Every year when the Baileys longlist is announced I have this surge of interest in many (if the list is especially good) of the titles. I want to read them all, and I set about acquiring as many as I can either through the library or ordering the books I really really want to read (and in some rare cases I might even have a few on my shelves already). And then every year I become distracted as new books are released or other library books cut in line and then it all just fizzles out. In the back of my mind I was thinking perhaps this is the year I will make a real dent in the list. Don't quote me (as those are 'famous last words'), but I think this year I am going to make a conscientious attempt to read as many of the books on the list as I can, as this year's list is, for me, an especially tempting list of books!
The shortlist will be announced April 6, which means there are a mere seventeen days before the list of sixteen books is whittled down to only six. I am reading four at the moment and may well pick up a fifth this weekend. And all the while trying to decide which six the judges will choose for their shortlist. In progress now:
I will likely be finishing Little Deaths by Emma Flint first. It is easy and quick reading though a little harrowing--not least since it is about the murder of two small children. I wrote about it here a while back (it came as a recommendation by Sarah Weinman and she shared an intriguing interview with the author which cemented my desire to read it long before it made the Baileys list). I am enjoying it immensely though it is hard to read about how a the mother of the children was treated (ca. 1965)--not particularly well. But I wonder if things have changed much in circumstances like that?
I have never read (but have always meant to) anything by Rose Tremain, but if The Gustav Sonata is anything to go by, I think I must rectify that situation. She writes beautifully and this is a story tinged in sadness and mystery. It is set just after WWII in a small Swiss town about two young boys growing up in the shadow of the war. Very eloquently done. I can imagine this one making the shortlist.
Coming as a little bit of a surprise (but why, really?) is Yewande Omotoso's The Woman Next Door, which I think might not have crossed my path had it not been longlisted (and this is one of the reasons I really do want to explore these novels sooner than later--later so often comes far too late). It is set in South Africa about two warring neighbors--two women, one black and one white. It is quite witty and Omotoso has a wry and sharp sense of humor.
And lastly a book I was reticent to pick up, but I am not sure why. I am absolutely loving (exclamation mark this one) Madeleine Thien's Do Not Say We Have Nothing. It won the Giller Prize and was shortlisted for the Booker last year. My library ordered a copy and I looked at it, and was just not enthused about it despite all the good reviews. It must just not have been the moment. Or maybe I was in some very weird way put off by the original paperback Canadian cover? Sometimes I think I don't give a book enough of a chance to catch my interest. Whatever the case . . . I knew I was thinking I might try and read as many of the Baileys titles as I could, I got a great deal on the US edition of the hardcover and just started reading out of curiosity and she just hooked me from the first page. I very much hope this makes the shortlist!
I am still waiting on a number of books to show up either on the library hold shelf or my mailbox (since a few are coming from the UK I still have to be patient), but I did just get a copy of Mary Gaitskill's The Mare, so it might end up on my reading pile this weekend.
I know I am unlikely to read the whole list even by the announcement of the winning book, so a few may end up unread, but I shall do my best. I admit I am dragging my feet on a few and maybe the most on Annie Proulx's Barkskins (so inevitably that will be the winner!). I have never read Proulx and while I think she must be an exceptional writer, this is such a chunky (and hardcover only from what I can tell) book with a rather sobering subject matter . . . well, it is out there on my reading horizon. In the very far distance.
As usual I also still am working away on a few other reads--must keep up the (albeit slow) pace with my NYRB Green read. And I am still hoping to read two books for my monthly prompt (and already contemplating April's prompt, too). And then whatever other books nudges its way into my hands. If things go quiet here in the coming weeks, you know what I'll be doing.