The 2017 Shadow Panel is made up of some of the UK’s leading bookbloggers, who will read and debate the shortlist selected by the Award Panel. Follow along at their blogs and on twitter with #YoungWriterAwardShadow.
“‘The Lucky Ones’ is in many ways reminiscent of The Shore by Sara Taylor – another collection of interlinked short stories which was coincidentally shortlisted for the same literary prize two years ago – both of which draw on the evocative settings of the authors’ childhoods and are helped rather than hindered by unconventional and non-linear structures. Pachico’s writing exhibits a surreal power and I’m looking forward to reading what she writes next.”
“The first thing to note about a novel with “Conversations” in the title is that there are no quotation marks denoting speech. In a book so saturated with in-person chats, telephone calls, texts, e-mails and instant messages, the lack of speech marks reflects the swirl of voices in twenty-one-year-old Frances’ head; thought and dialogue run together. This is a work in which communication is a constant struggle but words have lasting significance.”
“The title of the book is a bit of a red herring; yes, in theory, Ma and Alex are embarking on a two-year road trip across America to track down the five women—all named Laura—who played important roles in Ma’s life. But the focus of the book is not really on these women, or even necessarily on Ma’s past. Alex, who identifies as neither male nor female, is our narrator; we spend all of our time in their head, and what The Lauras is really about is the slow journey of a person towards comfort in their own skin.”
“It’s a cool concept, and I was excited to begin with. I liked how it’s just an accepted part of life and thought that added an interesting slant to it, and it forces the reader to ask themselves all sorts of questions about life and death. It almost felt a bit like Neil Gaiman in places, and I thought for a while that it would make a good Tim Burton movie. Then I changed my mind and thought that Quentin Tarantino would do a better job of it.”
Runciman is certainly an intriguing choice of subject for a biography – he appears to be such an enigmatic figure as to be almost unknowable at times – and the contrast between the different aspects of Runciman’s colourful life and personality lies at the heart of the book. Dinshaw draws on Runciman’s unpublished (albeit sometimes unreliable) memoirs and other personal archives to tease out a complex and multifaceted portrait of the eminient historian who Dinshaw described as “an old-fashioned courtly queer” at the event for bloggers last weekend.
“Benjamin Wood constructs his story carefully so that the past reflects meaningfully upon the present in Elspeth’s journey as an artist. All the while it has tremendous momentum and drive making it compulsively readable. The closest comparison I can make for Wood’s novel is Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” for the way in which it deals with high concepts about art in a way which is utterly unpretentious and tells a cracking good story at the same time. The ending has left me thinking hard about how we create and commune with art. “The Ecliptic” is a passionate, invigorating and expertly conceived novel.”
“And everything is written with a refreshing candour and raw emotion. It’s almost as though McMillan ripped his heart out and pinned it dripping to the pages of this short book. Yet it’s not without a sense of humour, as the title alone of The Fact we Almost Killed a Badger is Incidental may suggest. All up, I very much enjoyed this collection of poems — it took me right out of my comfort zone but I was in good hands.”
Jessie Greengrass – An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It
“An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It is a confident collection exploring some fundamentally human issues through some of the most mundane of situations and some of the most extraordinary. It’s an interesting collection in which the stories are often densely packed with the narrator’s thoughts – this is very much a series of protagonists who tell you their stories. I’m interested to see where Greengrass goes next..”
“So to put it simply, I think that Grief is the Thing with Feathers is a rather exceptional book. It is one which puts you through the ringer, leaving you distraught and then hopeful. It is the sort of book you rush through once and then have to go back through and read slowly taking all the intricacies in and then pondering over it all afterwards. It resonated with me and affected me, which is all I ever hope for from a book – one of my books of the year.”
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