Somebody said to me today that Autumn had begun. I killed them with a single look of devastating, withering power and continued with my lunch.
Honestly. Saying Summer is over in August is some sort of a crime. What possessed him? Summer lives! It breathes!
However, another season is being born, one infinitely more exciting than pesky, rusky Autumn (disclaimer: I love Autumn.) Booker season. Hooray!
Having read a tranche of frankly poor novels in recent weeks, the reassuring announcemnet of the Man Booker longlist was like a pleasant slap in the face with a nice cold literary fish on a hot (Summer) day. The options! The guaranteed quality and high-mindedness! Bury me in Booker Books! Of course, this rush is short-lived – you instantly realise that several books aren’t released for months, the rest are fiendishly expensive, and at least a couple are so highly experimental that enjoyment can go out of the window.
I thought I’d found a rare exception in We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – written by a woman for one, and cheap on Kindle for two. I was confident I’d love it, but … no.
I can only give you a vague, allusive review as the book rests on a massive twist which I’d feel simply too guilty revealing. Other reviewers consistently reveal it, but honestly, if you want to read it, stop reading anything about it and just pick it up. What I can say is that it has a great authorial voice and a novel subject which it explores with humour and depth, but that it falls short of the sort of profundity that I’d expect from a Booker nominee. I can only imagine that the judges think it’s more profound than it is. While the premise has potential to explore deep themes, somehow Fowler doesn’t take it there.
Where does she take it? Well, it’s about many things, but at its heart it’s about family and the damage and love at the heart of one particular unit, caused by no fault but with devastating consequences. The narrator, the indirect, once-voluble now-silent Rosemary, weaves an intriguing path through her story, beginning at the middle, returning to the beginning and wrapping up the end, with plenty of surprises and aah-moments along the way.
You may wonder what I’m moaning about. Sounds good, right? Well, yes, it is quite good – thought-provoking and readable enough. But to my eyes it’s nothing special, and special is what you want from The Finest Literary Prize on Earth.
My prediction? Longlist only. Don’t bother. Try another for your sunny Booker season.
(Now there’s a taunt to the universe. It’s bound to win now.)