Month: August 2013


Know Your Booker!: Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary

The_Testament_of_MarySo you think you know everything there is to know about Colm Toibin’s Booker nominated novel The Testament of Mary? Test your knowledge against our GoodReads quiz here!

What’s it about?

The Testament of Mary is described by the book’s publisher Viking as follows:

In a voice that is both tender and filled with rage, The Testament of Mary tells the story of a cataclysmic event which led to an overpowering grief. For Mary, her son has been lost to the world, and now, living in exile and in fear, she tries to piece together the memories of the events that led to her son’s brutal death. To her he was a vulnerable figure, surrounded by men who could not be trusted, living in a time of turmoil and change. As her life and her suffering begin to acquire the resonance of myth, Mary struggles to break the silence surrounding what she knows to have happened. In her effort to tell the truth in all its gnarled complexity, she slowly emerges as a figure of immense moral stature as well as a woman from history rendered now as fully human.


2013 Longlisted: The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin #5

The_Testament_of_MaryRating: 5
The Testament of Mary
A Novel by Colm Tóibín
2012 / 96 Pages

Full of grace

Testament /ˈtestəmənt/ noun: something that serves as a sign or evidence of a specified fact, event, or quality.

At their very worst, fictional works that rely heavily on the Bible as their source material can be negatively explosive and highly blasphemous, at their best these same works can be critically acclaimed, but these accolades can never arrive without some measure of controversy. Colm Toibin’s slim Man Booker nominated novella The Testament of Mary clearly falls under the latter designation. It’s a wonderful, surprising, and moving piece of literature, but it will most certainly upset a fair number of people who read it and then seek it interpret its contents as being something greater than a piece of fiction. When the book is raised up falsely as having some factual merit and then challenged to stand up against their personal religious or spiritual beliefs it will most certainly fail. If it didn’t, then everything that they have been taught to believe could come crumbling down around their very knees. In order for it to work properly, a belief system must be infallible, and any perceived threat to its existence must be immediately dismissed in any way possible.



2013 Longlisted: Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries

The_LuminariesRating: 5
The Luminaries
A Novel by Eleanor Catton
2013 /848 Pages

Synopsis from Goodreads

Reading the synopses of each of the 2013 Booker Long Listed novels made it very difficult to choose which book to read first.  At first glance each book appeared to have a very good opportunity to not only make it to the short list but also win out right.  Slowly picking through the list using various means of choice including random number generator I finally picked up The Luminaries.  I am very glad I did.


2013 Booker Conversations: The Luminaries By Eleanor Catton

Booker_ConversationsThe 2013 Booker Conversations is a series of in-depth, spoiler-free discussions between BookerMarks bloggers about this year’s nominated titles.  Kicking things off, Aaron Westerman from Typographical Era and Michelle Williams from A Reader and a Rider discuss Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries.

Aaron Westerman is Opinionless. Except of course when it comes to books or movies.  He’s the co-founder of Typographical Era where he blogs on a regular basis about the latest in translated literature, foreign cinema, and more.

Michelle Williams is an avid “reader” of books and a “rider” of bicycles. When she is not cycling you can catch her reading and when she is not reading, well, she is probably pedaling about somewhere. Her blog, A Reader and A Rider journals her reviews of literary fiction.

Set in the 1860’s during the height of the New Zealand gold rush, Eleanor Catton’s astrologically-inspired novel The Luminaries, is a wonderfully vivid piece of historical fiction that centers around death of drunkard, the disappearance of wealthy young man, the addictions of a prostitute, and a fortune in stolen gold that may or may not bind them all together.



2013 Longlisted: The Kills by Richard House

The_KillsRating: 4.5
The Kills
A Novel by Richard House
2013 / 913 Pages

Has anybody ever told you it’s not coming true

What could I possibly have left to write about Richard House’s Booker nominated conspiracy masterpiece that I haven’t written already?

This article exists less as a proper book review and more as a placeholder from which to link out to each of my previously published reviews of the four stand-alone novels – Sutler (book one), The Massive (book two), The Kill (book three), and The Hit (book four) – that combine to form The Kills.

The overall verdict: you should drop everything and read this novel. For more detailed explanations as to why, see each of the linked articles below.


Know Your Booker!: Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being

A_Tale_For_The_Time_BeingSo you think you know everything there is to know about Ruth Ozeki’s Booker nominated novel A Tale for the Time Being? Test your knowledge against our GoodReads quiz here!

What’s it about?

A Tale for the Time Being is described by the book’s publisher Penguin as follows:

Amid the garish neon glare of a district of Tokyo known as Akiba Electric Town, sixteen–year–old Naoko Yasutani pours out her thoughts into a diary. She is drinking coffee in a café where the waitresses dress like French maids and a greasy–looking patron gazes at her with dubious intent. The setting is hardly ordinary, but Nao, as she is called, is not an ordinary girl. Humbled by poverty since her father lost his high–income tech job in Silicon Valley and had to move the family back to Japan, Nao has been bullied mercilessly in school. Seemingly unmanned by his professional failure, her father, Haruki, has attempted suicide. Nao herself regards her diary as a protracted suicide note – but one she will not finish until she has committed to its pages the life story of her 104–year–old great–grandmother, a Buddhist nun named Jiko.