Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Best of the Best - James Tait Black prize

The James Tait Black prize is one of the oldest literary awards dating back to 1919 and is this year celebrating its past winners. Best of the Best of the James Tait Black prize recognizes six favourite winners as chosen by students of the University of Edinburgh, in celebration of 250 years of the study of English literature at the university.

Nights at the Circus (M)
by Angela Carter

"Is Sophie Fevvers, toast of Europe's capitals, part swan... or all fake? Courted by the Prince of Wales and painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, she is an aerialiste extraordinaire and star of Colonel Kearney's circus. She is also part woman, part swan. Jack Walser, an American journalist, is on a quest to discover the truth behind her identity. Dazzled by his love for her, and desperate for the scoop of a lifetime, Walser has no choice but to join the circus on its magical tour through turn-of-the-nineteenth-century London, St. Petersbury and Siberia." publisher

The Heart of the Matter (M)
by Graham Greene

 "Scobie, a police officer serving in a wartime west-African state, is distrusted — being scrupulously honest and immune to bribery. But then he falls in love, and in so doing, he is forced to betray everything he believes in, with drastic and tragic consequences." publisher

A Disaffection (M)
by James Kelman

 "Patrick Doyle is a 29-year-old teacher in an ordinary school. Disaffected, frustrated and increasingly bitter at the system he is employed to maintain, Patrick begins his rebellion, fuelled by drink and his passionate, unrequited love for a fellow teacher. A Disaffection is the apparently straightforward story of one week in a man's life in which he decides to change the way he lives. Under the surface,however, lies a brilliant and complex examination of class, human culture and character written with irony, tenderness,enormous anger and, above all, the honesty that has marked James Kelman as one of the most important writers in contemporary Britain." publisher

The Road (M)
by Cormac McCarthy

"A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other." publisher

Crossing the River
by Caryl Phillips (M) (out of print - try interlibrary loan)

" A voice speaking out of a distant past, describes the consequences of his desperation: his daughter and two sons are condemned to the hold of an English slave ship bound for America in 1753. Here are the stories of these children: Nash, Martha, and Travis. Yet as the narrative unfolds, we come to understand that although they are his children, they are also all of slavery's children." publisher

The Mandlebaum Gate
by Muriel Spark (M) (out of print - try interlibrary loan)

" Barbara, engaged to an archaeologist, has pursued the beauty and danger of a life of faith. On a visit to Jerusalem she has befriended the diplomat Freddy Hamilton. Ignoring his warning that she risks arrest because of her Jewish blood, she has set out on a pilgrimage beyond the Mandelbaum Gate." publisher

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