The Battle of the Prizes - British Version is a great challenge, and I don't say that just because it ends on January 31 instead of December 31 (although that is one of my favorite features -- hooray for what amounts to an automatic 30-day extension!). It's great because the Man Booker Prize winners are consistently excellent books and because the James Tait Black Memorial Prize winners are largely under the radar and therefore enchantingly mysterious and fun to explore.
I have resolved to cut way back on challenges this year and just read whatever the heck I feel like reading. But I feel like joining this challenge again, and so I will.
Meanwhile, here are the 2011 results. The challenge prompts participants with interesting questions, such as: Does one prize have higher standards than the other? Pick better winners? Provide more reading entertainment or educational value? I'm not going to say which list is "better," but the results this year are quite interesting.
Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth won the Man Booker Prize. It is a very strong novel that totally exceeded my expectations. Technically it is a masterpiece. Emotionally, it lacked a little punch -- but perhaps purposefully. This was a novel largely designed to make the reader think instead of feel, and it succeeded in doing that for me. Read more about it in my review.
Our Horses in Egypt by Rosalind Belben won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. I loved this novel, as my review reflects, although it is rather fragmented in style and difficult to follow in places. It has a thoroughly British feel to it and is very emotionally engaging. Anyone with a soupcon of empathy could not fail to respond.
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie won both prizes and guess what, it's the last place finisher here. If it is a work of genius -- which many people consider it to be, including those who chose it as the "Best of the Bookers" -- then I am underqualified to appreciate it. That's really all I have to say about that; if you want more details, here's my review.
That's it for another year of this challenge, except to say that I finished with weeks to spare -- what a pleasant surprise! That's a really good thing, as I have just barely started reading the three books of the American version. At least I know what's coming along next . . .
Thanks for hosting, Rose City! I'll be signing up for the 2012 challenge soon.