“I knew from the first paragraph that this was going to be the best thing I’d ever done.”
– Hilary Mantel on the writing of her Man Booker Prize winners, Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies.
Hilary Mantel wins the 2012 Man Booker Prize for the second time. Front page illustration by Kelly Dyson via The Guardian.
There is so much exciting news this week! First off, The Stella Prize committee has announced that April 2013 will see the awarding of the first major literary prize for women in Australia.
The $50,000 Prize will be presented for the best work of literature published in 2012 by an Australian woman.
“We want to encourage future generations of women writers, by increasing the recognition for Australian women’s writing and supporting strong female role models. We also want to celebrate women’s contribution to Australian literature,” says Aviva Tuffield, chair of The Stella Prize.
The winner will be decided by a panel of judges, chaired by respected critic and writer Kerryn Goldsworthy and comprising author Kate Grenville, actor Claudia Karvan, Fiona Stager (immediate past president of the Australian Booksellers’ Association) and ABC broadcaster, Rafael Epstein.
Entries are open from now until Thursday, 15 November. I, for one, cannot wait to see the longlist.
My first thought on hearing that Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies won the 2012 Man Booker Prize was, ‘I wonder how many writers have won the prize twice?’ But little did I realize that Hilary Mantel has actually secured two other accolades by this week’s win of the £50,000 prize.
She is the first ever author to win the prize with a sequel and the first ever author to win the prize a second time so soon after the previous win. (Mantel won the 2009 Man Booker with Wolf Hall.)
Only two other authors have won the Man Booker more than once. Australian author Peter Carey won it in 1988 for Oscar and Lucinda and then again in 2001 with The True History of the Kelly Gang. The other author is South African born J.M. Coetzee, who won the 1983 Man Booker with his novel Life and Times of Michael K and the 1999 prize with Disgrace. (Although technically he is an Aussie too since he became an Australian citizen in 2006.)
Chairman of judges for the 2012 Man Booker, Peter Stothard described Mantel as, “”the greatest modern English prose writer” working today, adding that Bring Up The Bodies “utterly surpassed” Wolf Hall.
Mantel is widely credited with reinvigorating historical fiction with her rendering of the life and times of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII.
And for those with a penchant for a flutter, Mantel is currently writing the third book in the trilogy. Time will tell if she can score a Man Booker hat trick.
The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan
“Sometimes, she thinks, it takes someone who knew you back when to illuminate the missing you here and now, a black light beamed over invisible ink, a fresh set of eyes that haven’t witnessed the decades of self-deception, a new set of ears that were not privy to the steady, insistent drumbeat: I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.”
Every five years, the alumni of Harvard University are required to update their entry in a bound, crimson-coloured report called The Red Book. For Jane, Mia, Addison and Clover it is one of the milestones that mark the passing of time in a friendship dating back to their dorm days The upcoming 20th reunion weekend is the perfect opportunity for the old roommates to catch up on each other’s lives. However, outward happiness, financial security and career success are insufficient markers for what’s important in life when you hit your forties.
Jane has lost her husband and her mother in the space of a year and has come back to America to settle her mother’s estate, unprepared for the revelations about her mother’s secret life.
Mia is married to Hollywood’s most successful Rom Com director and all-round good guy, Jonathon. After twenty odd years starring in the role of motherhood, Mia is beginning to wonder whatever happened to her aspirations for a career on the stage.
Trust fund baby Addison is the one who had it all on a plate, but her marriage is a lie. Running into Bennie, her live-in lover of two years in college days, raises all sorts of ugly questions about the compromises and the lies Addison has spun to justify why she is still an unshown artist and her writer husband Gunner is battling with writer’s block spanning ten years.
Then there is Clover, newly married at 41, the misfit of the bunch, who forged a career as a fund manager with Lehmann Brothers, enabling her to buy all the trappings and security money provides but is unable to get the one thing she wants, a baby.
Deborah Copaken Kogan knows this territory all too well having graduated from Harvard in 1988, about the same time as her cast of characters. On one level, this book is about friendship, marriage, children, careers and reaching forty something. But what makes The Red Book a great novel, not just a great read, is some of the bigger questions it raises.
Kogan explores the role of social media on sustaining relationships and feigning friendships, the ease with which children can access internet porn, and how mobile technology makes it so much easier to lie. There is this wonderful juxtaposition between an email sent to the wrong party, and a typed “Dear John” letter from thirty years earlier.
Of course, this is precisely the environment, this undergraduate hot bed of loyalties, social acceptance and sexual tension that led to the creation of Facebook in the first place. Being able to disconnect from technology is becoming harder and harder, and Kogan ponders how this will inevitably affect the authenticity of our relationships, “to exchange real thoughts and feelings and information, without the constant interruptions that so frequently befall [us.]”
You may already be familiar with Kogan’s work, such as her memoir, Shutterbabe – about her years as a photojournalist, or her collection of essays, Hell is Other Parents. She writes with intelligence, warmth and compassion, not to mention a dash of humour.
The Red Book will keep you couch bound.
The 2012 Speech Pathology Awards
There was another important award ceremony held on Tuesday night, The Speech Pathology Australian Book of the Year awards.
Each year, Speech Pathology Australia awards four Australian authors the “Best Book for Language and Literacy Development” across four categories – Young Children, Lower Primary, Upper Primary and Indigenous Children.
According to their website, SPA hopes the Book of the Year Awards will help promote literacy as a fun and engaging activity and provide enjoyable and culturally appropriate resources that foster language and literacy skill development.
“In Australia today 14 per cent of 15 year olds have only basic literacy skills, while the literacy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children is depressingly wide and continues to widen with each year that passes,” SPA National President, Chris Stone said.
“As the peak professional body for speech pathologists we are in a unique position to recommend books to parents and educators that can assist children’s speech, language and literacy development.”
From 43 entries, congratulations go to this year’s winners:
- Young Children Come Down, Cat! by Sonya Hartnett, illustrations by Lucia Masciullo
- Lower Primary The Little Refugee story by Anh & Suzanne Do, illustrations by Bruce Whatley
- Upper Primary The Invisible Hero by Elizabeth Fensham
- Indigenous Children The Snake and the Boy by Azmen Sebastian
The Jewels of Paradise by Donna Leon
“When she thought about the events that had brought her to this room and viewed her situation in a certain way, Caterina concluded that she had been hired for a bit part in a bad nineteenth-century melodrama: The Rediscovered Trunks? The Rival Cousins? For more than a year, two cousins, descended form different sides of a mutual ancestor’s family, had been embroiled in a dispute over the ownership of two recently rediscovered trunks that had once belonged to their mutual ancestor.
“Both possessed archival evidence proving their descent from the former owner, a cleric and musician who had died without issue. Unable to find legal redress, and with great reluctance, they had finally consulted an arbitrator, who suggested that, in light of their refusal to divide equally the still-unknown contents of the trunks, a neutral and competent researcher be hired, at their shared expense, to examine the historical record…”
Musicologist, Caterina Pellegrini returns to Venice to undertake a research project quite unlike any she has performed before. Two trunks, belonging to major minor Italian composer Agostino Steffani have been discovered and two cousins are claiming it their rightful property.
But it is not the legacy of previously unknown works by the early Baroque composer that interest them, it is the rumour of treasure.
As she reads through the packets of papers in the antique chests, what Caterina uncovers is one of the most scandalous affairs of the Baroque period and the treasure in the chests may be secrets, but those secrets are gold.
Venetian based writer Donna Leon is famous for her Commissario Guido Brunetti series. But when she heard that opera star Cecilia Bartoli’s planned an album, Mission, showcasing the arias and instrumental pieces of Agostino Steffani, she decided to write the accompanying fictionalized account of the mystery surrounding the composer’s work and his amazing double life.
If, like me, you are fascinated by the Baroque period, this is a wonderful crossover project that sheds light on the great mystery surrounding the man claimed to be the musical link between Monteverdi and Vivaldi.
The Twitter Novel
For those of us who struggle to write anything on Twitter in 140 characters or less, even ignoring all that # Discover and @ Connect stuff, it can be hard to be cogent let alone witty.
So when I stumbled across this tweet from the British newspaper, The Guardian, I had to share.
The Guardian challenged 21 authors to write a novel in 140 characters or less. Here are a few of my favourites.
(Illustration right by Kelly Dyson.)
Ian Rankin: “I opened the door to our flat and you were standing there, cleaver raised. Somehow you’d found out about the photos. My jaw hit the floor.”
David Lodge: “Your money or your life!” “I’m sorry, my dear, but you know it would kill me to lose my money,” said the partially deaf miser to his wife.
Jeffrey Archer: “It’s a miracle he survived,” said the doctor. “It was God’s will,” said Mrs Schicklgruber. “What will you call him?” “Adolf,” she replied.
SJ Watson: “She thanks me for the drink, but says we’re not suited. I’m a little ‘intense’. So what? I followed her home. She hasn’t seen anything yet.”
Helen Fielding: OK. Should not have logged on to your email but suggest if going on marriedaffair.com don’t use our children’s names as passwords.
On My Bedside Table Are…
The Great Deception is the latest novel from Joy Chambers, who has a reputation for writing well-researched historical fiction. It is a mystery/thriller following the wartime experiences of Cole Wareing, who disappears from his rural home one night leaving a note for his young wife that he will return no matter what.
Shelley Wareing has no idea what her husband did during the war but when she discovers a box of Nazi medals, an SS ring and a photo of Laetitia de Witt signed to Cole, she is determined to track this woman down in the hope it will lead to her husband. But is she prepared to find out who her husband really is and what his true role was in the war?
A book perfect for those of us with an appetite for historical thrillers.
It’s impossible to resist a book where the author is described as ‘the love child of Clive James and Adrian Mole.’
Sushi Das grew up in London during the 1970s, a time exploding with punk music, skinheads, Thatcherism, feminism and the IRA. Her Indian parents were on a collision course for a massive clash of cultures when they set about trying to arrange a suitable husband for their daughter.
Deranged Marriage is a funny and insightful look into the nature of arranged marriages, the highly idealistic cultural pressures placed on young women to be the perfect Indian wife and the horrifying stories around honour killings. Her bid for freedom saw Sushi Das end up in Australia where she has been a journalist at The Age for seventeen years.
To be honest, I haven’t read Paullina Simons since Tully, which was way back in 1994 (?) But interestingly enough, I was having a conversation with the pathology person taking a blood sample from me who, once she found out what I did for a living, started singing the praises of her favourite author Paullina Simons and how much she loved The Bronze Horseman trilogy.
I was happy to inform her (after she removed the offending needle and had labeled a tube of my best red) that the prequel was on it’s way. Children of Liberty goes back to the turn of the century where Gina Attaviano arrives at Boston’s Freedom Docks from Belpasso, Sicily. There she meets Harry Barrington who is also seeking a new future in an America ripe with the promise of an opportunity for all in a new century.
Sounds like Simons has produced another romantic saga to tug at our heart strings.
The Five Best Titles We Didn’t Buy Last Week
John from Booktopia is subtly (?) nudging us in the right direction for our next choice in reading.
- Lola Bensky by Lily Brett BUY THE BOOK
- Lost Voices by Christopher Koch BUY THE BOOK
- The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson BUY THE BOOK
- Silent House by Orhan Pamuk BUY THE BOOK
- Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser BUY THE BOOK
So, what do you think of John’s choices? Have you read any of the above titles?
You can check out my review of Lola Bensky here, alternatively add some titles of your own to the comment thread below.
There were many other winners worthy of mention this week. I can’t leave without mentioning Chinese writer, Mo Yan who won the Nobel Prize for Literature with his book Red Sorghum.
Plus, Bill Gammage won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, a prize worth $100,000 for The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia – a book that took twelve years to bring to publication.
Last but not least, tickets are now on sale for the Celebration of Books Maleny, which is on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. So if you fancy spending the weekend of 26th to 28th October with like-minded bibliophiles, check out the program details on their website.
That’s it from me for another week. How’s your reading going? Any comments or suggestions on this week’s stories? As always, leave a comment in the thread, we love to hear from you.
Until next week! Mx
*The Hoopla’s books editor Meredith Jaffe is a book reviewer and blogger. She lives in Sydney with her husband and four children. You can follow her on Twitter: @meredithjaffe.