I suspect all book prize judges share a variation of these feelings as the process draws to a close.
I don't want to read another single prize entry even once, let alone twice...
I don't want another parcel to arrive with more books for consideration....
I love these books but I don't want to talk about these books anymore, or at least until announcement day in May.
Yes...and here's where I probably differ from most other judges, because I doubt a Booker judge will be desperate to read this, but here's the book I really want to pick up right now...
A Stepmother for Susan of St Bride's by Ruth Adam, recommended in comments here. My 1p copy has arrived, it's all about a children's hospital and I know I am going to love it, so thank you Barbara
It has been an honour to have been asked to be a judge and I have discharged my duties to the very best of my ability. It has involved reading a lot of books to the bitter end just in case they come good, books that I may ordinarily have given up on much sooner, only to then still see them leave the ring.
Or reading books for which I seem to be the wrong reader, but for which the other judges and the rest of the world might be the right reader.
And in amongst it, all the excitement of finding gems, and holding my breath for the judges' meeting and then the elation when we all agree.
We will soon have chosen the eight books for this year's Fiction Uncovered, and I have really enjoyed the experience, the meetings and the discussions, but I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to getting back to my own reading for pleasure. As the weeks of the process have passed, replete with the inherent guilt about picking up any book that isn't an 'entry', plenty of new and very tantalising books have been arriving.
You would admire my discipline I can tell you, as I unwrap and stroke, sneak a preview and then cease and desist, stopping myself from reading any more, calmly setting the book aside, all of which means a tidy pile of must-reads have gathered.
And these are just a fraction of they...
Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle
My new life of leisure means that I am usually pottering around in the kitchen at 10am listening to Woman's Hour rather than day-job-working at my computer replying to people who are in emotional extremis, and it was on Woman's Hour that I heard mention of Queen's Gambit and an interview with Elizabeth Fremantle. I actually missed most of the interview because I dashed off to my shelves convinced (rightly) that a copy of the book had arrived and that I had ear-marked it for attention.
This is the story of Katherine Parr, the only surviving wife of Henry VIII, and more history to be rewritten as a portrait emerges of an 'intelligent, forward-thinking, fallible woman' who, though caught up in an affair with Thomas Seymour, catches the eye of the 'ailing, egotistical monarch' whose proposal of marriage cannot be refused.
I like the sound of this, and I am in the mood for more history.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
My introduction to the writing of Kate Atkinson, like many of you I am
sure, was through reading Behind the Scenes at the Museum. I loved it, but have somehow never quite connected with Kate Atkinson's writing since. Her Jackson Brodie books have something of a cult following at the Endsleigh Salon and I have them ear-marked for attention, but when Life After Life arrived, and I started reading it (this is called prize-judge diversion tactics, along with washing the kicthen floor when it doesn't really need it) I knew I was going to love it. That 'knew' now vindicated by the book's recent inclusion on the Women's Prize for Fiction longlist.
"What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances?
And third chances?
In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life?
Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny?
And would you even want to?
Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, she finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here is Kate Atkinson at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves."
I will be on the case very soon.
Instructions For a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell
"It's July 1976. In London, it hasn't rained for months, gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he's going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn't come back. The search for Robert brings Gretta's children - two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce - back home, each wih different ideas as to where their father might have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share."
I was there, London 1976, were you??
If not where were you... if you were in the UK you won't have forgotten I am sure.
I was doing night shift at Great Ormond Street, sitting my nursing finals and planning our wedding...and here I am, all those years on at the other end of that career, and still married. I am so intrigued by the premise of this book because I know how well Maggie O'Farrell pulls these things off. My thoughts here on The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, The Hand That First Held Mine and After You'd Gone
So there's my three for starters, how about you, read any good books lately...
What are you reading now...
Might I enjoy it...
Any I may have missed during my four month sojourn in the land of prize judging...