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Date: 30 January, 2003
Charlotte Haines Lyon
reviews the winners of the Whitbread Book Awards 2003 announced
earlier this week
Without the snobbery of the Booker prize, the
Whitbread is one of the few events in the literary world in which
childrens books and poetry are given equal merit and prestige.
Overall winner and
winner of Whitbread Novel Award
Mark Haddons prize winning tale, follows
the antics of Christopher as he sets out to solve the murder, as
well as write a book about the
At one point, Christopher describes the difficulty
of following his dads
Haddon inhabits the world of a teenager with Aspergers with the due care and humour it deserves. It is overwhelmingly apparent that just because somebody struggles with emotions and the abstract does not mean that they are stupid; Christopher is taking his maths 'A' Level, and frequently explains complex theorems and applies maths to his enquiry.
It is a continual struggle for him to pick up the nuances of the everyday, especially with regard to his fathers grief over the loss of his wife. In a wonderful illustration of this problem, Christopher writes about his teacher drawing circles with faces and explanations of which are angry, sad, happy etc. This useful tactic is problematic however, as people dont appreciate him comparing their faces to the piece of paper.
Somehow by omitting emotion from Christophers prose, Haddon has proved the axiom less is more by enabling readers to fill the gaps with pathos, raw emotion and overwhelming dignity.
By creating such a convincing inner world, Haddon has superseded the traditional crime story, by investigating the mysteries of not only the human mind, but of love which whilst tangible cannot always be vocalised.
Considering the genre of the book, we learn remarkably little about the subject, although this is sweet irony considering Orwell had banned any such biographies being written about himself. Nevertheless, interest is sustained by Taylors depiction of the world of the literary elite in the 30s and 40s, alongside a fascinating insight into the Spanish war of the 1930s.
Orwell signed up to the Republican militia, in a quest to overthrow Franco, was shot though the throat in the trenches and had his diaries and other such personal effects confiscated on arrest for treason, thus destroying vital material for potential biographers.
An ardent socialist, Orwell was embarrassed about
Whilst an absorbing read, I cant help feel that I could learn more about Orwell by rereading some of his works.
My Love, a devastating meditation on the role of love, is counterbalanced by the stunning simplicity and awe of a father kissing his new born son in Waking Russell. Then theres the playful fairytale of an angel, who might just enchant even the least poetically minded reader.
Some poems are slightly daunting with Patersons
effective use of his
If you are going to buy one poetry book this year, you could do a lot worse than purchase this little award winner.
Childrens Book Award
It is the autumn of 1962, and the Tyneside children and their parents are sitting nervously on the precipice of he Cuban Missile Crisis. Will life continue? Can anything be done to prevent the Americans and Soviets destroying the world? Possibly not, but this is a time where boundaries are broken, whether school discipline, class or religion, and everyday people are questioning their role in the world.
Not least young Bobby Burns who much to his parents pride and delight, is starting grammar school. As a working class kid, he is suspect to the Catholic middle-class teachers as well as to his friend Joseph who fears the friendship will be left behind for more high faluting mates.
His dad is seriously ill, his new posh friend is encouraging him to fight the violence at school and the seemingly violent, gruff Fire-eater and escapologist, McNulty has taken a shine to him. But this is all over shadowed by the fear of a nuclear bomb landing any second and feeling of helplessness.
Bobbys mother is a Catholic and he has a light from Lourdes in his room depicting the Virgin Mary. He is continually fascinated by whether God exists, what this means and whether there is any point in prayer. Deciding that if his dad is to survive then he must sacrifice himself, Bobbys life starts to take on new meaning and he starts to challenge the status quo with moving consequences.
Despite being set in the past, - in a time that
many of the intended readers would consider to be prehistoric, this
book is ultimately a contemporary book. In the last year we have
seen children frightened of the war on Iraq and angry at the actions
of those in power, being patronised and accused of protesting with
ignorance. Almond, without any trace of worthiness as proved to
be a rare adult ally for thinking youngsters.