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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 21, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

    Molly Fox’s Birthday

    Fiona McCann

    Deirdre Madden has made the Orange Prize shortlist for Molly Fox’s Birthday (a book I’m currently reading). More anon when I finish it.

    • John Self says:

      Look forward to hearing about it. Just cadged a copy off Faber today (along with Ishiguro’s Nocturnes, AT LAST); have always meant to read Madden, and I look forward to it.

      It’s a strong shortlist generally, I think. I say that purely because I had already heard good things about most of the books on it independently of their shortlisting. Someone recommended The Wilderness to me, and I had a review copy of Scottsboro which I dispatched to the charity shop just to clear some space – oops!

      I read Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows and really liked the start of it, but got distracted when reading the rest so didn’t really get a proper feel for it overall. Would like to revisit it though.

    • John Self says:

      …And Bloomsbury are offering free downloads of Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows for 24 hours starting tomorrow (Wed 22 April) from 12:00noon.


    • Sinéad says:

      I’ve only read Home but have Burnt Shadows and Molly Fox’s Birthday so am about to tackle those (when, like John, I finish Nocturnes).

      Have avoided Madden up til now having read One by One in the Darkness and been massively disappointed by it. Therefore, it’s about time I make another attempt at reading her work.

      A lot of people are talking about Burnt Shadows as a possible winner, but Scotsboro has been recommended by two bookish pals whose opinions I generally trust.

      Remember that idea of the bookclub that came up a while back? Maybe there’s room for an Orange shortlist discussion group online (or even in person).

    • Sinéad says:

      John, sadly that download is UK only, but I’m guessing it’ll work up North.

    • Fiona says:

      John: Gah, have Ishiguro envy now. Well done on the Geoff Dyer interview, by the way. Great read – I’ve only read Paris Trance, and was a little underwhelmed, but it’s clearly time for a revisit.

      Sinead: Ditto the Ishiguro envy. Keep getting distracted from Molly Fox, I really have to get my head back into it. I too tried the Burnt Shadows download, but no joy. Sigh. But I love the idea of an Orange shortlist online / in person discussion group. We have until June . . . any other takers?

    • Mish says:

      I have heard so much good stuff about Molly Fox’s birthday but still can’t motivate myself to read it for some (strange!) reason. I have often intended to really give the Orange shortlist a lash on several occasions though, even it only to use as an argument when voicing my general preference for male writers! In all seriousness though, the shortlist looks good this year and may well force me to eat humble pie :)

      I have just ordered Scottsboro, so if it’s no good Sinéad, I’m holding you accountable!

    • Dotsy says:

      I read ‘Molly Fox’s Birthday’ earlier this year. It was a subtle thoughtful novel on the gap between how one sees the world and how it actually is, something which is of particular concern to the narrator who is a playwright. Life’s singular unpredictability somehow compels people to write, to create narratives that attempt to explain what are random disparate events. But reality is slippery and elusive, any attempt to enclose it in writing seens destined to fail. It doesn’t stop anyone trying of course. It is worth a read.

    • John Self says:

      Don’t worry Fiona, Sinéad is ahead of herself with my Ishiguro status, as it hasn’t arrived yet, so I’ll believe it when I see it. I will however drop everything when it does come, which is why I’m tackling a couple of story collections at the moment: Philip Ó Ceallaigh’s The Pleasant Light of Day (which includes a hilarious pisstake of Paulo Coelho) and David Eagleman’s Sum: 40 Tales from the Afterlives, which is very like Calvino’s Invisible Cities or Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams: very short pieces, two to four pages each, imagining different afterlives. Probably not as groundbreaking as it thinks it is, and as sentimental as it is clever, but a little delight to dip into.

      Fiona, Dyer’s fiction is the least of him, I think. Try Out of Sheer Rage, The Missing of the Somme, But Beautiful or Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It. He’s a terrific talent, and I was extremely pleased he agreed to do the Q&A on my blog.

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