FictionFan Awards 2013 – Literary/Contemporary Fiction

All stand please…


…for this year’s nominees and winners of the annual FictionFan Awards of 2013 in the Literary/Contemporary Fiction Category.

In case any of you missed them last week (or have forgotten them – you mean you don’t memorise every word I say?), a quick reminder of the rules…


All nominees must be books I’ve read and reviewed between November 2012 and October 2013 regardless of publication date, but excluding re-reads. The books must have received a 5-star rating.


There will be Honourable Mentions and a Winner in each of the following categories

History/Biography/Politics – click to see awards

Literary Fiction





Book of the Year 2013


For the winners!

I guarantee to read the authors’ next book even if I have to buy it myself!

For the runners-up!




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So, without further ado, here are this year’s runners-up and winner in



This was an almost impossible choice – the year started with a bang and, quite frankly, ended with a whimper. So many pretentious and/or tedious reads by self-indulgent established authors that I’m considering a new award category of Books to Put Under the Shoogly Table Leg. But against that dull background, a few shone all the more brightly…



Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon

telegraph avenueBased around a vinyl-record shop in Oakland, California, this is a story of people coping with change. Strongly character-driven, full of warmth and humour, Chabon creates a vivid and exuberant world that is a delight to spend time in. Watch out for the soaring 11-page tour-de-force sentence in the middle of the book – a technical (and possibly artistic) marvel. Brilliantly written and flamboyantly entertaining, the sheer joy of watching this master wordsmith ply his trade outweighs the underlying lack of substance.

Click to see the full review

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We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

we have always lived in the castleThis is a deliciously wicked little book that turns the traditional witchy story on its head. Merricat lives with her sister and uncle – all that’s left of her family after a mass poisoning. Everyone believes Merricat’s sister Constance to be guilty, and the little family is shunned by the villagers. But they live quite contentedly in their isolation…until Cousin Charles comes to visit, bringing the harsh reality of the outside world with him. Twisty and clever, Jackson’s superb writing hides the darkness at the heart of the story until it’s too late for the reader to escape. Merricat may haunt your dreams…or your nightmares…

Click to see the full review

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And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

and the mountains echoedWithin the first few pages of this book, the reader knows s/he’s in the hands of a master storyteller. In a village in rural Afghanistan, mid 1940s, a father tells a folk tale to his two young children. On the next day, they will travel to Kabul and start a chain of events that will take the reader on a journey across the world and through the decades. A beautiful and emotional book, peopled with unforgettable characters, this is told almost as a series of short stories, each concentrating on one person’s tale; but Hosseini brings us round in a perfect circle and the last few chapters bring all these disparate episodes into one immensely moving whole.

Click to see the full review

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Equilateral by Ken Kalfus

EquilateralThis shortish novel took me completely by surprise with its scope and deceptive simplicity, and left me breathless. Not a word is wasted or misplaced as Kalfus plays with early science fiction, empire and colonialism, and the arrogance of science. Sly and subtle humour runs throughout, as our Victorian hero sets out to signal man’s existence to the technologically advanced Martians by building a giant equilateral triangle in the Egyptian desert and setting it ablaze. Superbly written, the prose is pared back to the bone with every word precisely placed to create an atmospheric, sometimes poetic, and entirely absorbing narrative. This book left me gasping and grinning, and I still can’t think of it without smiling. In any other year, it would have been an outright winner…

Click to see the full review

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fallen land 2

Fallen Land by Patrick Flanery


In this extraordinary book, Patrick Flanery delves deep into the troubled American psyche in the post 9/11, post global crash world where the tectonic plates of certainty and complacency have shifted with volcanic and destructive results. A disturbing psychological thriller, this works just as well as a metaphor for a society where love and trust have been overwhelmed by suspicion and fear. Flanery’s prose is wonderful and the characters he has crafted are complex and compelling, each damaged by history and experience and each inspiring empathy in the reader. He develops them slowly, letting us see the influences, both personal and political, that have made them what they are. This was the first book I blogged about – indeed, the book that inspired me to blog, in an attempt to spread the word about Flanery. His first book, Absolution, was my FF Award Winner in 2012 and this year he has achieved the double with Fallen Land. What next from this exciting and talented author? Who knows, but I can’t wait to find out…

Click to see the full review

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Next week: Best Science/Nature/Environment Award

51 thoughts on “FictionFan Awards 2013 – Literary/Contemporary Fiction

  1. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!! Of COURSE I knew he was a shoe-in, as you introduced me to P. Flanery last year with Absolution and we have been periodically muttering darkly about WHY he doesn’t get the kudos and attention he deserves but I still had a nervous moment as i scrolled on down – only when i saw Kalfus as VERY honourable did I know ‘150%’ that PF was home, dry and well-deservedly so. I must say though I am very VERY and even more very surprised that Colm Flanery and Testament of Mary were not there, I had that fingered for one of the 3 sure fire honourable )or even very honourable) mentions from you – Toibin, Kalfus and Flanery I was sure would be there, and Hosseini too.

    Do you realise you introduced me to Toibin Kalfus, Flanery, Jackson, and got me round to reading Hosseini (Kite Runner had been on the TBR wobbly for many years both in real, and then when I thought I might get round to it, and couldn’t find the book, I downloaded it – and immediately found the hidden real, of course. And how could I forget – Jackson. Its only the Chabon which I have somehow resisted (so far)

    You get MY (slightly overwhelmed and almost bankrupt) vote for Book-Spend Tempter of the Year. Get thee Behind Me, Satin, and stop whispering titles of temptation in my ear, muttering ‘One-Click, One-Click you know you want to!’


    • Testament of Mary, would you believe, was reviewed in Oct 2012, so didn’t meet the criteria – he was beaten by Absolution last year. Well, you’re as bad! (It’s just that I’m sometimes ruder about the books you persuade me to read 😉 ) But I’m thoroughly enjoying An Officer and a Spy at the moment – only 38 mins to go – I love the way the Kindle calculates out the time.

      I must say it was a tough choice. Although Fallen Land is the best book, there’s no doubt that Equilateral was the most enjoyable. I toyed with having joint winners…

      I really think you should read the Chabon though…


  2. The professor memorizes everything you say. It’s just getting this professorish mind to remember.

    Aha! I kinda knew We Have Always Lived in the Castle would at least make the mentions list. And as for the award winner–must’ve been before the professor was strolling about. Seems like an interest, though. (Where’s Prince and the Pauper?)


    • Interesting point about The P & The P – it didn’t cross my mind, but Tom Sawyer nearly got on, until I remembered it was a re-read so disqualified. Hmm…although I did enjoy The P & The P I don’t think it quite makes it. Perhaps there’s another Twain (other than Huck Finn, which would also be a re-read) that could challenge for next year?

      Out of this batch, the one for the Prof’s TBR is definitely Equilateral – add it just below KSM… 😉


        • Well, Innocents Abroad is already on the TBR and hopefully will reach the top fairly soon (January-ish, I think). No other great fiction?

          Because it’s a bit more adventure-ish and less feelings-ish and I would think you’d enjoy the Martian thing. Plus (and don’t say I’m not good to you) it’s considerably shorter than most of them… 😉

          But you might enjoy Fallen Land too…


          • That’s great. I could give you a couple, but…you should really read the one that BUS doesn’t want you to.

            It does seem like you could pick out a book that is very professorish indeed. Martians, on the short side, and adventurous!

            *gulp* Why?


            • It’s already on my list too, and I’m guessing Jan/Feb for it as well…

              So have you added it then? 😉

              Well, it’s chilling and disturbing, it’s about America (founding fathers and great thinkers and stuff like that), it’s very well written, it’s longer than Equilateral but not hugely long…and there’s loads and loads in it about survivalism and hunting, especially deer-hunting…and knives…and guns…oh, and lynchings and hangings…


            • Aw, how nice of thee! The professor is excited.

              I wrote it on my list, dadblameit. This is getting scary. The longer we have speaks, the more books I acquire!

              *gulp* Now that sounds interesting too.


            • But bear in mind that I can’t promise to like it…though I’ll try…

              Yes, but that’s because you never actually read any of them. Kind of like a stamp-collector who never writes letters… 😉

              No, stick with Equilateral. I’ll remind you of Fallen Land when your TBR’s back down to a manageable size…


            • Oh, I think you’ll like parts for sure. Do you like the abstract?

              😆 Give me some time! The professor is a bit slow at things–maybe.

              Yes, you do know, the professor has a lot of old–very old–dusty books that keep him very busy. 😉


            • I’m not sure if I do, much – I really prefer reality and, as you may remember from some of my more snarly reviews, get quite annoyed when authors introduce some kind of illogical fantasy or magical element. But I do like some fantasy…so we’ll see…

              Well, if you don’t read KSM by the time I read AKF&C, then I’m going to refuse to tell you what I think of it… 😉

              Uh-huh! By the time the Professor gets around to Equilateral I suspect it will be very old and dusty too… 😉


            • Well, if you hate it–we can have laughs about it! (The professor was about today, and he saw a guy playing the bagpipe and wearing a kilt. Of course, I thought of you.)

              The professor will read it!

              😆 The professor might be extinct too.


            • 😆 Just to clarify – I neither wear kilts nor play the pipes. Except on Hogmanay, obviously… Did you speak Scottish to him?

              You have till the middle of Feb…

              The universe may well have come to an end… there’s probably a Professor in a parallel universe reading it right now, though, and thinking ‘I’m so glad I took FEF’s advice…’ 😉


  3. Now why does that not surprise me 🙂 But thanks for reminding me that I simply must get round to reading this. It was on my list until I realised that it wasn’t eligible for the Booker and then got booted in favour of the long list. Of course, had it been next year he might well have qualified.


    • Haha! Predictable, that’s me! However the year of Fallen Land is now officially over – time for me to find some new book to rave on about for the next few months. 😉

      I’m not sure how I feel about the Booker being opened up, but it would have been great to see this book get some recognition…


  4. Okay, okay I will read a Patrick Flannery, honest. I loved the Hosseini and the Jackson – both authors I had already read – as I age…..and age……. I become more reluctant to read litfic by authors I don’t know. Between really good non-fiction and fun/junk, I just don’t seem to find the time any more.


    • I hope you enjoy it! As you’ll have gathered I think he’s a brilliant author, but he just doesn’t seem to have made the breakthrough yet. Maybe his third book will be the charm…


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