My Thoughts on Women’s Prize 2020 Longlist

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The Women’s Prize 2020 longlist was just announced very late in the evening few days ago.  I woke up to the news on Twitter the next day.  As disappointed as I was with the prize last year, you’re probably wondering what the heck am I doing on here posting about it this year.  I couldn’t resist checking out the longlist.  I wanted to see who they included and who they left out.  This is the Prize’s 25th year so I secretly hoped they’d get it right, but no.  They chose 16 books but as always there is at least one that makes you scratch your head and say to yourself, “What’s that doing there?”  Yes, I’m referring to Queenie, the book that the British are marketing as a black Bridget Jones Diary.  Smh… The last time I checked that book was NOT funny at all.

Of the 16 books on the longlist I’ve only read 2: Queenie ♥ and Red at the Bone ♥♥♥♥♥ (loved, beautifully written).  Despite that there are a few that I actually own and are planning to read like Girl, Woman, Other, Fleishman’s in Trouble, The Most Fun We Ever Had, and lastly The Dutch House.  I would like to eventually pick up Girl, Dominicana, and The Mirror and the Light (I haven’t read Bring Up the Bodies yet), but I don’t own these books yet.  So no pressure for me. I won’t be reading through the entire list this year, just the ones I’ve got.

Combing this list the first time I was shocked to see that Ducks Newburyport, The Parisian, The Confessions of Franny Langdon, and Patsy weren’t on the list. I was thrilled to see that The Testaments wasn’t on the list. Whew! What a relief! The judges say they are looking for something different and something that they’ll find hard to put down.  Well we’ll see the real direction they go in when they announce the shortlist on April 22.  The winner will take home a 30,000£ check and limited-edition bronze figurine called Bessie created by the artist Grizel Niven on June 3.  I’m already predicting that Queenie, The Mirror and the Light, and Actress will make it on the shortlist. Let’s see if I’m right. 😉

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As for the judges, we have:

Martha Lane Fox (The Chair of Judges): businesswoman, philanthropist, public servant

Scarlett Curtis:  writer, activist

Melanie Eusebe:  co-founder of the Black British Business Awards

Viv Groskop:  author, comedian

Paula Hawkins: international bestselling author

 

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 22

baublesI fell upon The White Tiger in 2008 when it won the Booker Prize.   Of all the books on that shortlist, it stuck out to me the most.  I really enjoy reading about Indian culture.  I feel like with every book I read I learn something new about their culture.  That’s really stimulating.

This novel thrusts us into a story following a character whose name we don’t know at first, but that doesn’t matter because we are immediately interested in finding out who this person is.  Eventually something will happen that will alter this character’s view of his situation.  We will see him search for freedom.  Freedom from all different things and situations.  Life isn’t easy and there aren’t thousands of solutions either which this character wrestles with constantly.

The best thing about this story is the manner in which it’s told. I promise midway through you’ll be rooting for the protagonist and you’ll hate everything that’s impeding his possibilities of progress.  Written with originality, The White Tiger is a book that will make you reflect on life and your place in it.  I recommend it to readers who enjoy books by Indian writers, literary fiction, by Booker Prize winners.

Overview:

“Balram Halwai is a complicated man. Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer. Over the course of seven nights, by the scattered light of a preposterous chandelier, Balram tells us the terrible and transfixing story of how he came to be a success in life—having nothing but his own wits to help him along.

Born in the dark heart of India, Balram gets a break when he is hired as a driver for his village’s wealthiest man, two house Pomeranians (Puddles and Cuddles), and the rich man’s (very unlucky) son. From behind the wheel of their Honda City car, Balram’s newB0015DWLD0 world is a revelation. While his peers flip through the pages of Murder Weekly (“Love — Rape — Revenge!”), barter for girls, drink liquor (Thunderbolt), and perpetuate the Great Rooster Coop of Indian society, Balram watches his employers bribe foreign ministers for tax breaks, barter for girls, drink liquor (single-malt whiskey), and play their own role in the Rooster Coop. Balram learns how to siphon gas, deal with corrupt mechanics, and refill and resell Johnnie Walker Black Label bottles (all but one). He also finds a way out of the Coop that no one else inside it can perceive.

Balram’s eyes penetrate India as few outsiders can: the cockroaches and the call centers; the prostitutes and the worshippers; the ancient and Internet cultures; the water buffalo and, trapped in so many kinds of cages that escape is (almost) impossible, the white tiger. And with a charisma as undeniable as it is unexpected, Balram teaches us that religion doesn’t create virtue, and money doesn’t solve every problem — but decency can still be found in a corrupt world, and you can get what you want out of life if you eavesdrop on the right conversations.

The White Tiger recalls The Death of Vishnu and Bangkok 8 in ambition, scope, and narrative genius, with a mischief and personality all its own. Amoral, irreverent, deeply endearing, and utterly contemporary, this novel is an international publishing sensation —and a startling, provocative debut.” (The White Tiger, inside flap)

 

 

 

The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

Publisher:  Free Press

Pages:  320

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 21

baublesWhen I came to live in France one of the historical events that I didn’t know very much about was the tragic destruction of Cambodia, otherwise known as the killing fields.  I started to hear more about it and my curiosity led me to pick up In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner.  I don’t flock so easily to nonfiction although in the past three years I have to say I’m reading more of it.  This being said I decided to read this novel a few years back with a book club. You can read my blog review here and check out my video review here.  I hope to get to Music of the Ghosts in 2020, which is a continuation of In the Shadow of the Banyan.

I highly recommend In the Shadow of the Banyan to readers who are interested in a fictional account(based on the author’s life) of the Khmer Rouge take over of Cambodia and reading a novel with beautiful writing.

 

Overview:

“Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is testament to the transcendent power of narrative and a brilliantly wrought tale of 13057939human resilience.

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus…” (In the Shadow of the Banyan, inside cover)

 

 

In the Shadow of the Banyan – Vaddey Ratner

Publisher:  Simon and Schuster

Pages:  322

My rating:   ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 16

baublesToday’s recommendation I discovered in the spring of 2015.  Water Street was one of the first few short story collections I had read in a long time that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Fourteen connected  short stories set in Stanford, Kentucky in the black community.  I was amazed  to see how well Wilkinson linked each character and unveiled their secrets.  Water Street has that southern literary flair that I love to read.  The style of writing is through short narratives and monologues.  You’re probably thinking that this makes the short stories feel unfinished but in fact they are full of impressions and feelings that are familiar.

Crystal Wilkinson is a wonderful writer who develops her stories through her characters.  She doesn’t need an excess of pages to make the reader understand something.  I envy her capacity to shape the story with the minimum means.  It’s a gift in writing.  I strongly urge you to check out this author who should be praised more.  I also recommend three of her other works that I enjoyed just as much as Water Street, Blackberries, Blackberries (short story collection), The Birds of Opulence (short water streetnovel), and Holler (short story).

I recommend Water Street to readers who enjoy short story collections, African-American literature, and southern literature.  Check out Wilkinson in the video below talking about her writing and where her inspiration comes from.  She has quite the personality and you should follow her over on Instagram at crystalwilki.

 

Overview:

On Water Street, every person has at least two stories to tell. One story that the light of day shines on and the other that lives only in the pitch black of night, the kind of story that a person carries beneath their breastbones for safekeeping. WATER STREET examines the secret lives of neighbours and friends who live on Water Street in a small town in Kentucky. Assured and intimate, dealing with love, loss, truth and tragedy, Wilkinson weaves us in and out of the lives of Water Street’s inhabitants.

 

 

Water Street – Crystal Wilkinson

Publisher:  Toby Press

Pages:  179

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 12

baublesEpic novels are my jam.  This epic novel, I’m recommending today, I had the pleasure of reading for a second time this year.  That’s The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.   This story is told from multiple points of view – Orleanna, Nathan Price’s wife , and their four daughters.  We never hear the voice of Nathan Price, an evangelical Baptist preacher.  Novels told from multiple points of view can often be overwhelming, but as this novel goes on you won’t have any trouble distinguishing the different voices.  Kingsolver writes them seamlessly.  The rich descriptions of life in 1959 Congo add to the authenticity of the story.  Nathan Price’s evangelistic assault on a Congolese village parallels the Congo’s fight for independence from Belgium.  As the Congo is fighting for independence so do Price’s daughters.

I recommend The Poisonwood Bible to people who love epic novels,  are interested in learning  about the political struggle of the Congo in 1959, love reading historical fiction, enjoy reading multiple view points, and enjoy reading family stories.  Don’t be put off by the size of the book.  It is engrossing and would make an excellent book club pick. Pleasebible check out the review below from Khia Comments.  It’s extremely enlightening!

Overview:

“The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.” (The Poisonwood Bible, inside flap)

 

 

The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver

Publisher:  HarperFlamingo

Pages:  541

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 11

baublesThe first James Baldwin novel I read was Giovanni’s Room and I really enjoyed it. I marveled over his ability to write a novel with so many layered themes. I also was wondering why it had taken me so long to finally read one of his novels.

I notice that this is often the first novel that readers online seem to flock to by Baldwin and then they don’t pick anything else up by him and if they do they’ll read The Fire Next Time but not any of his other novels.  So my recommendation today is Another Country.  This is hands down my favorite Baldwin novel so far.  It is a must read.  However, I haven’t got to Just Above My Head yet, but it’s on my 2020 TBR list.

Another Country is a story that is beautifully written and full of complexity.  It’s starts innocently but slowly the story confronts the reader with the difficulties for blacks and whites to coexist.  The themes of white liberalism and sexual freedom are both prevalent subjects as well today.  Another Country will make readers contemplate current and past US race relations.  You’ll definitely want to speak to someone about it once you’re done.  It would be great for a book club discussion.  I recommend Another Country to readers who enjoy Baldwin’s writing, like reading books with heavy themes on race relations in the US, and enjoy reading books set in 1950s New York.  Check out my review video below.

Overview:

“Set in Greenwich Village, Harlem, and France, among other locales, Another Country isanother country a novel of passions–sexual, racial, political, artistic–that is stunning for its emotional intensity and haunting sensuality, depicting men and women, blacks and whites, stripped of their masks of gender and race by love and hatred at the most elemental and sublime. In a small set of friends, Baldwin imbues the best and worst intentions of liberal America in the early 1970s.” (Another Country, back cover)

 

 

Another Country – James Baldwin

Publisher:  Penguin Classics

Pages:  448

My rating:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 8

baublesStarting our second week already and I’ll be talking about another one of my favorite books that I rave about all the time and that’s Jam on the Vine.  Jam on the Vine is LaShonda Katrice Barnett’s 2015 debut novel.  This is another novel that literally flew right under the radar at its release.  People I don’t understand why!  This book has everything that could interest avid readers like us.

Walking in the footsteps of storytellers like Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, Barnett’s writing is rich and full of life.  She isn’t just telling us a story; she’s bringing us along with her characters.  This passionate story follows the lives of two African-American women journalists at the beginning of the twentieth century and of the existence of African-American newspapers.  I was immediately wrapped up in the how and what of black American newspapers and its importance at this time period.  Barnett doesn’t just woo us with a good story, she gives us information about this traumatic period in America of Jim Crow and depicts the importance and difficulty for blacks to be journalists and to print newspapers.  Jam on the Vine made me want to read The Defender How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America by Ethan Michaeli.  I haven’t read it yetjam but it’s definitely on my nonfiction must reads list, even though it’s a little over 500 pages.  It will be a challenging read but one of necessity to know more about black American history.

I recommend this book to readers who appreciate excellent writing, a bit of sensuality, great food descriptions, historical fiction novels, interesting characters, and stories set in the beginning of the twentieth century.

Overview:

“Ivoe Williams, the precocious daughter of a Muslim cook and a metalsmith from central-east Texas, first ignites her lifelong obsession with journalism when she steals a newspaper from her mother’s white employer. Living in the poor, segregated quarter of Little Tunis, Ivoe immerses herself in printed matter as an escape from her dour surroundings. She earns a scholarship to the prestigious Willetson College in Austin, only to return over-qualified to the menial labor offered by her hometown’s racially-biased employers.” (Jam on the Vine, inside flap)

 

 

Jam on the Vine – La Shonda Katrice Barnett

Publisher:  Grove Press

Pages:  316

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 7

baublesIt’s a bright and early Saturday morning as I’m writing this on day 7 of 24 Books to Christmas.  Earlier, I looked out to the garden and for the first time in 3 days the sky is clear and a light blue color, no fog in sight.  The temperature has risen by ten degrees putting us at a comfortable 8 degrees Celsius. The first book that came to mind while making tea and looking out my kitchen window was Barkskins by Annie Proulx.

I must admit the only other book I had read by Annie Proulx was 1994 Pulitzer Prize winning The Shipping News.  I didn’t care for it too much because I found it to be a bit too depressing for my taste.  In spite of that first book failure by Proulx, I decided to buddy read Barkskins with Booktuber Retired Book Nerd in 2017.  We were immediately drawn into this adventurous, epic tale.  It begins in 1693 Canada and will take you all the way to 2013.  Complete with a family tree in the back of the book, my eyes were riveted on this story for about 3 weeks between January and February.  You have to love a book with a complex family tree.

I recommend this book to people who love reading stories that develop through time, adventurous stories, family sagas, historical fiction, and books with themes that we Barkskinsdon’t see coming.  Barkskins is definitely a book full of some wonderful surprises.  It’s over 600 pages but I’d definitely read it again. Very enjoyable! Barkskins would make a great book club pick too. The discussions would definitely go deep.

Overview:

“In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a “seigneur,” for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters—barkskins. René suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a Mi’kmaw woman and their descendants live trapped between two inimical cultures. But Duquet, crafty and ruthless, runs away from the seigneur, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. Proulx tells the stories of the descendants of Sel and Duquet over three hundred years…”

I hadn’t realized but Barkskins has been turned into a series which is airing on the National Geographic channel in November 2019.  Has anybody seen it yet? If so let me know below what you think of it.

Barkskins – Annie Proulx

Publisher: 4th Estate

Pages: 713

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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24 Books to Christmas – Day 5

baublesThis year I chose this next 24 Books to Christmas book for the February ReadSoulLit Readalong in honor of Black history Month – Unforgivable Love by Sophfronia Scott.  Wow! This was such an interesting modern retelling of the 18th century French classic novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.

Scott did an excellent job by placing this modern day retelling in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance with all black characters.  As the original classic is written in epistolary format, Scott chose to write it in prose/novel format.  That was not an easy feat but she managed to develop all the characters well and to tell the story while choosing the most import scenes to highlight .

Most of the readers who participated in this readalong loved the messiness between the characters.  It made us shake our heads, laugh out loud and gasp.  Scott’s astute fashion writing dialogues was that fine line between humor and seriousness at times.  The readers who didn’t like the book felt that the characters were being mean just to be mean and that wasn’t interesting to them. This being said it is a retelling so Scott can’t change the story.  It just wasn’t for those few readers.

Overview:

“Heiress Mae Malveaux rules society with an angel’s smile and a heart of stone. She made up her mind long ago that nobody would decide her fate. To have the pleasure she Lovecraves, control is paramount, especially control of the men Mae attracts like moths to a flame.

Valiant Jackson always gets what he wants—and he’s wanted Mae for years. The door finally opens for him when Mae strikes a bargain: seduce her virginal young cousin, Cecily, who is engaged to Frank Washington. Frank values her innocence above all else. If successful, Val’s reward will be a night with Mae.

But Val secretly seeks another prize. Elizabeth Townsend is fiercely loyal to her church and her civil rights attorney husband. Certain there is something redeemable in Mr. Jackson. Little does she know that her most unforgivable mistake will be Val’s greatest triumph.” (Unforgivable Love, back cover)

I’m linking below the Unforgivable Love Live discussion for anyone who may have missed it but has read the book. this video is full of spoilers so if you’re concerned about that don’t watch until you’ve read the book.  However don’t miss out on this discussion because it was very lively and full of a lot of insight. Moreover, Sophronia Scott joined in on the live where we had the pleasure of discussing the book, talking about creative writing, and Scott working on a black modern version of Jane Eyre. I can’t wait!

 

Unforgivable Love – Sophronia Scott

Publisher:  Harper Collins – William Morrow

Pages: 506

My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!

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Sag Harbor Live Discussion

Sag Harbor – Colson Whitehead, 329 pages, Anchor Books

Rating: 4,5 stars

Recommended to: Lovers of coming-of-age stories, summer read…

Particularity: Coming-of-age story by a black man

If you’d like to pick up a copy of Sag Harbor or any of my other recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository.  It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!
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