Finish your 2022 reading list with Booker Prize winners – Redlands Daily Facts
By Jennifer Downey
Believe it or not, 2022 is nearly over, and what better way to end the year than reading the 2022 Booker Prize novels? Each year, six works of fiction are shortlisted and the winner of this prestigious prize is announced at the end of October.
This year’s six authors on the shortlist represent five different nationalities, and half of the books on the shortlist were published by independent publishers.
NoViolet Bulawayo’s ‘Glory’ borrows a trick from George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ by telling the story of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s former leader, from the animal perspective. Since its independence from British colonial rule, the fictional country of Jidada has been ruled by an aging horse. An army of dogs help Tuvy, a young horse whose promises seem too good to be true, to stage a coup and strip Old Horse of his power. Will Tuvy right the animal kingdom and improve their desperate living conditions, or will he just become another horse once he gets a taste of political power? To find out – and to learn more about Zimbabwe’s unsettling postcolonial history – you’ll have to read this unusual and beautifully written novel for yourself.
Alan Garner’s “Treacle Walker” introduces us to Joe Coppock, who “can’t see properly.” Joe spends his days in a mystical, folkloric world until Treacle Walker, a traveler who claims he can cure all ills except jealousy, gives Joe two magical items. Joe begins to experience the world differently once Treacle arrives – or has the world itself begun to change? Told in a combination of Old English and made-up words, “Treacle Walker” can be a bit tricky to follow until you understand how the dialogue unfolds, but the story is worth the confusion. Fun fact: At 87, Garner is the oldest author to ever be nominated for the Booker Prize.
Claire Keegan’s “Small Things Like These” transports the reader to Ireland in the mid-1980s. Coal merchant Bill Furlong is a hardworking man who cares deeply for his family and community. Having been rescued from poverty and disgrace as a child by a wealthy widow, Bill sincerely believes that people are naturally kind. During the Christmas rush, Bill delivers a load of coal to the local laundry, run by nuns, and witnesses a scene that shakes him to the core. Pressured to keep what he saw a secret, Bill struggles with his faith, knowing that the Catholic Church holds more power than a kindhearted coal miner could ever hope. “Small Things Like These” shines a light on the cruelties of Ireland’s Magdalen laundries through the lens of a generous but sensible man suddenly faced with a seemingly impossible decision.
Percival Everett’s “The Trees” is set in the present day in the small town of Money, Mississippi. A string of gruesome murders has the state of Mississippi detectives baffled and the townspeople are resilient and defensive. Each murder leaves behind not only the body of a white man, but also a second body of a young black man with an unmistakable resemblance to Emmett Till, whose gruesome real-life lynching in Money shocked the world in 1955. as the case builds, more murders begin to happen, not just in Mississippi, but across the country. Is this a case of long-awaited revenge or a reflection of something deeper in American history? You might not think this macabre tale could be humorous, but the author’s gallows humor keeps the reader amused and horrified at the same time. It takes a lot of poise and skill to pull off a book like this, but to think it can’t be done would be a disservice to Percival Everett’s brilliant writing.
“Oh William!” is Elizabeth Strout’s latest novel about her beloved character Lucy Barton. William is Lucy’s ex-husband and the father of their two adult daughters. Reeling from the death of her second husband, Lucy is at a crossroads in her life and often gets lost in thought. Despite their decades-long relationship, William has always been a mystery to Lucy. When William discovers a secret about his family that leaves him wondering about his late mother’s actions, he invites Lucy to travel to Maine with him to find out the truth. The beauty of this deceptively simple story lies in Lucy’s deep reflections on her impoverished and deeply damaging childhood, her complicated but loving relationship with William, the death of her beloved second husband, and the all-important question of whether a no one can really know another.
And the winner is (drum roll, please) “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida” by Shehan Karunatilaka. The main character of this novel is a Sri Lankan war photographer who wakes up one morning in 1990 to find he is dead. Maali has no idea who killed him, but he knows he has unfinished business – he must find his box of incriminating photos which have the potential to expose the appalling corruption of the Sri Lankan civil war. and bring down governments. Struggling to communicate with the living from her surprisingly bureaucratic “in-between” afterlife, Maali has seven moons (one week) to complete this final task. Part ghost story, part mystery, and part storybook, “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida” is impossible to categorize, and equally impossible to put down.
You can find all of these books at the AK Smiley Public Library and decide for yourself which one is your favorite.
Jennifer Downey is Senior Librarian for Adult Services at AK Smiley Public Library, 125 W. Vine St., Redlands.