Monday, October 22, 2012
A Booker Winner I Can Get Behind
Like the Oscar for Best Picture the Booker Prize winning novel is usually very bad. Some years the prize is given to an old stager who has hung around literary London for so long that it's gotten embarrassing that he hasn't won anything. Some years it's given to an exotic foreigner (usually an Indian) as a way of spiking the jealousy of the Hampstead/Islington set. Some years it's given to a novel which is so dense that none of the judges actually finish it and because of that they assume that it's really clever or something. The Booker Prize nomination and judging process is so arcane, incestuous and random that the prize itself is no guarantee of quality. In fact a few of the worst books I've ever read have been Booker Prize winners (The Finkler Question, John Banville's The Sea etc.) But occasionally - very occasionally - a fluke happens and the Booker judges pick a really good book as deserving of the prize: Midnight's Children, The Ghost Road, The Siege of Krishnapur and a few others. . . And this year they also managed to pick one of my recent favourites: Bring Up The Bodies, Hilary Mantel's sequel to Wolf Hall. Bring Up The Bodies is the second volume of Mantel's brilliant rehabilitation of the reputation and career of Henry VIII's courtier Thomas Cromwell. It reads like a revenge thriller as Cromwell takes down the awful Boleyn family and the men who made mock of his beloved patron, Cardinal Wolsey. Bodies is shorter than Wolf Hall, snappier, a little bit funnier and more exciting. It is paced perfectly and once you get by Mantel's faux sixteenth century prose you'll watch those pages turn in a blur...You can read my original rave review of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, here. Yes, when I gush, I gush. . .