Well it’s out. The shortlist for the biggest prize in literature. Six authors with a hugely diverse oeuvre. That’s good for them and of course fiction writing. But let’s answer the question we’re all asking. What do the green inked reviewers of Amazon think?
Eleanor Catton’s ‘The Luminaries’ receives the glowing praise of ‘As if written by a Victorian David Mitchell’. And the writer truly means, bestowing five stars on Catton. Another however is less illuminated, marking three stars and describing the book as ‘a slave to its structure’. Can’t win them all, but overall with 4.4 stars she doing well.
Jim Crace’s work ‘The Harvest’ with 46 reviews and 4.3 stars fares similarly well, with the top review helping us all out with a ‘not the Archers’ headline. Which is recommendation enough I feel. But it’s perhaps the condemnation of a two star review of The Harvest as ‘Inauthentic lefty tosh with lyrical prose’ which makes me want to rush out to the nearest book shop. Could there be higher praise?
Bulawayo’s debut novel is straight down the middle with three stars with the top reviewer saying ‘as it’s a debut novel I want to be generous…’ Others feel less debt and happily deride the Zimbabwe based work as repetitive and boring. London Bookworm one starred and abandoned after 70 pages. We’ll see what the Booker judges think soon.
I do hope that as a result of this short listing Colm Toibin doesn’t come to regret his shoe headed antics at the Edinburgh Book Festival this year. But whether he wins or not, his book ‘The Testament of Mary’ has already made history by being the shortest novel to ever make the shortlist, weighing in with only 104 pages. However this brevity has enraged the literary critics of Amazon with it garnering only 3.6 stars because of this lack of ‘value’. Fortunately for them there’s a copy of War and Peace in the post from me. With lots of love.
Past Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri’s book ‘The Lowland’ fares a little better with four stars, though with only two reviews on the UK site the tale of two brothers bound by political tragedy has been somewhat overlooked so far. Those who have penned a piece describe Lahiri’s work as either ‘perfect writing that allows characters to feel real and complex; situations to feel three dimensional’ or believing that the work underlines that ‘the author is best as a miniaturist; that the short story is her métier, and she is not suited to the long slog’. Well that’s her told.
But there’s one writer missing in our round up, and that’s Ruth Ozeki. She’s so far absent from our library but Amazon rate her the top author with a slender lead over the others, garnering 4.5 stars and similarly high praise over the 76 reviews: ‘Wonderful and multi-layered’ being a top comment. However there’s always one, but it’s more a dig at Amazon never sending the book to their Kindle in the first place: “I got charged for a book I never ordered – but it appeared on my Kindle account and I was charged. Never heard of the author, never heard of the book. I wonder how many other books have been charged to my credit card? How many other Kindler customers have been similarly charged for books they did not order? How did Amazon allow this to happen?”
I don’t know the answer to this tragedy, but excluding this review places Ozeki a few more fractions above the rest. And with fifty five star reviews I think it’s safe to say this is a hit across the board. If Ruth can repeat this success with the panel, she’ll be home and dry with the top prize in fiction. Not bad.