Booker – What’s in a prize winner?

2021 Booker Prize Winner

I wonder if you – like me – have sometimes looked at prize winning novels and thought they lacked a certain something. Weak plot? Overly dense prose? Niche subject matter? Well, put aside such doubts. Great Circle is a corker of a novel.

Those niggling doubts are the reason I don’t always rush out to buy prize winners. So I didn’t open the first page on this novel until a few weeks ago…. and landed slap in the middle of the most riveting story. It was like going down a water chute into a pool on a really hot day. Fantastic! There are two time zones, both effortlessly, brilliantly and absorbingly described, and two main characters, both – of course – linked.

The first chapter was a memoir from a forgotten, dead female aviator. I was convinced this entry was real, and that it was being used as a precursor to explaining the novel, like an extended quote. So I looked up the female character, Marion Graves, on Google. It’s hard to explain my reaction on finding she didn’t exist and it was a fictional entry in a diary. Disappointment (at first) but then a swelling admiration for the writer.

Maggie Shipstead is incredibly talented. As an aspiring author, I must admit to a certain envy of her skill and imagination. But mostly, I am thrilled that such novels exist to entertain and inform us.

If you haven’t read it, because you – like me – tend to think Booker Prize winners are for other people – please put aside those prejudices. Buy it. Read it. You will be the richer for it.

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