FictionFan Awards 2015 – Literary Fiction & Book of the Year 2015

Please rise…

 

…for this year’s nominees and winners of the annual FictionFan Awards of 2015.

In case you missed them last week, here’s a quick résumé of the rules…

THE CRITERIA

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All nominees must be books I’ve read and reviewed between November 2014 and October 2015 regardless of publication date, but excluding re-reads. The books must have received a 5-star rating.

THE CATEGORIES

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

Genre Fiction – click to see awards

Factual – click to see awards

Crime Fiction/Thrillers – click to see awards

Literary Fiction

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…and…

Book of the Year 2015

 

THE PRIZES

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For the winners!

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

(NB If an author is unlikely to publish another book due to being dead, I will read a book from his/her back catalogue…)

For the runners-up!

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Nothing!

THE JUDGES

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Me!

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

LITERARY FICTION

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I’ve read far less new literary fiction this year because I’ve been re-reading some old favourites, which don’t count for these awards. However there have still been a few great novels that are either new or new-to-me. This hasn’t been such a hard decision as some of the other genres – while each of the books is excellent, the winner is a truly stand-out novel…

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

 

f daniel kehlmannF: A Novel by Daniel Kehlmann

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This is a brilliant novel, sparkling with wit and intelligence. The fact that I have no idea what it’s about really didn’t affect my enjoyment of it in any way. F is for family, or failure, or faith, or fraud, or fear, or fate. Or possibly it isn’t. The one thing I do know is it’s impossible to sum up in a few words. The story of three sons of a missing Father – one a priest who has lost his Faith in God, one a Financial broker who is waiting to be Found out for committing Fraud and one a Failed artist and successful Forger – and an event which the reader knows about but the characters don’t. The writing is superb – Kehlmann can squeeze a mountain of characterisation into a few telling phrases, allowing him plenty of space to treat us to some fairly tongue-in-cheek philosophical asides. And he forces the reader to collude with him in mocking, but affectionately, the worlds of art, literature and religion. It’s also pretentious, absurd, marginally surreal at points and wickedly funny. And one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time…

Click to see the full review

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Docherty 2Docherty by William McIlvanney

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On a December night in 1903, Tam Docherty lifts his new-born son and declares that this one will never go down the pits – this child Conn, his youngest, will work with his brains, rise out of the poverty of his heritage. The book covers the next twenty years or so, telling the story of Conn and his family, and most of all of Tam himself, a man who may be “only five foot fower. But when yer hert goes fae yer heid tae yer taes, that’s a lot o’ hert.” In some ways this is quite an intimate novel, concentrating on Tam’s family and the small community he is part of, but through them it’s a fairly political look at the lot of those at the bottom of the ladder in the early part of the twentieth century, a time when the old traditions are about to be challenged, first by the horrors of WW1 and then, following close on its heels, by the new political ideas that will sweep through Europe between the wars. McIlvanney writes beautifully, both in English and Scots, with as keen an ear for speech patterns and banter as for dialect. A great novel.

Click to see the full review

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the blue guitarThe Blue Guitar by John Banville

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Olly Orme used to be a painter, but his muse has left him. He’s still a thief though. He doesn’t steal for money – it’s the thrill that attracts him. Usually it’s small things he steals – a figurine, a tie-pin. But nine months ago, he stole his friend’s wife, and now that theft is about to be discovered. This is Olly’s own story, told directly to the reader in the form of a narrative being written as events unfold. The tone starts off light and progressively darkens, but there is a delicious vein of humour throughout the book, observational sometimes, self-deprecatory at others. Olly is a narcissist, but his ability to admit his faults with a kind of saucy twinkle makes him an endearing character. In truth, other than Olly’s character, there’s nothing particularly original or profound here. But it’s the language! The fabulous prose! I could forgive a lot to someone who makes me enjoy every word, whether deeply meaningful or dazzlingly light. And Banville dazzled me while Olly entertained me – I’ll happily settle for that.

Click to see the full review

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Two Years Eight Months 2Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

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Back in the 12th century, disgraced philosopher Ibn Rushd has a love affair with Dunia, a princess of the jinn, and they have many children together. Centuries later, not far in the future from our own time, the slits between the jinn world and our own have been lost for many years and Dunia’s descendants have spread throughout the world, unaware of their jinn heritage. But after a great storm lashes the world, strange things begin to happen – people finding their feet no longer touch the ground, people being struck by lightning and finding themselves afterwards possessed of strange powers, people suffering from what are either terrifying hallucinations or perhaps even more terrifying reality. It appears the jinn are back… Rushdie ranges widely, through philosophy, politics, religion, terrorism, the importance of words, language and stories, optimism and pessimism, the disconnect of modern humanity from the planet, and so on. It’s all handled very lightly, though, with a tone of affectionate mockery more than anything else. And, much to my surprise, it’s deliciously funny. It’s being pigeon-holed as magical realism but not in my opinion – this is satire masquerading as a fairy tale. A book that surprised and delighted me.

Click to see the full review

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FICTIONFAN AWARD WINNER 2015

for

BEST LITERARY FICTION

 

the way things were

The Way Things Were by Aatish Taseer

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When Skanda’s father dies, it falls to Skanda to accompany his body back to India for the funeral rites. The death of his father and the experience of meeting up with many of the people he knew in childhood leads him to remember and re-assess the recent history of his family, from the period of the Emergency in the mid-70s until the present day. Like his father, Skanda is a Sanskrit scholar, with a penchant for finding linguistic cognates – seeking out the shared roots of words across languages ancient and modern. And this book is about roots, or about what happens to a person, and by extension a society, when it becomes culturally detached from its roots. But the book isn’t just about India’s past. It also looks at the politics of the present from the time of Mrs Gandhi to today. A strongly political novel, it is in no way overly optimistic, but unlike so much of the misery writing coming from India, this has a sense of hope – a message that India must and can choose its own future, not by rejection of its past, recent and ancient, but by understanding it and building on it.

That might all make the book sound unbearably dull, but in amongst all the politics and philosophising are a group of exceptionally well drawn and believable characters, whose story is interesting not just for what it tells us about India, but in itself. I was particularly pleased to see a strong female figure front and centre in this one. Uma, Skanda’s mother, is without exception the most intriguing female character I have come across in Indian fiction and, for me, she is the heart of the book; and is in many ways the personification of this post-colonial class that Taseer is portraying. The quality of the prose and the depth of insight make this an enlightening and deeply thought-provoking read – an exceptional book from an author who is emerging as a major voice in literature.

Click to see the full review

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And now…

the nominees for the Book of the Year Award are…

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FICTIONFAN BOOK OF THE YEAR 2015

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THE WINNER

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lamentation

It is 1546, and an increasingly ailing Henry VIII has swung back to the traditionalist wing of the church – in fact, some fear he might be about to make amends with the Pope and take the country back to Catholicism. The constant shifts in what is seen as acceptable doctrine have left many sects, once tolerated, now at risk of being accused of heresy. And, as the story begins, Anne Askew and three other heretics are about to be burned at the stake for preaching radical Protestantism. At this dangerous time, Henry’s last Queen, Catherine Parr, has written a book, Lamentations of a Sinner, describing her spiritual journey to believing that salvation can be found only through study of the Bible and the love of Christ, rather than through the traditional rites of the Church. Not quite heretical, but close enough to be used against her by the traditionalists. So when the book is stolen, Catherine calls on the loyalty of her old acquaintance, Matthew Shardlake, to find it and save her from becoming another of Henry’s victims. And when a torn page turns up in the dead hand of a murdered printer, it’s clear some people will stop at nothing to get hold of the book…

I have long held that Sansom is by far the best writer of historical fiction, certainly today, but perhaps ever; and I’m delighted to say that this book is, in my opinion, his best to date. Brilliantly written, impeccably researched, full of great characterisation, and the combination of the personal and the political is perfectly balanced. A superb novel – in fact, a superb series – and a truly worthy winner.

Click to see the full review

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Thanks to all of you who’ve stuck with me through this year’s awards feature.

I hope you’ve enjoyed it – I’ve enjoyed your company!

 

63 thoughts on “FictionFan Awards 2015 – Literary Fiction & Book of the Year 2015

  1. I must say I love your awards, FictionFan! Not surprised at all that the Sansom was the winner. History, mystery, good characters, a solid plot – what more to ask for? And you’ve chosen a nice variety of other books too, in your other categories. Truth be told, I’m a bit annoyed with myself that I’ve not yet read The Blue Guitar, which I want to do. Curse you, TBR! 😉

    • Thanks, Margot! It’s been a bit of an up and down year for me, reading-wise, but there have still been plenty of great books – and Lamentation is a worthy winner! I loved The Blue Guitar – really must try to fit in some of his other books… and all these other great authors too, of course… *twitches nervously*

    • Haha! I hope you’ll be coming to the ceremony! Ballgowns and bowler hats obligatory – which’ll be fine for the women but apparently some of the men aren’t thrilled… Hope you love Lamentation! I also hope you have a big chimney – it’s huge!

    • What reason? Yes, I love the cover – and the book! Which one of these would you like me to add to your TBR? You can have more than one if you like… *kind face*

      He is not MY man!!! *laughs* Guess what just arrived today? A biography of Martin Luther – it’s a conspiracy, I tell you! But I think he was probably nicer than Knoxy…

      • Well, ’cause your first and last name start with it, of course!! Hmm, that’s very kind. But…look, I’ve got this bottle of black cherry stuff that’s too sweet. It’s flavored with some sort of sickening thing. Would you like it?

        *laughs* He’s your fav and I know it! So, I’ve actually heard that Luther was anti-anti-semitic. But I don’t know. You’ll have to let me know, please.

  2. A clearly worthy winner, for book of the year, particularly as you could have entered it easily as lit fic, hist fic, crime fic and possibly almost, fact, given the fact you know there is a lot of ‘this happened’ history as well.

    I just hope, next year, another Sansom, and, no doubt, another monarch

    • Ha, good point! Yes, it really could fit into just about category – except maybe sci-fi! I’m glad it’s one we both liked though – that confirms it must be great!

      Sadly he usually seems to take three or four years to produce a new one – understandable, given the research etc he must do, but frustrating for us impatient fans…

          • Oh!!!! Well done, I hadn’t. Clearly my Flanometer had been switched off. Time to search out and make a whimpering, pleading nuisance of myself in all possible directions, or at least, start saving. Thanks, trusty Flannery newshound

            • I guess it will be anxiously lurking around VfA, as it will probably either miss my targetted completely, because if I take a Vine it is almost invariably a lit-fic title, which probably ensures targetting doesn’t go to me, and I get offered beard trimmers , baby bottles and large sized workmen’s steel capped boots, plus shed loads of dog food. The occasional bottle of gin or whisky which heads my way must be an attempt to get me legless so that I request the steelcapped boots by mistake. I suppose they could be used as plant pots

            • They never offer me booze! Admittedly I very rarely drink but it would be nice to be offered at least! And the occasional little glass of a nice wine doesn’t go amiss. No, at present I am awash with cosmetics – as are we all I think. Another thing I rarely use in fact but I’ve been enjoying playing make-up – it’s like stealing in as a kid and using all your mum’s stuff, thinking she won’t notice the strange blunt end of her lippy or the gouge marks in her favourite cream eyeshadow… I’ve just requested some gold eyeshadow – won’t I be the dazzling belle of the ball! Now all I need to do is find a ball…

  3. Fascinating and I’ve really enjoyed reading all of these posts. I always do a book of the year post on 1 Jan, as I have read the most amazing books as the last book of the year in the past, so I like your clear stipulation on the dates the books were read!

    • Thanks, Liz! I like to get it out of the way before Christmas – and maybe give people some idea for Christmas gifts, but it does mean that sometimes books are actually from last year – I think I read ‘F’ last November. But I love reading everyone’s year end roundups – and get ideas for spending any leftover vouchers on… 🙂

  4. I’m glad to have come along for your awards, FF. I always learn a lot by reading over your reviews — it’s interesting to see whether we agree when I, too, have read the book you’re reviewing, and I love adding new titles to my TBR. Well done! You should probably celebrate with a nice hot cup of cocoa now!!

    • Thanks, Debbie – glad to have you along! Yes, it’s always subjective in the end – one of the things I enjoy is reading reviews that praise a book I hated or slam a book I loved! Always interesting to see why it affected someone else differently. Cocoa and a little slice of cake, I think…

  5. So many great choices here, FF. *pets Tommy while thinking* That cover of F is disconcerting, however. I read your review blurb with it twitching off my computer screen. If I read it, it will be downloaded on my kindle. I cannot have my eyesight ruined from that creative energy. And, ah, yes . . . The Blue Guitar. I was hoping you’d have a reminder!

    • Note to Tuppence: Sorry I didn’t pet you, too. Rumor is you lure people in with your charm and fluff, but then have been known to strike. I shall buy you a mug that reads THE BOSS. Or perhaps THE QUEEN IS IN A MOOD.

    • *Tommy turns over for tummy-tickles* Ha! Yes, I love that cover – simple, yet so effective! It suits the book. Yes, The Blue Guitar was a lot of fun – both reading and reviewing, though I had to take the background music off in the end – it began to play every time anyone went to the homepage… *laughs* Ubiquitous guitars!

    • Thanks, crimeworm! Yes, some great books this year as usual, even though I’ve given up on domestic noir. But there’s still lots of good crime and I know you like reading factual stuff too, so I’ll be hoping I might have tempted you… 😉

    • Thanks, Claire – and thanks for the tweets too! 🙂 I hope they enjoy the books – I’ve rarely seen a book that gets so many 5-star reviews on Amazon as his always do, and I think the series has got better and better as it’s gone on…

  6. You have such sweeping tastes in reading I love coming to your blog to see what you’ve been reading recently and I always see something that piques my interest. These awards are particularly good for that, with so many books listed! I like the look of The Blue Guitar. A great post Fiction Fan.

    • Thank you! It’s my butterfly mind does it, Rebecca! Can’t stick to anything for long! 😉 The Blue Guitar is great – very entertaining as well as beautifully written – if you ever get time to read it, hope you enjoy it as much as I did…

  7. You are so well organized, FictionFan – have to learn from you! It has been as thrilling (nay, more so) than an Oscars ceremony. Great choice of books, some of which I’m planning to read as well … at some point, if I ever get round to making a chink in my TBR mountain.

    • Haha! You must dig out your posh frock for the ceremony! Lots of champagne and chocolate – and no speeches…

      Yes, I always enjoy looking back over the great books of the year – reminds me why I like reading so much. 😀

  8. The Blue Guitar is on my wish list..so many good books this year. I am planning on writing my Best Of but don’t know that I can limit it to so few…and the past few weeks I have added a few more to the mental list- time to stop reading and start listing!

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