Well, the Shadow Panel is truly underway. We even got namechecks in The Sunday Times which was a lovely surprise. Now we have the hard task of getting down to the reading. I thought I’d post some very preliminary thoughts about each book. I’ve dipped into them all briefly – and finished one – can you guess which?
Sara Taylor: The Lauras
I wasn’t planning to read this book in its entirety first, but once I started, I couldn’t stop. Ma ups and leaves and takes Alex with her on a road trip up, down, across and along most of the USA. It was absolutely brilliant – review to come in a day or two.
Minoo Dinshaw: Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman
‘Steven who?’ I went. Well, Sir Steven Runciman was born in 1903 and lived until 2000. He was an expert on the Crusades, knew everyone who was anyone, and had an eventful life – a true English eccentric. I’ve read the first three chapters and am entranced already. The only problem is this book is big – nearly 800 pages, although the last 150 or so are notes and indexes, that’s still over 600 pages of dense text to read and I do find that non-fiction takes twice as long (at least) as fiction to read. It will, I think though, be a pleasure not a chore.
Claire North: The End of the Day
I’ve not dipped into this novel yet. It follows the life of the man who is the “Harbinger of Death” – his job is to notify people of their impending demise. I’ve no idea whether Charlie is new at his job, or an old hand. There have been other books of course which concern people working with Death, Pratchett’s Mort springs to mind, so it’ll be interesting to see how it compares in that general trope. I am delighted that a book that some would classify as genre / SF&F has been included in this shortlist though – although it will probably turn out to more philosophical than genre…
Julianne Pachico: The Lucky Ones
I’ve read the first two stories in this collection mostly set in Colombia, and I can already see a bit of a theme going on already methinks. I’ll save my judgement on that, but they were absolutely amazing stories, terrifying and unsettling in their intensity. If the rest are as good, I’m going to love this book too.
Sally Rooney: Conversations with Friends
I’ve read some very good reports of this novel by the young Irish author. Lucy Unwin reviewed it for us at Shiny, and interviewed Rooney too – and it sounds a very modern portrayal of twenty-something women becoming proper adults. Of the five shortlisted novels, this is the book I’m least attracted to, but I hope to be converted.
That’s your lot today – I’ve got some reading to do!