Join the gold rush with a weighty winner: literary fiction


This was the year of big books: two 800-page-busters on the Man Booker longlist alone had bookworms lifting weights. The winner, Eleanor Catton’s  The Luminaries (Granta, £18.99), is a good old-fashioned page-turner set in New Zealand during the 19th-century gold rush, but it was its narrative structure, mirroring astrological movements in a beautifully-wrought minuet, that really set it apart.

Another heavyweight, The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt (Little Brown, £20) was not eligible for this year’s Man Booker Prize, but she will be from next year under new rules: the American writers are coming. Tartt will always be a contender, and this novel, which stars Fabritius’s tiny painting of the same name, took the breath away.  A sort of miniature on a large scale, The Goldfinch begins with a description by a  13-year-old boy of a birthday cake in a dark room seen just before his mother died: “... that candlelit circle, a tableau vivant of the daily, commonplace happiness that was lost when I lost her.”

Speaking of America, Lionel Shriver (pictured) was back on form this year with Big Brother (Harper-Collins, £16.99), a frightening picture of obesity in modern America, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie triumphed with Americanah (4th Estate, £20) – the slightly autobiographical story of a young Nigerian woman’s life as a “Black American”. If a writer with a bigger ego had produced a novel this magnificent, huge, intimate and devastating, it would have been hailed immediately as a Great American Novel. Its younger, more hyperactive sister We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (Random House, £14.99), in which a young girl moves from a shanty town called Paradise to the false paradise of the USA, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

There were some surprises from well-known faces among the year’s best fiction. Pig’s Foot by (yes, the dancer) Carlos Acosta (Bloomsbury, £12.99) is a magic realist, satirical, historical novel spanning 150 years of Cuban history and some really filthy jokes. Polly Courtney is better known for light-hearted popular fiction set in The City or lad-mag offices, but Feral Youth, set amid the background to the 2011 London riots (Troubadour Books, £8.99) marks her out as a serious voice and one to watch. Many novels spanned continents with great success. A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki (Canongate, £8.99) spins a thread between a 16-year-old Japanese schoolgirl in trouble and a Canadian woman who finds her diary washed up on a beach. It is bewitching. The Breath of Night by Michael Arditti (Arcadia, £11.99) gives us two unlikely heroes: a 1970s priest from English suburbia who disappears mysteriously from a rural Philippines town, and the 21st-century boy sent to trace him. It is too complex and wonderful to condense into a “best of year” round-up, so you’ll just have to buy it. Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement  (4th Estate, £18.99), a typically Tan-esque tale of mother-daughter struggle, is narrated by the wonderful Violet Minturn, who starts as a wilful seven-year-old living in her mother’s courtesan house, and walks us through a history of Shanghai and women’s role in the world.

Finally, fans of 2012-13’s hit, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, should try The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald (Faber, £7.99). A terrifying thriller about a baby snatched from a roadside, and the storm of accusation and guilt that follows, it’s enough to make anyone lose sleep. Don’t give it to any new parents this Christmas.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before