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Old 24th Apr 2012, 13:01   #1
David
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Default Desmond Elliott Prize 2012

I have to admit that although I'd vaguely heard of this award for first novels, I've never taken much notice of it. But the longlist announcement just popped up on my Facebook feed, and it seems I've already read six of the ten, with three more on hand (the only one I don't have is the McGuinness).
Personally I think there have been better debuts over the past 12 months than "The Land of Decoration", "The Bellwether Revivals" and "The Spider King's Daughter" all of which were reads for me, which is to say I thought they were good, but each had its problems. I really enjoyed "Bed" when I read it last year, though it has faded somewhat in memory, unlike "Care of Wooden Floors" which seems to have left more of an impression on me than I initially thought. But of the ones I've read I'd put "Absolution" way out in front.

The longlist:

  • Absolution by Patrick Flanery
  • Bed by David Whitehouse
  • Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
  • The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood
  • Care Of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles
  • The Land Of Decoration by Grace McCleen
  • The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuinness
  • The Missing Shade of Blue by Jennie Erdal
  • The Spider King’s Daughter by Chibundu Onuzo
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Does anyone else have any thoughts on this list?
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Old 26th Apr 2012, 18:10   #2
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Default Re: Desmond Elliott Prize 2012

I liked The Bellwether Revivals more than you did. And I abandoned The Last Hundred Days. I've been impressed by commenters who liked Absolution, but they have not overcome my own concern: This seems to be a South African novel that I have already read.

And I haven't read any of the rest on the longlist.
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Old 26th Apr 2012, 21:02   #3
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Default Re: Desmond Elliott Prize 2012

Before I Go To Sleep was the choice of my book club books a couple months ago. I would not have finished it otherwise. It's lightweight, and not even slightly plausible. (The rest of my book club liked it though.)

It does not deserve to be on the same list as Absolution, which is complex, thought provoking, and a book I thoroughly enjoyed, so I'm fairly dubious about the prize.

I haven't read any of the others.

Kevin, I'm curious what you mean by "This seems to be a South African novel that I have already read." Do you think the style was similar to other writers? Or were the themes too common? I was reminded a bit of Peter Carey's His Illegal Self but the cast of characters was completely different.
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Old 27th Apr 2012, 2:50   #4
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Default Re: Desmond Elliott Prize 2012

Ang: Strictly the themes as reported in reviews, since I haven't looked at the novel (and my comment was about me, not the book, I should emphasize). Coetzee and Galgut were two that came to mind.
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Old 24th May 2012, 10:33   #5
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Default Re: Desmond Elliott Prize 2012

The shortlist for this has been announced today and is:

  • The Land Of Decoration by Grace McCleen
  • The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuinness
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Typical - I'd read seven of the ten longlisted titles but only one of them made the shortlist. Can I be bothered reading the other two? I have a copy of the Rachel Joyce so will probably get around to that at some point, but I'm very surprised to see 'The Land of Decoration' on the shortlist - I thought at least three of the other ones I'd read were stronger, 'Absolution' by quite some distance.
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Old 29th Jun 2012, 10:42   #6
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Default Re: Desmond Elliott Prize 2012

And Grace McCleen's The Land of Decoration wins: http://www.desmondelliottprize.org/p....asp?NewsID=61
It was the only one of the shortlist I'd read and for me was fairly enjoyable but unremarkable. For some reason its Canadian publisher is hyping it as "this year's Room", which it really isn't.
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