A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a couple of events for the Young Writer of the Year Award, and as a result of the books, writers and occasion I really wanted to tell you lot about it. Which is why I've taken the opportunity to expand the bookshop blog to include random other things.
First of all, I should begin by owning up: I'm not a fan of literary prizes. I do think anything celebrating the book world is a good thing, but in my limited experience of novels shortlisted for the Mann Booker I've come to the conclusion if a book's shortlisted it's probably going to be too much effort for me to enjoy reading.
I was invited to a blogger event for the Young Writer of the Year Award and – because I'm always willing to have my opinions changed – I decided to go along and find out more.
The event involved meeting the four shortlisted authors, hearing readings from their books, questions, answers and a lot of general chatter. It was relaxed, it was fun, and it was absolutely no effort at all. I went home and read all their books, and they were no effort either.
In the order I read their books the shortlisted authors are:
Sunjeev Sahota – The Year of the Runaways
I picked this book to read first because the passage he read to us was both funny and sad and his voice, while irrelevant to my personal reading, was gentle and moving. The book, which follows four people over the course of a year, introduced me to a world I'd never imagined. It's a story of determination, of rules, of economic constraints and more, but most of all it's a story of people making their way through life, and it's beautiful.
It's unlikely I'd've picked up this book without some prompting, but now I've read it I'm determined to read more. The Year of the Runaways is also shortlisted for this year's Mann Booker, which tells me maybe I should give that prize a rethink too.
Ben Fergusson – The Spring of Kasper Meier
I've recently become disillusioned by the predictability of thrillers, so this book was like a breath of fresh air. The language is impeccable and the story unputdownable. The black market setting of post-war Berlin therefore came as an added bonus. It tells the story of a man being blackmailed, but that's just one truth about the story.
Everything about this book fascinated me and I can't wait for Ben's next. He's also recently won the Historical Writers' Association's Debut Crown.
Sara Taylor – The Shore
A collection of short stories that work together to tell a whole, this is the type of book I've always wanted to read without knowing it. I love the way you learn about the different characters through the stories of other people, and the ending, while a little longer than I'd like, was very clever.
Again, the subject matter probably means I wouldn't've picked it up in a shop but the stories, and the family tree included at the front, mean I can't help but wonder what other short stories Sara still has to tell.
Sarah Howe – Loop of Jade
Here I have to make another confession: I really don't like to read poetry. I've therefore not finished this book, yet. Exploring Sarah's English/Chinese heritage, each poem is a glimpse into her life and even though I struggle with the format I'm fascinated and enthralled.
The language is beautiful and the stories told are startling, moving, revelatory, simple, beautiful and any number of other adjectives. My only wish is to be able to hear Sarah read the whole book aloud, because after hearing her give one reading I know my weak relationship with poetry means I'm not experiencing her words nearly so well as she could share them.
Each of these books is fascinating and eminently readable and I don't envy the judges their decision. Not only are the books all worthy of any award thrown at them, but the authors themselves are all absolutely lovely too – that shouldn't be relevant, but having been lucky enough to speak to them all it had to be mentioned.
The winner of the The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award 2015 will be announced on the evening of Thursday, 10th December.
Find out more here.
Posted: 8th December, 2015