These were the novels nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Click on the links to read my entertaining but always insightful reviews.
- Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman (Grove Press)
- Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings (Riverhead Books)
- Lily King, Euphoria (Atlantic Monthly Press)
- Chang-rae Lee, On Such a Full Sea (Riverhead Books)
- Marilynne Robinson, Lila (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
With no hesitation or doubt I’d be handing the award to Marlon James. As I said in my review of A Brief History of Seven Killings, this is a book that grabs you by the neck and forces you to watch. Which, now that I think about it, sounds awfully abusive and violent. The point is you can’t help but be engaged and part of the world (Jamaica) that James is depicting. He does this through a masterclass of language and tone.
Given how fantastic the book is I’m surprised (and annoyed) that it hasn’t appeared on other shortlists – not even the longlist for the National Book Award or the Folio Prize.
One book that did appear on the National Book Award shortlist is Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman. Like James’ novel it’s a book that compels you to engage with the setting (Lebanon) and the character’s state of mind. It’s a wonderful novel which I’d be happy to see called out as the winner on March 12.
However, if I had to pick who was going to win the NBCC, my money would be on Marilynne Robinson’s Lila. It’s not a book that I particularly liked, but it continues to generate much praise and love. I’m surprised it hasn’t been showered with prizes.
Overall, this was a decent shortlist. Yes, I had major issues with on On Such a Full Sea and the last few pages of Euphoria tainted my enjoyment of the novel, but any shortlist that introduces me to a writer as fantastic as Marlon James has to get a tick of approval.