Fantasy book winner
Boyd Tonkin is Literary Editor at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Social Policy Editor of the New Statesman and has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes. He has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in literature.
Saturday 08 February 1997
Here, for example, is the list submitted by Anne Willis of Bradford-on- Avon, Wiltshire:
Christopher Lloyd: The Well-Tempered Garden; Barbara Pym: Excellent Women; E H Young: Chatterton Square; Mervyn Peake: The Gormenghast Trilogy; Ronald Blythe: Akenfield; Reay Tannahill: Food in History; Elizabeth David: English Bread and Yeast Cookery; A S Byatt: Possession; Angus Wilson: Hemlock and After; Alice Thomas Ellis: The Inn at the End of the World.
Many other selections proved just as splendidly singular.
My task was to devise, in advance, a sort of model list; the entry that came closest would win a token for pounds 150 worth of Folio Society books. Frankly, given a choice between drawing up such a list again and mucking out the elephant house, hand me the bucket and shovel.
First, I decided to stick to fiction alone - unfairly, no doubt, but in accordance with the slant of Waterstone's poll. But, it turned out, so did most of you.
Next, I cut out all sorts of personal favourites. And, to reduce the inevitable biases of generation and geography, I also tried to cover a pretty broad span of time and space.. .
Dozens of entries coincided with my list on three, four or five titles. A handful managed six; none seven. To break the tie, I checked the remaining choices against a reserve list of ten more books. That process produced a clear winner: E M Bernal of Steeple Bumpstead, Suffolk.
Here is my list, arranged purely in chronological order:
Albert Camus: The Plague (1947); George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949); Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita (1955); Boris Pasternak: Dr Zhivago (1957); Joseph Heller: Catch-22 (1961); Doris Lessing: The Golden Notebook (1962); Gabriel Garcia Marquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967); Milan Kundera: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979); Salman Rushdie: Midnight's Children (1981); Toni Morrison: Beloved (1987)
Thanks to all who entered, and especially to the single aficionado who shares my devotion to Ronald Searle and Geoffrey Willans' The Complete Molesworth. I'm sure you deserve the special Mrs Joyful Prize for Raffia Work.
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