MBS #1

The connection of intertwined history, whether you accept it or not, does exist.  And so, it was oddly unsurprising that in my first month in London I was idling up the Marylebone High Street and recognized an Indian face.  Or rather, his white hair.  My encounters with Amitav Ghosh in person began in Kolkata, and have been brief and accidental.  First, it was outside the Bengal Club as we were waiting for our respective cars.  Then it was at a small party given for him by a friend of a friend, and then on the street in central London.  He was in town because his novel Sea of Poppies had been shortlisted for the Man Booker prize.  It didn’t win.  This year, Hilary Mantel took home the 50,000 quid for Wolf Hall, a historical novel based on Thomas Cromwell, adviser to Henry VIII.  I haven’t read her book, nor Ghosh’s latest (lingering distaste from The Hungry Tide), but I’m interested that such a novel won this year, and on what basis.

Chairman of judges James Naughtie said: “Our decision was based on the sheer bigness of the book. The boldness of its narrative, its scene setting.

Jabberwock has a nice review here.


Book Review: Netherland

If there’s anything that 9/11 offered us, it was opportunity for self-examination. Not that all of us need such a thing, but I’m confident that from Sept 12, 2001 till date, American introspection has grown significantly.  And it’s no surprise that we find a novel written within that post 9/11 introspection.  What’s a little surprising is that it’s written by an Irishman who writes for the New Yorker occasionally.  It has been short-listed for the Booker Prize and Netherland, to be sure, is a viable candidate for the award, but what’s more interesting is figuring out exactly what kind of novel it is.  In fact, its most serious flaw is arguably that you’re not quite sure exactly which story forms the narrative’s heart.  Continue reading →