Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Costa Book of the Year

Author Sebastian Barry has won the Costa Book of the Year Award for The Secret Scripture. Chairman of the judges Matthew Parris said the decision was an "extraordinarily close finish" with poet Adam Foulds' The Broken Word. Of the nine judges, five were for The Secret Scripture and four for The Broken Word, and one of the five for The Secret Scripture wavered.

Both books were featured as "Books of the Week" last year. Barry just missed out on the Man Booker Prize, so this success is particularly merited. It is very difficult to compare two such very different books - both are of very high quality, and both come from writers who are successful as poets and novellists. However, if forced to choose my Irish bias would have come to the fore, so I think that the judges got it right.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Book of the Week - Gil Adamson, The Outlander

The Outlander is a first novel by Gil Anderson, who has previously published two volumes of poetry and one of short stories. She lives in Toronto, and The Outlander has received wide acclaim and a number of awards in Canada. UK reviews are also very good, and signed copies of the Bloomsbury first edition are uncommon but still available at £12.99, which is a very good buy.

Set in 1903, Adamson's debut novel tells the wintry tale of 19-year-old Mary Boulton (“widowed by her own hand”) and her frantic odyssey across Idaho and Montana. The details of Boulton’s sad past—an unhappy marriage, a dead child, crippling depression—slowly emerge as she reluctantly ventures into the mountains, struggling to put distance between herself and her two vicious brothers-in-law, who track her like prey in retaliation for her killing of their kin. Boulton’s journey and ultimate liberation—made all the more captivating by the delirium that runs in the recesses of her mind—speaks to the resilience of the female spirit in the early part of the last century.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Book of the Week – John Stack, Ship of Rome

This is a first novel by an Irish Author from County Cork, set against the background of the First Punic War between Carthage and Rome. The book is also the first in a proposed series, and is already into multiple printings of the hardcover, with a paperback available in addition. First editions are staill available from some dealers, although sold out from others. Definitely one to watch!

Atticus‚ captain of one of the ships of Rome′s small‚ coastal fleet‚ is from a Greek fishing family. Septimus‚ legionary commander‚ reluctantly ordered aboard ship‚ is from Rome‚ born into a traditionally army family. It could never be an easy alliance. But the arrival of a hostile fleet‚ larger‚ far more skilful and more powerful than any Atticus has encountered before‚ forces them to act together. So Atticus‚ one of Rome′s few experienced sailors‚ finds himself propelled into the middle of a political struggle that is completely foreign to him. Rome need to build a navy fast but the obstacles are many; political animosities‚ legions adamant that they will only use their traditional methods; Roman prejudice even from friends‚ that all those not born in Rome are inferior citizens. The enemy are first class‚ experienced and determined to control the seas. Can Atticus‚ and the fledgling Roman navy‚ staffed with inexperienced sailors and unwilling legionaries‚ out−wit and out−fight his opponents.

Ship of Rome - Harper Collins, 2009

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Book of the week and Bibliography - Vikas Swarup, Q & A

Its been quite and while, but with a new year comes a new start. The last couple of months of 2008 were incredibly busy, with little time for reading and even less for blogs. However, I will do my best to prioritise the blog this year and to keep my sugggestions flowing. A number of last year's recommendations have done very well, and in particular three have won their catagories in the Costa Book Awards - First Novel to Sadie Jones for The Outcast, Novel to Sebastian Barry for The Secret Scripture and Poetry to Adam Foulds for The Broken Sword. I may never do so well again!

In the spirit of looking back, this week's selection is a first novel from 2005 which is receiving renewed publicity. Q & A by Vikas Swarup is the basis for the newly released film Slumdog Millionaire. The novel received excellent reviews when released. It was shortlisted for the Best First Book by the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and won South Africa’s Exclusive Books Boeke Prize 2006, as well as the Prix Grand Public at the 2007 Paris Book Fair. A BBC radio play based on the book won the Gold Award for Best Drama at the Sony Radio Academy Awards 2008 and the IVCA Clarion Award 2008. If the film does well in the Oscars, the book may well become more collectable. First editions of the Doubleday hardcover are uncommon, particularly signed, but there are a couple online in the £20 - 30 range.


Q&A - Doubleday, 2005
Six Suspects - Doubleday, 2008