Annal: 1997 Whitbread Book Award for Novel

Results of the Whitbread Book Award in the year 1997.

Book:Quarantine

Quarantine

Jim Crace

Quarantine is an imaginative and powerful retelling of Christ’s fabled forty-day fast in the desert. In Jim Crace’s account, Jesus travels to a cluster of arid caves, where he crosses paths with a small group of exiles and changes their lives in unexpected ways. Evoking the strangeness and beauty of the desert landscape, Crace provocatively interprets one of our most important stories.

Book:Bleeding London

Bleeding London

Geoff Nicholson

London is loved and hated in different ways by Mick, Judy, and Stuart. But as cities always do (yours, too…), London conspires with destiny to bring them together for its own purposes. For Mick, a tough from the provinces who comes bent on avenging a wrong done to his girlfriend at a bachelor party, London is irritatingly sophisticated but, of course, nothing he can’t handle. For Judy, London is a city of endless sexual possibilities, where every inch of the famous London A-Z map represents hundreds of great places for assignations. For Stuart, sick of his walking tour business and increasingly favoring the tour of Famous Deaths and Suicides, London is city that throws down a challenge—I dare you to walk all my streets.

Book:Enduring Love: A Novel

Enduring Love: A Novel

Ian McEwan

Science writer Joe Rose is spending a day in the country with his long-time lover, Clarissa, when he witnesses a tragic accident—a balloon with a boy trapped in it is being tossed by the wind, and, in an attempt to save the child, a man is killed. As though that isn’t disturbing enough, a man named Jed Parry, who has joined Rose in helping to bring the balloon to safety, believes that something has passed between him and Rose—something that sparks in Parry a deranged, obsessive kind of love.

Soon Parry is stalking Rose, who turns to science to try to understand the situation. Parry apparently suffers from a condition known to psychiatrists as de Clerambault Syndrome, in which the afflicted individual obsessively pursues the object of his desire until the frustrated love turns to hate and rage—transforming one of life’s most valued experiences into pathological horror. As Rose grows more paranoid and terrified, as his treasured relationship with Clarissa breaks under the tension of his fear,…[more]

Book:Grace Notes (Bernard MacLaverty)

Grace Notes

Bernard MacLaverty

Bernard MacLaverty brings us into the life of Catherine McKenna—estranged daughter, vexed lover, new mother, and musician making her mark in a male-dominated field. On the remote island of Islay she struggles for her artistic life in the midst of a relationship gone dangerously wrong. In Glasgow she becomes a mother and later composes a large-scale symphonic work to celebrate her child. And in her home town in Northern Ireland she returns to bury a difficult father, forge a tentative peace with her mother, and confront the ghosts of a constricting past. In part hers is a very modern spiritual journey, from superstition to sensibility.

Book:The Untouchable

The Untouchable

John Banville

One of the most dazzling and adventurous writers now working in English takes on the enigma of the Cambridge spies in a novel of exquisite menace, biting social comedy, and vertiginous moral complexity. The narrator is the elderly Victor Maskell, formerly of British intelligence, for many years art expert to the Queen. Now he has been unmasked as a Russian agent and subjected to a disgrace that is almost a kind of death. But at whose instigation?

As Maskell retraces his tortuous path from his recruitment at Cambridge to the airless upper regions of the establishment, we discover a figure of manifold doubleness: Irishman and Englishman; husband, father, and lover of men; betrayer and dupe. Beautifully written, filled with convincing fictional portraits of Maskell’s co-conspirators, and vibrant with the mysteries of loyalty and identity, The Untouchable places John Banville in the select company of both Conrad and le Carre.

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