He even meets with an expert on the preparation and consumption of human placenta (and, yes, it goes well with Chianti).

Bringing together the latest cutting-edge science, Schutt answers questions such as why some amphibians consume their mother’s skin; why certain insects bite the heads off their partners after sex; why, up until the end of the twentieth century, Europeans regularly ate human body parts as medical curatives; and how cannibalism might be linked to the extinction of the Neanderthals. He takes us into the future as well, investigating whether, as climate change causes famine, disease, and overcrowding, we may see more outbreaks of cannibalism in many more species–including our own.

Cannibalism places a perfectly natural occurrence into a vital new context and invites us to explore why it both enthralls and repels us.

Why do I want it?:

Oh my goodness, a book that isn’t on the Women’s Fiction long-list!! If you’ve followed me for a little while you might know I love my science non-fiction and this looks completely awful in the most intriguing of ways! Just reading the synopsis makes me want it more and more.

I’d love to know what you think of my birthday wish-list selection. Have you read any of these books and what did you think? Or do you want to read any of them and why? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Five Star TBR Predictions – Round Two

Published March 19, 2018 by bibliobeth

Image from http://lithub.com/in-praise-of-the-book-tower/

Hello everyone and welcome to my Five Star TBR Predictions – Round Two. For my original post, please click HERE and for my Wrap Up please click HERE. I’ve now done individual reviews for all five books that I predicted I would give five stars so you can check them out by searching for them on my blog.

So, if you haven’t been here before, what’s it all about?

One of my favourite book-tubers, Mercedes from Mercy’s Bookish Musings recently posted a brilliant video where she went through her TBR and tried to predict which five books would be five star reads for her. She then did a wrap up video after she had read the books to see how many she had got right. I thought this was a fantastic idea and immediately wanted to do the same as a blog post rather than a video. Honestly, none of you need to see me stammering away in front of a camera – it’s not a pretty sight. I’ll leave it to the experts! Without further ado, I’ve picked five books from my TBR that I think will be five star reads for me and I’ll give you a little bit of background information about how I got the book and why I think I might give it five stars.

1.) NOS4R2 – Joe Hill

Joe Hill is a bit of a special author for me, being the son of my all-time favourite author, Stephen King. I’m slowly making my way through his back catalogue. I gave his first two novels, Heart-Shaped Box and Horns the big five stars and I’m making my way through his short story collection, 20th Century Ghosts in my Short Stories Challenge (where I’ve read one story so far and unfortunately, it wasn’t five stars). However, I seem to be a big fan of his novels and I have high hopes that this one is going to be another five star read for me!

2.) The Vegetarian – Han Kang

I’ve already mentioned this book in my New Year, New Books Tag as one of the books I most wanted to get to this year. I’ve heard so many good things about it, I adore that cover and it’s such a short read at 183 pages that I really have no excuse for getting round to it. Will it be five stars? I hope so!

 

3.) Dadland – Reggie Carew

Dadland walked away with the Costa Award for best biography back in 2016 and I’ve seen quite a few rave reviews about it. It’s quite rare I give a non fiction tome five stars but I’ve got a good feeling about this one and think it’s going to be an emotional read.

4.) My Name Is Leon – Kit de Waal

This is one of those books I can’t BELIEVE I haven’t read yet and need to remedy that in the next few months! It was on the Costa Shortlist for best first novel in 2016 like Dadland and has been on my TBR a ridiculous amount of time. This needs to happen. I have a sneaking suspicion it might be a five star!

5.) Sing Unburied Sing – Jesmyn Ward

This is the only new release on my Five Star TBR Predictions, it recently won the National Book Award over in America and here in the UK it has been long-listed for the Women’s Prize For Fiction. I’ve heard a few mixed reviews now, some fantastic and some luke-warm but I still have confidence I’m going to love it!

So that’s five books from my TBR which I think (and hope!) are going to be five star reads for me in the future. I’ll get on with reading them in the next few months and then I’ll be back with a wrap up post where I’ll let you know if I was right in my predictions or not. I will also be reviewing each book separately as always but I’ll do that after my wrap up post so as to not give anything away ahead of time. 

Make sure to check out Mercy’s video on her channel to see which books she has predicted will be five star reads for her. If anyone else wants to do this, I would absolutely love to see your choices, please leave a link to your post (or just tell me your choices) in the comments section below!

 

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

Published August 17, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

What did I think?:

If you’ve not heard of A Little Life before now where the devil have you been? Critically acclaimed, this incredibly powerful novel was short-listed for the prestigious Man Booker Prize, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction in 2015, was a finalist for the National Book Award in the same year and won the Kirkus Prize in Fiction, also in 2015. I jumped on the bandwagon a bit later (as usual!) in February of 2016 but because of my back-log in reviews I’m only getting round to reviewing it now. There is also the minor fact that I can’t seem to form any coherent thoughts about it without wanting to turn into a blubbering mess but we’ll leave that to the side for now!

A Little Life is not an easy read, far from it and as a result may not be for everyone. There are trigger warnings for physical and sexual abuse but the entire novel felt like an insanely emotional roller-coaster for me. The story follows four friends in New York and we learn a little bit about each of their lives and the bonds of friendship that tie them all together. However, we mainly hear from Willem and more specifically Jude, the latter of whom has undergone major trauma and suffering in his past – trauma that still deeply affects him in his everyday life, threatens to spoil his future happiness and has the potential to ruin relationships with those dearest to him. Throughout the novel, we learn more about what Jude’s mammoth struggles, both in the past and in the present, learn more about him as an individual and, in the end, suffer with him as it seems like his disturbing past will be a cross to carry for the rest of his life.

As I mentioned earlier this book is incredibly harrowing and deals with some intensely difficult subjects. If you find abject misery and trauma hard to read about, this book might not be for you. I hesitate to say that I “enjoyed” this book, enjoy is not quite the right word as the topics I read about were so awful at times I found it hard to keep turning the pages. It’s quite strange, by about fifty pages in, I honestly couldn’t see what all the fuss was about and was seriously considering putting it down. Yet by about one hundred pages, I was completely invested in the characters and their lives and if someone had tried to tear the book out of my hands, there might have been trouble! This might sound very silly but it’s a novel where when I finished it, I actually felt changed as a person and that feeling has stayed with me over a year later as have the characters of Willem and Jude. I can’t stop thinking about them or about the fact that I know what it feels like now to have your heart break into pieces when you read an astounding story such as this.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

Talking about The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman with Chrissi

Published July 14, 2013 by bibliobeth

13490654

What’s it all about?:

Richard and Judy summer bookclub read 2013, Goodreads category winner, and longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013, stunning story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who face a life-changing moral dilemma.

A boat washes up on the shore of a remote lighthouse keeper’s island. It holds a dead man – and a crying baby. The only two islanders, Tom and his wife Izzy, are about to make a devastating decision.

They break the rules and follow their hearts. What happens next will break yours.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Did you believe in Tom and Isabel’s relationship at the beginning?
BETH: Good question! I have to say, I kind of didn’t. I need to read something that for me is quite believable and it seemed that they got together just a little bit too fast. Okay, he was seconded on Janus Rock for three years before they decided to get married, so in that way they waited, but during that time, they didn’t have a chance to get to know each other properly, in my opinion.

BETH: What did you think of the title of this novel? How does it reflect the story to come?
CHRISSI: I’m not sure what I expected from reading the title. I didn’t expect the story to have some philosophical aspects. I kind of think in a cringey way that Lucy/Grace was the light between the two families.

CHRISSI: Is the use of Janus Rock effective as a setting?
BETH: I thought the island of Janus was so beautiful as a setting, with the lighthouse towering over. For me, there was a lot of potential solitude and loneliness expressed by this island, but I loved how they had the oceans on both side, jobs to do including animals to look after that kept them busy, and were able to walk around the island and admire the scenery.

BETH: How do you think Tom’s early experiences as a soldier affected his character and his actions through the novel?
CHRISSI: I think Tom was completely shattered by his experiences as a soldier. I got the feeling that he didn’t believe he should be alive when his friends weren’t. I think he felt like he should be isolated, so he took the lighthouse keeper position. I think his relationship with Isabel made him more content, but then when Lucy/Grace came along he started to question what was right and wrong to do in his situation. I think he wanted to make Isabel happy, so he kept the baby, because Isabel was what was constant in his life and he didn’t want change again. I think feeling like a family unit made Tom feel complete again.

CHRISSI: Do you think Isabel was justified for feeling angry at her husband for doing what he thought was right?
BETH: Yes, I think so. The woman had just had three miscarriages, she was completely isolated from her friends and her parents on the island for emotional support, and I think any mother would react the way she did.

BETH: What did you think of Isabel as a character?
CHRISSI: Tough one. I thought she fell in love so quickly at first that I was a bit dubious. I really felt for her when she went through her miscarriages. I also felt sorry for her because she was so isolated from everyone. I felt joy for her when she got what she wanted, but then overall I don’t think she came across as very likeable. She was intense.

CHRISSI: If you were in the position of decided whether Lucy-Grace should go back to her family or not, what do you think you’d do? (Given the emotional impact on Lucy-Grace)
BETH: Hard one. If a child spends her early formative years with two people who she learns to trust and love, and those people in turn learn to become the child’s parents, taking her away can do more damage than good. However, you have to look at the other side, that she should be with her biological mother, and is young enough that she would be likely to forget most of her early years.

BETH: How do you think that you would cope living on an island like our characters?
CHRISSI: I think that would entirely depend upon who I was with. I think I’d quite like it to start with, but I would need my luxuries for sure. So it couldn’t be a deserted island. I think after a few weeks I would start to feel incredibly isolated. I’m not sure I could do it long-term!

CHRISSI: What did you think of Tom and Isabel’s relationship at the end?
BETH: I actually thought their relationship at the end was a lot more believable. They seemed more like ordinary couples who have had issues in their relationships and are trying to work through them. I especially warmed to Tom during this period, where he was trying to help Isabel through a tough period.

BETH: Was this novel what you expected?
CHRISSI: I thought it was a lot slower than I expected, but once I got into it, it was incredibly easy to read. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t adore it.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes I would.

BETH’S Star Rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’s Star Rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art