IFFP Reviews 1 & 2 – Round-Up

Well, the IFFP longlist has been announced, so it’s time to get cracking – sixteen books makes for a lot of reading.  Luckily though, it’s really only twelve for me as I do have a four-book headstart 😉

Before I get into the remaining reviews though, I thought it would be a good idea to recap the four books read so far, using the style of last year’s IFFP reviews.  Two today, two on Sunday, more reviews from next week – all good with you?  Just clink on the links for my full write-up.

*****
What’s it all about?
Hans, a young translator, arrives in a nineteenth-century German town of shifting location.  Meaning to move on immediately, he somehow becomes sucked into staying a little longer – mainly because of the charms of Sophie Gottlieb, a literary hostess with the mostess.  Traveller of the Century is an expansive, funny, entertaining novel about life, love and literary translation.  Now if that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea… 

Do you think it deserves to make the shortlist?

Definitely.  I loved this, and I hinted at a possible IFFP longlisting in the first paragraph of my review last April.  Last year, my fellow Shadow Juror Mark bemoaned the dour choices of the panel and looked forward to more ‘sexiness’.  While his plea appears to have mostly fallen on deaf ears, this choice certainly fits the bill – and it’s great too 🙂

Will it make the shortlist?

Difficult to predict at this early stage, but I’ll say yes.  I haven’t really heard a bad word about this one from any bloggers or mainstream reviewers, and most people have (like me) been blown away.  One comment I’ve seen is that it is a little longer than it might have been, and that slight bagginess might mean it will struggle to take out the title.  I’m still confident that the jury will put it through to the next stage though.

*****
The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul (translated by Martin Aitken – from Peirene Press)

What’s it all about?
Poor old Halland, despite having his name in the title, is shot at the start of the book, and his partner Bess, a writer, spends the rest of the book trying to come to terms with his passing.  Rather than being a standard who-dunnit though, this Danish twist on a murder mystery largely avoids the police procedural side of the story, preferring instead to follow Bess around.  The more we learn, the less we know – and the more suspicious everyone else becomes… 

Do you think it deserves to make the shortlist?

To be honest, I’d have to say that it doesn’t – not because I didn’t like it, but because I think that there isn’t quite enough here to elevate it onto the shortlist.  It’s a slim volume, another of Peirene’s wonderful short reads, but I feel that their wait for a shortlisted book will have to wait until next year.

Will it make the shortlist?

Again no.  There are a few big-name writers on the longlist and several other books which have attracted a lot of attention over the past twelve months.  In prizes like this, there is also often a sense that big themes and events can get a book over the line – death in the Danish provinces just doesn’t cut it…

…unless you’re Shakespeare, of course 😉

*****
That’s two down – come back in a few days for the next two stops on our literary journey around the world 🙂

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4 thoughts on “IFFP Reviews 1 & 2 – Round-Up

  1. Agree with your selection although both are good books, I think The Murder of Halland, will be considered slight. Which leaves me with Traveller of the Century, which was one of my favourite books of last year, probably only topped by Sjon, but then it would have taken a miracle to knock Sjon's book off the top spot.

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  2. Gary – Yep, nothing against 'The Murder of Halland', but this is a strong list of books, and Juul's work doesn't have enough in it to muscle its way onto the shortlist.

    Of course, as we saw last year, judges rarely share my opinions…

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  3. Agree with you about neumann Tony for me there is four big big books on the list and then seven or eight in line for other two places on shortlist ,such a great list this time ,all the best stu

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  4. Stu – I agree. I think the four on both lists (IFFP/BTBA) will be hard to leave out of the shortlist. So far, the standard is a lot higher for me than was the case last year… Unless, of course, I'm leaving the dross until last!

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