by Nicola Barker

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Featured image for Darkmans

When the Booker Prize longlist came out I ordered a couple of the 13 books from the library. I didn’t really look very deeply into the details of the books, in fact I pretty much ordered them blind hoping that being on the longlist would be enough to give me something interesting to read.

I didn’t bargain on the first book that turned up being an over 800 page doorstep. (No, not a doorstop, I do think you could use this as a doorstep!)

My first impressions weren’t great and I struggled through part one not really having any clear idea of the characters or the story that was being told. The structure changed in part two and we stayed with a single character for longer and found out more about them and I began to enjoy the book more even after the structure changed again in part three. In the end I found it quite an easy book to read, lots of white space, prose that was easy to take in and I found the pages to turn pretty fast.

I believe that no really good book should ever tell you every little detail - as a reader I want to be left feeling that I saw more than what the author wrote. I don’t want every clue and connection between different places in the story to be pointed out to me.

At the end of the book I felt that I had hundreds of jigsaw pieces in my head. A lot of them (not all of them) were well crafted and interesting to read. What I didn’t have was quite enough to manage to piece them together into a coherent whole. I was left feeling that I wasn’t quite clever enough for the book.

There’s obviously a lot of “second reading” life in this book; I suspect I’d find it a better read second time around but there are too many good books waiting to be read first time around and I don’t read many books again, and I don’t think this will be one of the few.

Although I found most of the book a good read, my first, and last, impressions were that it wasn’t a good book to win the Booker Prize and I hope that there are books more worthy of the prize on the longlist.