Annal: 2009 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction

Results of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in the year 2009.

Book:The Children's Book

The Children's Book

A.S. Byatt

A spellbinding novel, at once sweeping and intimate, from the Booker Prize–winning author of Possession, that spans the Victorian era through the World War I years, and centers around a famous children’s book author and the passions, betrayals, and secrets that tear apart the people she loves.

When Olive Wellwood’s oldest son discovers a runaway named Philip sketching in the basement of the new Victoria and Albert Museum—a talented working-class boy who could be a character out of one of Olive’s magical tales—she takes him into the storybook world of her family and friends.

But the joyful bacchanals Olive hosts at her rambling country house—and the separate, private books she writes for each of her seven children—conceal more treachery and darkness than Philip has ever imagined. As these lives—of adults and children…[more]

Book:Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

Kazuo Ishiguro

In a sublime story cycle, Kazuo Ishiguro explores ideas of love, music and the passing of time. From the piazzas of Italy to the Malvern Hills, a London flat to the ‘hush-hush floor’ of an exclusive Hollywood hotel, the characters we encounter range from young dreamers to cafe musicians to faded stars, all of them at some moment of reckoning. Gentle, intimate and witty, this quintet is marked by a haunting theme: the struggle to keep alive a sense of life’s romance, even as one gets older, relationships flounder and youthful hopes recede.

Book:The Selected Works of T.S Spivet

The Selected Works of T.S Spivet: A Novel

Reif Larsen

A boundary-leaping debut tracing a gifted young map maker’s attempt to understand the ways of the world.

When twelve-year-old genius cartographer T. S. Spivet receives an unexpected phone call from the Smithsonian announcing he has won the prestigious Baird Award, life as normal-if you consider mapping dinner table conversations normal-is interrupted and a wild cross-country adventure begins, taking T. S. from his family home just north of Divide, Montana, to the museum’s hallowed halls.

There are some answers here on the road from Divide, and some new questions, too. How does one map the delicate lessons learned about family, or communicate the ebbs and flows of heartbreak, loneliness, and love?

Book:Strangers (Anita Brookner)

Strangers: A Novel

Anita Brookner

Paul Sturgis is resigned to his bachelorhood and the quietude of his London flat. He occasionally pays obliging visits to his nearest living relative, Helena, his cousin’s widow. To avoid having to turn down her Christmas invitation, Paul sets off for a holiday in Venice where he meets Mrs. Vicky Gardner, an intriguing woman in the midst of a divorce. Upon his return to England, a former girlfriend, Sarah, reenters Paul’s world and these two women spark a transformation in Paul, culminating in a shocking decision.

Book:Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall: A Novel

Hilary Mantel

In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII’s court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king’s favor and ascend to the heights of political power

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king’s freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum.

Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but…[more]

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