Annal: 2008 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction

Results of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in the year 2008.

Book:The Secret Scripture

The Secret Scripture: A Novel

Sebastian Barry

A gorgeous new novel from the author of the Man Booker finalist A Long Long Way

As a young woman, Roseanne McNulty was one of the most beautiful and beguiling girls in County Sligo, Ireland. Now, as her hundredth year draws near, she is a patient at Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, and she decides to record the events of her life.

As Roseanne revisits her past, hiding the manuscript beneath the floorboards in her bedroom, she learns that Roscommon Hospital will be closed in a few months and that her caregiver, Dr. Grene, has been asked to evaluate the patients and decide if they can return to society. Roseanne is of particular interest to Dr. Grene, and as he researches her case he discovers a document written by a local priest that tells a very different story of Roseanne’s life than what she recalls. As doctor and patient attempt…[more]

Book:A Case of Exploding Mangoes

A Case of Exploding Mangoes: A Novel

Mohammed Hanif

Intrigue and subterfuge combine with bad luck and good in this darkly comic debut about love, betrayal, tyranny, family, and a conspiracy trying its damnedest to happen.

Ali Shigri, Pakistan Air Force pilot and Silent Drill Commander of the Fury Squadron, is on a mission to avenge his father’s suspicious death, which the government calls a suicide. Ali’s target is none other than General Zia ul-Haq, dictator of Pakistani. Enlisting a rag-tag group of conspirators, including his cologne-bathed roommate, a hash-smoking American lieutenant, and a mango-besotted crow, Ali sets his elaborate plan in motion. There’s only one problem: the line of would-be Zia assassins is longer than he could have possibly known.

Book:A Mercy

A Mercy: A Novel

Toni Morrison

In the 1680s the slave trade was still in its infancy. In the Americas, virulent religious and class divisions, prejudice and oppression were rife, providing the fertile soil in which slavery and race hatred were planted and took root.

Jacob is an Anglo-Dutch trader and adventurer, with a small holding in the harsh north. Despite his distaste for dealing in flesh, he takes a small slave girl in part payment for a bad debt from a plantation owner in Catholic Maryland. This is Florens, with the hands of a slave and the feet of a Portuguese lady. Florens looks for love, first from Lina, an older servant woman at her new masters house, but later from a handsome blacksmith, an African, never enslaved.

There are other voices: Lina, whose tribe was decimated by smallpox; their mistress, Rebekka, herself a victim of religious intolerance back in England; Sorrow, a strange girl whos spent her early years at sea; and finally the devastating voice of…[more]

Book:Pilcrow

Pilcrow

Adam Mars-Jones

Meet John Cromer, one of the most unusual heroes in modern fiction. If the minority is always right then John is practically infallible. Growing up disabled and gay in the 1950s, circumstances force John from an early age to develop an intense and vivid internal world. As his character develops, this ability to transcend external circumstance through his own strength of character proves invaluable.

Extremely funny and incredibly poignant, this is a major new novel from a writer at the height of his powers. “I’m not sure I can claim to have taken my place in the human alphabet…I’m more like an optional accent or specialised piece of punctuation, hard to track down on the typewriter or computer keyboard…”

Book:Sputnik Caledonia

Sputnik Caledonia

Andrew Crumey

Robbie Coyle dreams of going to space. In 1970s Scotland this ambition marks him out almost as much as his eccentric family does in particular, his avidly socialist father. Indoctrinated in the ways of the Left, Robbie can’t entertain the idea of going into orbit with the capitalist Americans. So he gets a ‘Teach Yourself Russian’ book from the library and settles down with Einstein’s Meaning of Relativity by his side.

Later, however, his fantasies take on a darker shade. In an imagined communist Scotland, post-World War II, the young recruit Robert finds himself at the Installation, a closed, bleak town run under surveillance and dedicated to scientific research. Astronomers have discovered a black hole and the Party will stop at nothing to attain it. The Red Star, as it comes to be known, heralds both the awakening and the extinguishing of Robert’s adulthood: the discovery of cruelty and of love; and the realization…[more]

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