Beryl Bainbridge was famously nominated for the Booker Prize five times but never won - and so, also in my honour, this week's five from the archive are...
Five... Shortlisted Booker Titles (which didn't win)
1.) Loitering With Intent (shortlisted 1981) by Muriel Spark
In short: My favourite Spark novel, as I'm sure you all heard during Muriel Spark Reading Week, it concerns Fleur's somewhat mad involvement with arrogant Sir Quentin, his Autobiographical Association, and the world of publishing.
From the review: "This becomes the crux of the novel - where does Fleur's imagination end, and where does plagiarism begin? Similarities between the Autobiographical Association's activities and the manuscript of Warrender Chase grow ever greater - how much is coincidence, how much does Fleur absorb, and how much does she write before it happens? "
2.) The Bookshop (shortlisted 1978) by Penelope Fitzgerald
In short: A woman tries to open a bookshop in a small town, but finds that the town takes against her.
From the review: "Between Christine and Florence a rather touching, but unsentimental, friendship develops. If that sounds remotely mawkish, trust me, it isn't. Penelope Fitzgerald doesn't do mawkish. Her writing is spare, very spare, and there isn't room for emotions - we simply see the people interact, and can quite easily understand the emotions they must be experiencing."
3.) A Month in the Country (shortlisted 1980) by J.L. Carr
In short: Tom has been hired to uncover a medieval mural in a northern village church - this gentle novel shows his relationships with the other villagers, and quiet absorption in his work. (I'm afraid the 'review' is hardly that... one of my scatterbrain days.)
From the review: "The most interesting scene is that when Tom visits the vicar and his amiable wife, Alice, only to discover their monstrous and secluded vicarage seems to alter both their personalities. Like the rest of the novel, this is shown subtly and calmly, but is a fascinating glimpse into one facet of the village."
4.) The Little Stranger (shortlisted 2009) by Sarah Waters
In short: Creepy events start to happen in an old mansion in the post-war 1940s. Visiting Dr. Faraday narrates them, but is uncertain whether or not the supernatural is to blame...
From the review: "It's something of a truism to say that 'the house is itself a character', but you have to take your hat off to Waters' ability to invest Hundreds Hall with this power without it becoming a caricature of Gothic literature. The house remains comfort and terror; mystery and simplicity; homely and unhomely."
5.) Black Dogs (shortlisted 1992) by Ian McEwan
In short: Something happens on a couple's honeymoon, involving two black dogs. We see the impact of this event without, for a long time, knowing precisely what took place...
From the review: "It certainly battles out with Atonement for being my favourite McEwan - people have recommended 'early McEwan' to me, and I can see why. The writing here is compact, tense - so often I'd finish reading paragraphs or phrases and think "wow" - quite the opposite of Saturday."
As always, I want to know - which would you suggest? To give you a hand, here is a link to all the shortlisted titles.