Month: September 2012

Podcast #2: Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies

Bring_Up_The_BodiesWe’re baaaaaack!  For episode number 2 we’ve chosen to discuss the only novel on the shortlist that we all fell in love with (well, all except Mike who we’re sure will, once he actually reads it), Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies.

In this episode, Mike admits that he’s still reading Wolf Hall, Karli reaffirms the royal belief that every sperm is sacred, Michelle wonders how much of the novel is fabrication vs. how much is fact, Aaron comes up with a better title for the book, Penny stacks Bodies up against The Other Boleyn Girl, and Elizabeth and Jackie share what makes the audiobook version a must listen.

Over next several weeks well continue podcasting about each of the titles that are short listed for the 2012 Man Booker award. Look for us to tackle Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists sometime next week.


Book Review: 2012 Shortlisted: Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies (Review # 4)

Rating: 5
Bring Up The Bodies
A Novel by Hilary Mantel
2012 / 407 Pages

Hilary Mantel’s brilliant sequel to her 2009 novel, Wolf Hall, has once again earned her a spot on the Man Booker Prize shortlist.  Bring Up the Bodies is a continuance of Thomas Cromwell’s story as it intersects with Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn.  As the novel opens, it is the fall of 1535 – Former Queen Katherine of Aragon is on her deathbed and current Queen, Anne Boleyn, is also inching dangerously close to death.  She has made many promises in her relentless efforts to become Queen, yet the most important promise – to produce a male heir to the throne – has yet to be fulfilled.  In the meantime, rumors have begun to circulate that perhaps Anne has not been faithful to her husband, and that, perhaps their daughter, Elizabeth, was fathered by another man.

Pretty soon, the swirling rumors reach the ears of the King, and although Henry is outraged at the prospect of his wife’s extramarital encounters, he also sees it as an opportunity to rid himself of Anne Boleyn, who has turned out to be more trouble than pleasure for Henry.  And of course, “Queens come and go,” so Henry enlists the help of Master Secretary Thomas Cromwell to remove Anne Boleyn of her position so that a new (and hopefully more fertile) Queen can take her place.  Luckily for Cromwell, “the affairs of the whole realm are whispered in his ear,” so the process of Anne’s removal is expedited.  In fact, it takes just about a month for Cromwell to compile a case against Anne, have her tried in court, and finally beheaded.  The crimes against the infamous Queen include treason, incest, and adultery, and her trial and subsequent death prove to be extremely consequential for the Tudors.  Many others are sent to their deaths because of what they may or may not have said and done with Anne Boleyn, and Henry’s Court is in disarray after living in the midst of potential conspirators and traitors.

Podcast #1: Will Self’s Umbrella

UmbrellaAs promised we’ve begun our podcasting!  We couldn’t think of a more fitting way to kick things off then to open up the group discussions with a chat about the novel all of us felt rather “eh” about, Will Self’s Umbrella.

In this premiere episode, Mike compares reading the novel to listening to a classic Monty Python sketch, Karli wonders what a movie adaptation would look like, Michelle plays a round of “spot that song,” Penny chews a piece of tripe, and Jackie reveals that she does in fact have a penis catalog, but that sadly it’s retired.

Over next several weeks well continue podcasting about each of the titles that are short listed for the 2012 Man Booker award.  Look for us to tackle Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies sometime next week.


Book Review: 2012 Short Listed: Will Self’s Umbrella (Review # 5)

Rating: 2
A Novel by Will Self
2012 / 416 Pages

…Yes I quite agree I mean what’s the point of being treated like sheep. What’s the point of going abroad if you’re just another tourist carted around in buses surrounded by sweaty mindless oafs from Kettering and Coventry in their cloth caps and their cardigans and their transistor radios and their Sunday Mirrors, complaining about the tea – “Oh they don’t make it properly here, do they, not like at home” – and stopping at Majorcan bodegas selling fish and chips and Watney’s Red Barrel and calamares and two veg and sitting in their cotton frocks squirting Timothy White’s suncream all over their puffy raw swollen purulent flesh ‘cos they “overdid it on the first day. And being herded into endless Hotel Miramars and Bellvueses and Continentales with their modern international luxury roomettes and draught Red Barrel and swimming pools full of fat German businessmen pretending they’re acrobats forming pyramids and frightening the children and barging into queues and if you’re not at your table spot on seven you miss the bowl of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, the first item on the menu of International Cuisine, and every Thursday night the hotel has a bloody cabaret in the bar, featuring a tiny emaciated dago with nine-inch hips and some bloated fat tart with her hair brylcreemed down and a big arse presenting Flamenco for Foreigners. (more…)

Book Review: 2012 Short Listed: Will Self’s Umbrella (Review # 4)

Rating: 2.5
A Novel by Will Self
2012 / 416 Pages

Buried deep under a mess of contractions, grammatical debris, and indecipherable Cockney slang lies a story – a nouveau modernist tale that reads kind of like a hybrid of Dadaism, Faulkner, Eliot, and Dr. Seuss.  In Will Self’s Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel, we are introduced to Zack Busner, a psychiatrist at Friern Hospital in London.  Busner and his staff primarily deal with victims of Encephalitis Lethargica – an epidemic that spread around the time of World War I and leaves its victims in a catatonic state.  Busner has been treating these patients for years with no luck, but eventually, Audrey Death begins to respond to his treatments.

Audrey has been a patient at Friern for longer than Busner has been there, and as she slowly emerges from her catatonic state and the clouds of her mind clear away, Busner is shocked at how difficult and challenging it is to rehabilitate post-encephalitic patients in a modern world. While Audrey has absorbed more of her surroundings than Busner previously thought, most of her thoughts are stuck in the time before her affliction, and it is the hospital staff’s unenviable task to modernize and rehabilitate these Sleeping Beauty patients.  After a few weeks of this, Busner begins to wonder if perhaps patients like Audrey would be “better off” if their rotting brains were left alone, but it’s too late to turn back now.

Told in the alternating voices of Audrey and Dr. Busner throughout who knows how many time periods, Umbrella should be a compelling read about war, modernity, sex, gender, experimental medicine, and the lack of accountability in the mental health system – but it’s not.  Well, it might actually be about those things, but unless you’re armed with a pretty highfalutin vocabulary, a working knowledge of Cockney accents and London slang, and the 3D decoder from the accompanying Umbrella cereal box, then you might just find yourself completely lost in the literary rain without a literate umbrella.

This review was simultaneously published on Hooked Bookworm

The Man Booker 2012 Shortlist

ManBookerWe’re inching ever closer towards the crowning of a winner! Today the 6 novels that make up the 2012 Man Booker short list were revealed and we’ve compiled each of their full descriptions for you below on one easy to read page. In the end only one book can win and that announcement will occur on October 16th.

Over the course of the next 36 days we’ll be reading and reviewing all of the titles on the shortlist as we work towards crowning a winner of our own. We’ll also be discussing each title via podcasts, so keep checking back on a weekly basis so you can stay up to date with everything that’s happening in BookerMarks land!