Month: July 2012

Book Review: 2012 Long Listed: Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis

NarcopolisRating: 3.5
Narcopolis
A Novel by Jeet Thayil
2012 / 292 Pages

The Setup: A fantastical portrait of the beautiful and damned residents of an opium den and brothel in the underworld of Bombay.

Bombay, which obliterated its own history by changing its name and surgically altering its face, is the hero or heroin of this story…

Jeet Thayil’s luminous debut novel completely subverts and challenges the literary traditions for which the Indian novel is celebrated. This is a book about drugs, sex, death, perversion, addiction, love, and god, and has more in common in its subject matter with the work of William S. Burroughs or Baudelaire than with the subcontinent’s familiar literary lights. Above all, it is a fantastical portrait of a beautiful and damned generation in a nation about to sell its soul. Written in Thayil’s poetic and affecting prose, Narcopolis charts the evolution of a great and broken metropolis.

Narcopolis opens in Bombay in the late 1970s, as its narrator first arrives from New York to find himself entranced with the city’s underworld, in particular an opium den and attached brothel. A cast of unforgettably degenerate and magnetic characters works and patronizes the venue, including Dimple, the eunuch who makes pipes in the den; Rumi, the salaryman and husband whose addiction is violence; Newton Xavier, the celebrated painter who both rejects and craves adulation; Mr. Lee, the Chinese refugee and businessman; and a cast of poets, prostitutes, pimps, and gangsters.

Decades pass to reveal a changing Bombay, where opium has given way to heroin from Pakistan and the city’s underbelly has become ever rawer. Those in their circle still use sex for their primary release and recreation, but the violence of the city on the nod and its purveyors have moved from the fringes to the center of their lives. Yet Dimple, despite the bleakness of her surroundings, continues to search for beauty-at the movies, in pulp magazines, at church, and in a new burka-wearing identity.

After a long absence, the narrator returns to find a very different Bombay in 2004. Those he knew are almost all gone, but the heights of the passion he feels for them and for the city is revealed. (From the hardcover edition)

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Book Review: 2012 Long Listed: Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up The Bodies

Rating: 4
Bring Up The Bodies
A Novel by Hilary Mantel
2012 / 407 Pages

Audiobook: 14 hrs and 35 minutes
Narration:  Simon Vance

The Setup: The sequel to Hilary Mantel’s 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn

Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.

At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne’s head? (from the hardcover edition)

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The Man Booker Award 2012 Longlist

ManBookerMan Booker fever is upon us!  Today the 12 novels that made the longlist were finally revealed and we’ve compiled each of their full descriptions for you below on one easy to read page.  The 6 titles that make the shortlist cut will be announced on September 11th and the ultimate winner of the prize will be announced on October 16th.

Look for this page to be updated with links to reviews as we continue to make our way through the longlist and keep checking BookerMarks for even more up to the minute Man Booker coverage.

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Get in on the Action, Submit your Rankings for our Community Calculated Short List Predictions

The title really says it all!

We’ve created new forums on GoodReads to discuss each of the 12 titles that made the long list. The seven of us are attempting to read as many of the 12 as we can and are ranking each with a score from 1-5 (5 being the best, half numbers are allowed), but we’d also like to hear from you! We’re going to track our scores along with the community scores here:

https://bookermarks.wordpress.com/the-…

All you have to do to get your score included in the calculation is to leave a message in the appropriate forum with your rating and a little bit about how you came to the determination.

In the end we hope to generate two short list predictions. One based on our own calculations, and one based on yours.

Please let us know if you have any questions!

Book Review: 2011 Short Listed: Esi Edugyan’s Half Blood Blues

Half_Blood_BluesRating: 5
Half Blood Blues
A Novel by Esi Edugyan
2011 (2012 US) / 304 Pages

The Setup: Paris, 1940.  A brilliant jazz musician, Hiero, is arrested by the Nazis and never heard from again.  He is twenty years old.  He is a German citizen.  And he is black.

Fifty years later, his friend and fellow musician, Sid, must relive that unforgettable time, revealing the friendships, love affairs and treacheries that sealed Hiero’s fate.  From the smoky bars of pre-war Berlin to the salons of  Paris – where the legendary Louis Armstrong makes an appearance – Sid, with his distinctive and rhythmic German-American slang, leads the reader through a fascinating world alive with passion, music and the spirit of resistance.

Half-Blood Blues, the second novel by an exceptionally talented young writer, is an entrancing, electric story about jazz, race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves, and demand of others, in the name of art. (from the hardcover edition)

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Book Review: 2011 Short Listed: Carol Birch’s Jamrach’s Menagerie

Jamrachs_MenagerieRating: 2
Jamrach’s Menagerie
A Novel by Carol Birch
2011 / 295 Pages

The Setup: A thrilling and powerful novel about a young boy lured to sea by the promise of adventure and reward, with echoes of Great Expectations, Moby-Dick, and The Voyage of the Narwhal.

Jamrach’s Menagerietells the story of a nineteenth-century street urchin named Jaffy Brown. Following an incident with an escaped tiger, Jaffy goes to work for Mr. Charles Jamrach, the famed importer of exotic animals, alongside Tim, a good but sometimes spitefully competitive boy. Thus begins a long, close friendship fraught with ambiguity and rivalry.

Mr. Jamrach recruits the two boys to capture a fabled dragon during the course of a three-year whaling expedi­tion. Onboard, Jaffy and Tim enjoy the rough brotherhood of sailors and the brutal art of whale hunting. They even succeed in catching the reptilian beast.

But when the ship’s whaling venture falls short of expecta­tions, the crew begins to regard the dragon—seething with feral power in its cage—as bad luck, a feeling that is cruelly reinforced when a violent storm sinks the ship.

Drifting across an increasingly hallucinatory ocean, the sur­vivors, including Jaffy and Tim, are forced to confront their own place in the animal kingdom. Masterfully told, wildly atmospheric, and thundering with tension, Jamrach’s Mena­gerie is a truly haunting novel about friendship, sacrifice, and survival. (from the hardcover edition)

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