Author: The Well Read Fish

2013 Shortlisted: The Lumniaries by Eleanor Catton #4*

The_LuminariesRating: 2*
The Luminaries
A Novel by Eleanor Catton
2013 / 848 pages

So several years have passed by. I’m still sitting in my paisley moth-eaten rocking chair, my eyes are resisting sleep, but they are growing leaden and I may have to succumb.

I am certain more excitement and intrigue will come, but for now, and for what feels like the past ten years, I’ve been in this chair of mine reading and reading and reading Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries. Our protagonist, Walter Moody (so similar to Walter Mitty, I can’t help this is intentional) is still in the barhall where he has, one blustery night at the beginning of the novel, unwittingly walked into and disturbed a clandestine meeting, where suspicion is the drink of choice that evening. The seemingly diverse group is  discussing a series of recent crimes. Naturally, when Moody blows in, they are suspicious and go about a tremendous show to simply ask of his origins and pretend they are simply bar-goers, including the priest in the corner. Moody has arrived in New Zealand in 1866 to make his fortune in gold. He harbors serious anger towards his father, who had left him and his mother in a situation less than ideal (according to him). When he discovers his own brother was part of the ruse, Moody decides he is going to show them what’s what. He is cocky and elitist and views his situation as such, you can’t help but dislike him.

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2013 Shortlisted: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri #4

Arthur Brown, BALCO, Colum McCann, Fredrick Douglass, gender, George Mitchell, history, John Alcock, Let the Great World Spin, Major League Baseball, national book award, Northern Ireland, TransatlanticRating: 4
The Lowland
A Novel by Jhumpa Lahiri
2013 / 352 pages

At some point, early in The Lowland, the narrator comments on lovely looking pastries and delicacies spotted with flies in a Calcutta shop window. This is, I think, an apt way to describe this novel. Life, at a distance, can look lovely, but when you get closer, you can see all its flaws. And sometimes, those flaws, don’t even really effect the inherent value of that life. But we will judge ourselves anyway.

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2013 Longlisted: The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris #2

The_Marrying_Of_Chani_KaufmanRating: 3
The Marrying of Chani Kaufman
A Novel by Eve Harris
2013/350 pages

So, I’ve spent the past few weeks knee-deep in the Frum (Orthodox Jewish) world. That’s basically what Eve Harris’s The Marrying of Chani Kaufman was. It took me forever to read this. I’m usually a speedy reader, and this? This I had a hard time picking up. It’s not that it was a bad book; it just lacked any excitement for me.

Harris depicted the insular and oppressive world of Orthodox Judaism in England in modern times. This could, however, be anywhere: London, Brooklyn, Jerusalem, and really, nearly any time period as well. I myself am Jewish, and found myself rather familiar with much (though not all) of the terminology – often in Yiddish form. However, I imagine if you weren’t familiar, the glossary at the back (especially in e-book form) did little to help you decipher certain things.

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2013 Longlisted: Harvest by Jim Crace

HarvestRating: 4
Harvest
A Novel by Jim Crace
2013 /208 pages

Within the first few pages, I wanted to toss this book and yell “Boring! Boring!” The latter I did. Quite a lot, actually. But, it’s not a large book, only 208 pages, and I felt I owed it to my BookerMark kin to keep at it. And, I’m glad I did. After a spell, I fell into the cadence, which mirrors ye olde time England quite well. Harvest is not modern, in setting or in style. Though the themes are timeless; being an outsider, mass group-think, violence, loyalty, to name a few.

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2013 Longlisted: We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

We_Need_New_NamesRating: 3.5
We Need New Names
A Novel by NoViolet Bulawayo

2013 / 304 Pages 

So, the first book on the Man Booker longlist that I attacked was the brightly jacketed We Need New Names. However, the colorful and hopeful outside really has no bearing on the contents within. The story is of Darling, a young girl living in the slums of Zimbabwe. We meet her and her friends at around age ten and they, narratively speaking, take us through what it’s like to be a kid in Zimbabwe. Stealing guavas to stave off hunger, encountering a woman hanging dead from a tree, watching marauding gangs attack the local white population — all like it’s child’s play. And for Darling and her friends, it is.

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