Thursday, June 12, 2014

BOOKS: Burial Rites and The Lowland

The Bailey Prize, the prize formerly known as the Orange Prize, which readers here will know I follow, has announced its winner:  A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride! Hurray, for one of two books from the short list that I didn't get read. Figures. It's not even being released in Canada until September 2014.

The Shortlist for 2014 included:
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah I read last summer. Mostly good, but the ending was weak. Half a Yellow Sun was her better book by far.
  • Hannah Kent, Burial Rites Read it in June, liked it, see below
  • Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland  Read it in May, neutral reaction?
  • Audrey Magee, The Undertaking Did not get read, and was only released in Canada in May
  • Eimear McBride, A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing I managed to read last year's winner (May We Be Forgiven) as this book was being awarded the prize. I guess I'll read this one next year.
  • Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch In which I reacted to all the praise by being probably unfairly harsh, but still, the book is overrated.

A Few Bailey Prize for Women Shortlisted Books:

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, 352 pages

I'm neutral about this book - didn't love it, didn't hate it (hello, The Goldfinch) but it also didn't affect me in a way that caused me to have any great reaction and my memories are a tad fuzzy. (Which, although The Goldfinch drove me nuts, I still remember a lot of details about that book) Two brothers again, starting out in India during the rebellion. One brother escapes to the United States, and builds a life with very little contact to India. The brother who remained was a much more of an activist, and is killed by the police. The US brother comes home, and then marries the pregnant widow. They proceed to live a life in America, but not really together. The mysteries of families, and what holds them together.I did like how everyone's lives turned out but I found it started slow.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent,  336 pages

An Icelandic mystery from the early 1800s, pieced together and imagined by first time novelist, Hannah Kent. I saw this described as Alias Grace + Kristin Lavrensdatter + Arnaldur Indridason, which is perfect, and why I did enjoy this book. Part of the appeal is the Icelandic setting, when Iceland was still under Danish rule. I liked the look at women's life, at Iceland in general, and the gradual telling of doomed Agnes' story. Good solid read.