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  • Writer's pictureLynne McConway

The Booker Prize 2022

Updated: Jun 25, 2023

My recommendations from this year's shortlist

Photo of the front cover of The Trees by Percival Everett
The Trees by Percival Everett

The Trees by Percival Everett

I hadn’t heard of Everett or read any of his previous books, but The Trees blew me away. Darkly humorous and satirical, it almost defies description. Ostensibly a ‘whodunnit’, the story revolves around several, gruesome deaths of white men in small-town Mississippi, all of whom are found with the same dead body of a Black boy alongside them. That boy bears an uncanny resemblance Emmett Till, a young man who, in a notorious incident in American history, was lynched in Money, Mississippi in 1955

America’s violent racist history is the undercurrent of the book as is justice, police violence and reckoning. It’s difficult to write about The Trees without giving too much away but it’s a brilliant page-turner, laugh-out-loud funny one moment and horrifying the next.

A photo of the front cover of Treacle Walker by Alan Garner
Treacle Walker by Alan Garner

Treacle Walker by Alan Garner

Like Small Things Like These, Treacle Walker is a short book but, unlike Claire Keegan’s novel, I struggled to finish it. I’m not a huge fan of mythical, otherworldly fiction, or science fiction and found I struggled to understand the story or what Garner was trying to convey.

The protagonist is a young boy called Joe who meets a healer, the Treacle Walker, and, according to the several reviews I read after finishing the book ‘is a stunning fusion of myth and folklore and an exploration of the fluidity of time.’

I enjoyed Garner’s use of language, which was always inventive, but this just wasn’t the book for me.

A photo of the cover of Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo
Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo

Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo

Set in Zimbabwe, Glory is a political satire that also uses farce and black humour to tell the thinly veiled story of Robert Mugabe and the history of the country.

At first, I was very impressed. Every character in the book is an animal, the President is a horse, for example, and his wife is a donkey. There is a jolt now and again when Bulawayo refers to her characters being ‘on their hind legs’ for example, reminding you of their animal form.

I was really engaged and recognised the hallmarks of many authoritarian governments, making the story feel universal as well as specific to Zimbabwe.

Unfortunately, the lack of a plot soon became conspicuous and I began to lose interest. I switched to the audiobook but still failed to finish. I’d love to hear from you if you did read the whole book and loved it.

A photo of the cover of The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka

When we first encounter Maali Almeida, we know that he is dead, and he appears to be waiting in an outer office of post-death limbo. We learn that he has 7 days (the moons of the title) to discover how and why he was killed and to guide his boyfriend DD and friend Jaki to a stash of his photographs that will shock Sri Lanka.

The Seven Moons is almost fantastical in tone. As Maali journeys through the week, we befriend ghosts, fly upon clouds and eavesdrop on those close to him as they try to work out what has happened to their friend

A lot of set-up is needed at the start of the novel with people and places referenced without a clear idea of who they are, or their significance to the plot. Whilst it perhaps sagged in the middle, I found the ending really emotional and a satisfying end to our time with Maali. The book is a deserved winner of the Prize in 2022.

A photo of the cover of Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout
Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout

I was delighted that Oh William! made the shortlist. I'm a huge fan of Strout's writing, particularly her Lucy Barton character. Happily, Lucy returns here as the William of the title is her ex-husband.

Oh William! Is the third in a loose trilogy featuring Lucy. She’s now in her later years and at the stage of her relationship with Wiliam that they are comfortable with each other, having been divorced for many years. In the previous books, we didn’t get a lot of backstory about William which this book rectifies. The plot revolves around a trip which Lucy and William take to Amgash, Maine (also the setting for Strout’s other great character, Olive Ketteridge) where William is seeking out a half-sister he has only recently discovered.

Strout's dialogue is as strong as ever here and she uses it to show the emotional undercurrents of her characters. I was so happy to be back in this world with these characters and all their foibles and mistakes and gripped as they tried to understand their marriage and their own behaviour.

A photo of the cover of Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Set in the mid-1980s in rural Ireland, the book centres on Bill Furlong, an unremarkable everyman. He gets up early each day to run his coal business, leaving his wife and three daughters at home to deliver coal. One of his customers is the local Church that runs, as becomes apparent, one of the infamous Magdalen laundries prevalent across Ireland for many years.

As the story unfolds, we learn about Bill and his own painful family history as he uncovers long-held secrets. His discoveries lead him to question his and his wife’s own response to an open secret within their close-knit community. Keegan expertly examines how an ordinary person can find the courage to help another, despite the dangers of doing so.

I loved this book and was still mulling it over days after finishing.


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