Although I enjoyed two titles from the 2011 Booker prize shortlist in October I was most impressed by an author who has no time for such accolades. Despite reservations (there's something about him I just don't like) I think I would have voted for Julian Barnes and Sense of an Ending ahead of Half Blood Blues, by Esi Edugyan, but neither inpressed me as much as a modern classic I hadn't read before.
The unabridged audiobook of John Le Carre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy made me want to go to work, just to keep on listening as a I drove. Michael Jayston does a rather good job of reading Tinker, Tailor, but the voice of the writer is just so strong, so compelling, and his mastery of plot kept me enthralled. Thank you The Guardian for the free download - brilliantly drawn characters and truly thought-provoking analysis of patriotism, national values, and notions of loyalty add up to a splendid novel.
Barnes is a master craftsman, and there are enough twists, turns and uncomfortably sharp observations to make Sense a five star read... but I am not convinced that in a couple of years I will look back whistfully on a great novel. In fact, I'll probably struggle to remember exactly what it was about.
I thoroughly enjoyed Booker contender Half Blood Blues. Jazz musicians in wartime Berlin and Paris, but there were elements that I felt lacked conviction. Nearly a very good novel.
Death of a Red Heroine, by Qiu Xiaolong. is as splendid a piece of crime fiction tourism as you could wish. OK, the plot, about the mysterious murder of a model worker who is not quite what she seemed is fairly pedestrian, and police procedure is both formulaic and a little far-fetched, but the Shanghai mise en scene is gripping.