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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 24, 2009 @ 10:54 am


    Fiona McCann

    Absence having hopefully made the heart grow fonder, I’m back, anseo in the oifig,  post-Berlin (note to booksellers: please start stocking Christopher Isherwood again) and post-Paris (that part was a surprise), and have missed all sorts of Arts and Culture news. Thankfully, the good John Self has kept me abreast of things like the Orange Prize longlist, where I see names like Marilynne Robinson, Toni Morrison Deirdre Madden, and a lot of other contenders. Anyone care to place bets?

    • John Self says:

      I’ll lazily paste what I said in the comments below:

      “I’ve read three of the books: Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie is quite good (from what little I can remember of it, only a month or two on!), The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser is very good, and Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold is not very good. A few of the others (Ellen Feldman, V.V. Ganeshananthan) were sent to me by the publishers but ended up in the charity shop pile as I didn’t see myself getting around to them anytime soon. Also I tried Preeta Samarasan’s Evening is the Whole Day, which I’ve heard good things about, but couldn’t get very far into.

      I’d be interested in reading the Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson (though I found Gilead a touch religiose for my tastes) and most of all Deirdre Madden, as she’s been one of those corner-of-the-eye presences for years but I’ve never actually bought any of her books. Also I was amazed to see Curtis Sittenfeld on the list, as I’d assumed she was a man. You know, like Stigers.”

      I’d add that I don’t think it’s a hugely exciting longlist otherwise. There are quite a few ‘big name’ women authors publishing new novels this year – Hilary Mantel, AS Byatt, Margaret Atwood – and it will be interesting to see how many of those make next year’s list. Of course the point of prizes like these is to bring attention to the books we haven’t heard of, so the likelihood is that the most worthwhile titles might be the ones I haven’t heard of. Which makes my presumption above rather self-fulfilling and silly.

    • Fiona says:

      John Self: Hand on heart, I’ve read nothing on that longlist, though I have read other Toni Morrisons and Marilynne Robinsons (I loved Gilead, even with all its religiosity, and am currently reading Housekeeping), and have been meaning to get around to Deirdre Madden, but perhaps I should begin with the Lost Dog. . . .

    • John Self says:

      Well it’s not perfect (The Lost Dog), but it does have one of my favourite lines-in-isolation from any book I read last year. Writing of a (rather unpleasant) character who has a collection of china figures:

      “Once a week Audrey murmured to small porcelain people of love while holding them face down in soapy water.”

      Just perfect!

    • Sinéad says:

      I’ve only read Home and The Lost Dog, although I *really* want to read Burnt Shadows – have heard nowt but good about it.

      I’ve also read another Madden book (One by One in the Darkness) and was very underwhelmed. And have read most of Toni Morrison’s back catalogue but haven’t really felt the urge to pick up A Mercy.

      Looking forward to Mantel’s new book.

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