And the Booker winner will be...
Different books cater to different tastes. This year, the six books shortlisted are very different from each other. Here we bring you the six possible winners according to six possible scenarios. So on Tuesday, when the winner is announced, you'll already know what kind of novel the jury liked the most.books Updated: Oct 17, 2011 08:18 IST
Different books cater to different tastes. This year, the six books shortlisted are very different from each other. Here we bring you the six possible winners according to six possible scenarios. So on Tuesday, when the winner is announced, you'll already know what kind of novel the jury liked the most.
IF THEY PREFER MAGIC REALISM
Across between a Dickens novel and Yann Martels 2002 Booker winning novel Life of Pi, Carol Birchs (pic above) novel tells the story of young Jaffy Brown, who is literally saved from the jaws of a tiger in 19th century London by Charles Jamrach, the owner of a collection of exotic animals. Working in Jamrachs menagerie, Jaffy grows up until he is set on a sea voyage to the Dutch East Indies by his benefactor and employer to capture a dragon for the menagerie. Birchs stylised writing captures the smog and soot of Oliver Twists London as well as the fantastic ideas spilling into Victorian London, not least by the discoveries of Charles Darwin. Colourful and with wafts of the sheer fantastickical, Jamrachs Menagerie is a deceptively told tale of growing up, adventure and loss that mixes historical fiction with that of boys adventures fantasy.
I was born twice. First in a wooden room that jutted out over the black water of the Thames, and then again eight years later in the Highway, when the tiger took me in his mouth and everything truly began. Say Bermondsey and they wrinkle their noses. Still, it was the home before all other homes. The river lapped beneath us as we slept.
IF THEY PREFER HISTORICAL FICTION
Music and history riff together in Canadian writer Esi Edugyans (pic above) second novel that takes us into the cigarette smoke-filled rooms of Nazi-Germany. But its Hitlers Germany that doesnt find much mention in non-fiction, never mind fiction: the lives of Blacks in a White Supremacist society. Sidney is one of the characters who left apartheid America to be in liberal Europe. Hiero is a native of Rhineland, once French territory, now under German control. Unlike Sidney, who simply because of his being American, finds a relatively better life in Nazi Germany than in Baltimore, Hieros story is a spiralling tale of tension and fear. But what holds them together is the counter-cultural glue of jazz. With emotional depth and a rich strain of history to retell, Edugyan creates a world usually forgotten. All well-tempered by the love of jazz.
Chip told us not to go out. Said, dont you boys tempt the devil. But it been one brawl of a night, I tell you, all of us still reeling from rot rot was cheap, see, the drink of French peasants, but it stayed like nails in you gut. Didnt even look right, all mossy and black in the bottle. Like drinking swamp water.
IF THEY PREFER BLACK COMEDY
The Sisters Brothers
This is the classic narrators voice novel. You can hear Eli Sisters chewing tobacco and telling you how he and his brother Charlie set off one day from mid-19th century Oregon to California for the single-minded purpose of killing a man as ordered by the shadowy Commodore. Written in a dead-pan, saddle-up and trot style, The Sisters Brothers is a voyage in which one man and we know from the start it will be Eli strays from the path and is having second thoughts about his job of killing people. And to make matters worse, there are digressions like love and violence and lethargy to be confronted. Canadian writer Patrick DeWitt (pic below) hits pitch perfect tone in this black comedy that has the rawness of Charles Portis classic coming of age-cum-Western novel True Grit and the sudden meaninglessness of life of a Samuel Beckett play.
I was sitting outside the Commodores mansion, waiting for my brother Charlie to come out with news of the job. It was threatening to snow and I was cold and for want of something to do I studied Charlies new horse, Nimble.
IF THEY PREFER A THRILLER
In Moscow slang, snowdrop refers to the corpse hidden in the snow, laid bare when the thaw sets in. Nicholas Platt, the British banker protagonist, is in Putins Russia, with its dizzying glut of wealth and equally mind-boggling desperation, negotiating, and failing to avoid the slippery moral curve of a country in transition. Perhaps, snowdrop is also the truth that evades Platt as he gets involved with Masha, the blonde sexual enchantress.
AD Miller (pic below) was the Economists Moscow correspondent, and gets his dope on Russia right. As a character in the book tells Platt, if you are likely to be anxious or guilty, you shouldnt do Russia. The dim, yet funny expats account is entertaining, but the plot ends up wearing thin. The infelicities of language also jar: beneath the fur coats and grimaces, you knew that the Russians were happy, relatively speaking.
I smelled it before I saw it. There was a crowd of people standing around on the pavement and in the road, most of them policemen, some talking on mobile phones, some smoking, some looking, some looking away. ...they were blocking my view and at first I thought that with all the uniforms it must be a traffic accident or maybe an immigration bust.
IF THEY PREFER HIGH LITERARY
The Sense of an Ending
This novella by Julian Barnes (pic below) is also narrator-driven. But Tony Webster has already played his role as lifes journeyman and now has decided its a good time to settle back and remember. The retired, divorced and re-married Tony engages with memories of a younger Tony. Chiselled sentences mark memories as well as the act of remembering. The first part of the book deals with Tonys memories of being a book-hungry, sex-hungry sixth form student in the 1960s. The atmosphere is not unlike Barnes first novel Metroland. But here, he turns the coming-of-age novel into a meditation on coming-of-old-age. Much of this chamber novella deals with the narrators doubts about his memories. As Barnes makes him say: If I cant be sure of the actual events any more, I can at least be true to the impressions those facts left.
I remember, in no particular order: a shiny inner wrist; steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it; gouts of sperm circling a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house; a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torchbeams.
IF THEY PREFER A CHILD'S EYE VIEW
Much like beauty, the shifting avatar that is truth often lies in the eyes of the beholder. That beholder, in Philip Kelmans (pic below) debut novel, is Harrison, a young boy from Ghana recently emigrated to England with his mother and sister Lydia. Harrisons new neighbourhood is tough: a mother stands guard there over the blood of a murdered son, and ruthless killer gangs of boys, in and out of school, take pride in how many they have chooked. The young Harrison adapts to his new environment: the language never ceases to wonder (in England, gay and dumb and lame mean all the same) and with ample supplies of flour, he finds a mentor in a pigeon that frequents his balcony. Kelmans presentation of the childs point of view is credible and touching, even as Harrison gets embroiled in increasingly complicated events.
You could see the blood. It was darker than you thought. It was all on the ground outsi
First Published: Oct 17, 2011 08:18 IST