The Booker Curse...broken at last

What is the Booker Curse, you ask? It is the evil curse that someone placed on A Reader's Respite that has prevented us from ever being able to actually finish (let alone enjoy) any book written by an author who has been the recipient of the The Man Booker Prize.

We hear audible gasps from you. But it's true.

Margaret Atwood? Never been able to get past page 100 of The Blind Assassin. Michael Ondaatje? Made it to page 72 of The English Patient and then we slipped into a coma. Kazuo Ishiguro? Page 30 of The Remains of the Day.

See what we mean? It's a curse.

So of course we were dubious when we flipped open to page 1 of Barry Unsworth's latest novel, Land of Marvels.

You see, Unsworth was the recipient of the Booker Prize back in 1992 for a book called Sacred Hunger (we made it to page 14 of that one before it was tossed back on the shelf), and that didn't bode well for our ability to get through this book.



To our surprise and delight, we were hooked by page 10 and thoroughly enjoyed the remainder of this fabulous novel. Curse? What curse?

Land of Marvels is a taut little novel set in 1914 Mesopotamia, a time when the threat of war looms in Europe and everyone is descending upon the Middle East hoping for a piece of the pie as the Ottoman Empire slowly dies off.

In the middle of this political time-bomb are the archaeologists, ones like British-born Somerville, scrambling to uncover priceless treasures of the past before the encroaching Germans put the kibosh to all foreign academic expeditions.

But Somerville may find that the devil to fear lies within his own camp. His beautiful and haughty wife Patricia is looking for greener pastures while his Arab servant has his own agendas. Add to the mix an American geologist who is not who he appears to be and you have an explosive mix. A treasure of immeasurable value has been discovered in the desert sands and the Germans are bearing down.....we're telling you, this stuff is good writing.

Mesopotamia....present day Iraq

We're so pleased that the Curse appears to have been broken. So pleased, as a matter of fact, that it's time to move on to Booker Prize winning author A.S. Byatt's newest release and then the 2009 winner, Wolf Hall. It's like a whole new book world has been opened.




Interested? We thought you might be. Leave a comment here if you'd like to read Land of Marvels and on December 5th, we'll draw a random winner (international peeps welcome!).

29 comments:

  1. I would have never picked this one up, but I trust you. Please enter me! As far as Bookers go, I don't think I've tried that many. I liked The White Tiger fine enough on audio. I think I'd like to read Wolf Hall. Congrats on banishing the curse!1

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  2. I just read Peter Mansfield's A History of the Middle East this year, so I've been interested in books set in that region recently. This one sounds good. Count me in!

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  3. It's a miracle! Glad to see you liked the book so much!

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  4. Sandy - I'd like to try The White Tiger sometime....I remember you talking about this one. Maybe I should try it on audio?

    Christy - Ooooh. I want to read that one!

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  5. I'm afraid that you probably won't get very far with Wolf Hall - the books you list as being cursed are all slow ones.

    I recommend that you try Vernon God Little. I think you will get to the end and love it. It is much lighter and actually quite enjoyable, compared to the other Bookers you list.

    Good luck!

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  6. I know what you mean by the Booker Curse!! I've broken mine too.....I finished Wolf Hall.

    This one sounds worth a go, too.

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  7. Farmlanebooks - thanks so much for the recommendation....I really appreciate that and will give it a try.

    Cat - I am bound and determined to get through Wolf Hall....glad you finished it, though.

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  8. I don't remember ever reading a book set in this part of the world. I'd love to give it a try.

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  9. O please me! I love Booker books and this one sounds like I'd love it regardless. Glad to hear the curse is broken!

    nycbookgirl at gmail dot com

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  10. I really, really, really would like this book!

    :-)

    fred.mans[at]sympatico.ca

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  11. Sounds like an interesting book. I haven't read anything by Bookers before but I may have to pick up some of his stuff. Thanks for the chance to win!
    ruthann (dot) francis (at) gmail (dot) com

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  12. I've had a few issues with books that you have mentioned as well. Glad to see that this prize holds put some hope for this books and some of the others.

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  13. Don't enter me: I actually gave away my copy of this book, knowing how this very contagious curse operates!

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  14. Thank you thank you for making this open for overseas readers. Really appreciated. Please enter me.

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  15. I enjoyed Moon Tiger and Possession and...that's about it. But I trust you! Please enter me.

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  16. Lol, I have the same problem, although not necessarily with that particular award. I used to avoid anything that had an award seal or symbol on it because there was a good likelihood I wouldn't like it. Oh, and also, I can't seem to enjoy books endorsed by Oprah. ::sigh::

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  17. A curse? I wouldn't think so. There are many interesting ones out there. I like to read this one. :D

    linna.hsu at gmail dot com

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  18. Please count me in.

    simplystacieblog at gmail dot com

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  19. LOL - I couldn't get past page 90 of this one - I was bored stiff. :) I did like Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, though. :)

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  20. I'm so glad that you liked this one. I made it about 70 pages in before I gave up. Honestly this was one of the driest and uninteresting books that I tried to read this year. Obviously there's no need to enter me.

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  21. You are too funny! I take a LOT of time reading Booker winners , so i will be definitely be interested in this one!

    enter me!

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  22. Alyce and Carrie - oh gosh, isn't it weird how different books don't work for different people?!? So sorry you didn't enjoy this one. I admit it was the wife's story who kept me interested till the end.....she fascinated me and I just *knew* she was going to pull something shady, lol.

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  23. Mesopotamia - that sounds like the days of clay pots, tunics, runic script, all kinds of ancient stuff. Right? I'm sure I've seen museum cases with fragments of things bearing this name.

    I haven't managed so well with these prizewinners either (though I did finish 'The Blind Assassin' and think it's not her best work) so this makes me hopeful I'd enjoy this novel also.

    Hey, what about Oryx and Crake? Do you enjoy dystopia? With the swine flu vaccine the current hot topic, the theme of vaccines in that story are chilling.

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  24. I am kind of wary of Booker winner ever since Inheritance Of Loss turned out to be a big disappointment to me. But I might give this a try.

    Please enter me

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  25. Sounds like a keeper! please include me. Thanks!

    allygotts567 at hotmail dot com

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  26. This sounds interesting. Please enter me - I'd love to read it!

    helenlovesbooks81[at]gmail[dot]com

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  27. sounds like a winner...please count me in...thanks.

    karenk
    kmkuka(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  28. Please enter me in this giveaway! This Booker novel sounds great. :)

    saemmerson at yahoo dot com

    Sarah Emmerson

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  29. Did you know you can create short links with AdFly and earn cash from every click on your short links.

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Fire away!