Following my April Asian Literature Month and August Young Adult Fiction Month, I decided to further my literary pursuits by delving into award-winning literary pieces. Over the years, I have accumulated books who have won an array of literary prizes such as Man Booker Prize, Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award and Orange Prize. For September, I have decided to take on Man Booker Prize-winning literary pieces, which I have a plenty of.
To the uninitiated, the Man Booker Prize for Fiction is annual award given to the best original novel written in English and published in the UK. On October 16, the prestigious award-giving body will announce the 2018 Winner. Shortlisted are Anna Burns’ Milkman, Daisy Johnson’s Everything Under, Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room, Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black, Richard Powers’ The Overstory, and Robin Robertson’s The Long Take.
I have already read some of the Man Booker Prize-winning books such as A.S. Byatt’s Possession: A Romance, Ben Okri’s The Famished Road, and Arundathi Roy’s The God of Small Things. I instantly fell in love with Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, the Booker of Bookers. Some I fell in love with but some left me perplexed. However, I found it a challenge choosing which books to read, or at least which one to start with; there were just too many books to choose from. In the end, I started with a book that I have longing to delve in, Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea.
The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch (1978 Winner)
This is a book that I have been searching for the longest time. It was a challenge availing a copy of it because it can’t even be found even in popular bookstores. Thankfully, I was able to cop a copy of the book earlier this year through an online bookseller. As this was a book I have long been itching to read, I put it ahead of other books that have been gathering dust in my bookshelves. (I am sorry 😊)
Murdoch’s award-winning piece is something that I never expected it to be. The previous Booker Prize winning books should have prepared me but I still found myself greatly surprised. I was overwhelmed by the richness of the text, considering that I just shifted from the lighter young adult fiction genre. The last book I have read prior to this is greatly different. I found the main character delusional but relatable. Overall, The Sea, The Sea is a book that I greatly appreciate.
Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee (1999 Winner)
J.M. Coetzee is an author who has piqued my interest; I came across his name and his works on numerous must-read lists. The further I dug into him, I became more fascinated. He was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize in Literature. In the award citation, he is someone “who in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider”. That was quite a high praise. Through another online book seller, I was able to avail a copy of Man Booker Prize-winning work, Disgrace, which became my second read for September.
Disgrace, just like Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea and the rest of the books I have read for Man Booker prize month, deals a lot with human behavior. Through the story of an unremorseful former professor, it explored the blurred lines between what is evil and what is good. It dealt on the inherent human weaknesses. This book, and the first one I’ve read for the month have established a clear pattern of what lay in store for me for the rest of my September reading month.
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (1992 Winner)
During the Big Bad Wolf Sale held last February, one of the books that I was able to avail a copy of is Ondaatje’s The English Patient. The book automatically made my must-read books because it is part of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Initially, I wasn’t planning on including The English Patient in my September reading list but because it is going to be my first Ondaatje book, I overcame my apprehensions and feasted on the book.
I first heard of the movie version of the book although I never got the chance to watch it because I am not much of a movie enthusiast. This is another reason why I was looking forward to reading the book. Aside from the requisite exploration of the different facets of human behavior, the book was also partly historical, something that I have quite used to, especially last year. Overall, it was an interesting read, a bit on the heavy and intellectual side. These are similar qualities it shares with the two books I have read prior to this.
The Sea by John Banville (2005 Winner)
Ah, yes, another book again with the word “sea” on the title. Of the five Man Booker Prize winning books that I have read in September, John Banville’s The Sea is the latest winner although my encounter with the book is purely coincidental as I just picked it out amongst a bevy of books an online book seller. However, the reference with Iris Murdoch’s book is too uncanny not to miss. Even with barely an iota on what the book is about, I nonetheless bought it.
At the center of the story is a man who recently lost his wife, prompting him to return to the place of his childhood, the seaside house. Through flashbacks, the reader is given an intimate peek on why the sea is his safe-haven. There is just something about English men and the sea. To be honest, the book is a little too jumbled, hampering my overall appreciation. However, it more than made up for it through its depiction of human spirit.
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000 Winner)
I was conflicted on the book I would read to close my September Man Booker Prize month. Should I try a new author again or read a tried-and-tested one? In the end, I have decided to immerse in the 2000 Man Booker Prize Winner, Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin. This is my third Atwood novel, and my second for the year. Its inclusion in numerous must-read lists helped build my anticipation for the book. The Handmaid’s Tale, which I have read earlier this year, has also created a very positive reception of Atwood’s works.
Thankfully, the book did not fail to fascinate me. Atwood is a master storyteller and she filled me with so many twists and turns that for most of the time, I was suspended in tenterhook. I did enjoy the suspense and the book’s numerous plot twists. The biggest twist, though, lie at the end of the book. It was surprising that it makes one reflect on what one has just read; I’ll leave the knowing to you. Before reading it, I had high expectations of the book and it did not fail. The book was a great way to close out my September reading month.
So readers, that was how my September went in terms of reading. Despite my busy schedule, I am glad to have been able to read five challenging reads; they’re award-winning titles after all. As the year is about to end, I am happy so far with my progress.
October is going to be a big month as I close out my 2018 Top 20 Reading List. I’ll be reading the last three books on the list: Isabel Allende’s The House of Spirits; Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace; and David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. I am nervous, especially on the last two books because many literary pundits have tagged them as among the most difficult reads of all times. Here’s to hoping that they won’t end with the same fate as James Joyce’s Ulysses, the only unread book in my 2017 Top 20 Reading List.
“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world. ” ~ Malala Yousafzai