Annal: 2002 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction

Results of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in the year 2002.

Book:The Corrections

The Corrections

Jonathan Franzen

Enid Lambert is terribly, terribly anxious. Although she would never admit it to her neighbors or her three grown children, her husband, Alfred, is losing his grip on reality. Maybe it’s the medication that Alfred takes for his Parkinson’s disease, or maybe it’s his negative attitude, but he spends his days brooding in the basement and committing shadowy, unspeakable acts. More and more often, he doesn’t seem to understand a word Enid says.

Trouble is also brewing in the lives of Enid’s children. Her older son, Gary, a banker in Philadelphia, has turned cruel and materialistic and is trying to force his parents out of their old house and into a tiny apartment. The middle child, Chip, has suddenly and for no good reason quit his exciting job as a professor at D—— College and moved to New York City, where he seems to be pursuing a “transgressive” lifestyle and writing some sort of screenplay. Meanwhile the baby of the family, Denise,…[more]

Book:Family Matters

Family Matters: A Novel

Rohinton Mistry

Rohinton Mistry’s enthralling novel is at once a domestic drama and an intently observed portrait of present-day Bombay in all its vitality and corruption. At the age of seventy-nine, Nariman Vakeel, already suffering from Parkinson’s disease, breaks an ankle and finds himself wholly dependent on his family. His step-children, Coomy and Jal, have a spacious apartment (in the inaptly named Chateau Felicity), but are too squeamish and resentful to tend to his physical needs.

Nariman must now turn to his younger daughter, Roxana, her husband, Yezad, and their two sons, who share a small, crowded home. Their decision will test not only their material resources but, in surprising ways, all their tolerance, compassion, integrity, and faith. Sweeping and intimate, tragic and mirthful, Family Matters is a work of enormous emotional power.

Book:Fragrant Harbour

Fragrant Harbour

John Lanchester

Fragrant Harbour is the story of four people whose intertwined lives span Asia’s last 70 years. Tom Stewart leaves England just before it is hit by the Great Depression to seek his fortune, and finds it in running Hong Kong’s best hotel. Sister Maria is a beautiful and uncompromising Chinese nun whom Stewart meets on the boat out from England; their friendship spans decades and changes both their lives. Dawn Stone is an English journalist who becomes the public face of money and power and big business. Matthew Ho is a young Chinese entrepreneur whose life has been shaped by painful choices made long before his birth, and who is now facing his own difficulties, and opportunities, in the twenty-first century.

The complacency of colonial life in the 1930s; the horrors of the Japanese occupation during the Second World War; the post-war boom and transformation of Hong Kong into a laboratory of capitalism at its most cut-throat; the growth of the Triads; the handover of the city to the Chinese—all these are present in Fragrant Harbour, an epic novel of one of the world’s great cities. The novel’s shape and scale, its emotional power and beauty, make it John Lanchester’s finest book to date.

Book:The Story of Lucy Gault

The Story of Lucy Gault: A Novel

William Trevor

William Trevor is beloved around the world as one of the finest writers today—and with just cause: his new novel is a masterpiece of love and loss, and lives suspended in time.

Lucy Gault is nine when her parents are faced with the agonizing decision to flee Ireland to be safe from the violence that privilege and Lucy’s English mother have brought upon them—or to stay in their home and risk losing it to the threat of arson.

Lucy cannot bear the thought of leaving Lahardane’s beautiful pastureland, the seashore below pale clay cliffs, and the nameless dog that has become her companion. So she runs away into the nearby woods to convince her parents to stay. Instead, her actions begin the unravelling of her family when they find two bits of her clothing and conclude she has thrown herself into the…[more]

Book:Unless

Unless: A Novel

Carol Shields

I’m not interested, the way some people are, in being sad. I’ve had a look, and there’s nothing down that road. Well now! What about the ripping sound behind my eyes, the starchy tearing of fabric, end to end; what about the need I have to curl up my knees when I sleep?

For all of her life, 44 year old Reta Winters has enjoyed the useful monotony of happiness: a loving family, good friends, growing success as a writer of light ‘summertime’ fiction. But this placid existence is cracked wide open when her beloved eldest daughter, Norah, drops out to sit on a gritty street corner, silent but for the sign around her neck that reads ‘GOODNESS.’ Reta’s search for what drove her daughter to such a desperate statement turns into an unflinching and surprisingly funny meditation on where we find meaning and hope.

Warmth, passion and wisdom come together in Shields’ remarkably supple prose. Unless, a harrowing but ultimately consoling story of one family’s anguish and healing, proves her mastery of extraordinary fictions about ordinary life.

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