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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Critics' views on Booker shortlist
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The books will be further scrutinised by critics
The national press reviews the six shortlisted novels for the Booker Prize 2001.


True History of the Kelly Gang
Peter Carey

Carey's attempt to look behind Kelly's iron mask is a triumphant success. He uses a headlong, seemingly unlettered style that means this novel contains not a single comma; it is a deceptive simplicity.

Peter Carey's novel
Peter Carey: "A triumphant success"
Throughout, he seeks to resurrect the human emotions that make sense of the story. This might sound like a standard historical novel, but it stands head and shoulders above the genre.

  • Erica Wagner, The Times

    Carey's pen writes with an ink that is two parts archaic and one part modern and colours a prose that rocks and cajoles the reader into a certainty that Ned Kelly is fit company not only for Jack Palance and Clint Eastwood but for Thomas Jefferson and perhaps even a bodhisattva.

  • Jonathan Levi, Los Angeles Times.


    Atonement
    Ian McEwan

    While Ian McEwan's closest contemporaries, Amis and Rushdie, have been rolling out the red carpet into their celebrity lives, this novelist has stayed on the case. He is a consistently entertaining storyteller, giving good weight right up until the final page.

    Ian McEwan's novel
    Ian McEwan: "Subtle as well as powerful"
    Even by his exacting standards his latest novel is extraordinary. His trademark sentences of sustained eloquence and delicacy, which have sometimes over-rationalised the evocation of emotion, strike a deeper resonance in Atonement.

  • Russel Celyn Jones, The Times.

    Taking you into the world of a country house situated amid handsomely landscaped grounds, Atonement opens with a leisurely expansiveness unexpected from Ian McEwan.

    Subtle as well as powerful, adeptly encompassing comedy as well as atrocity, Atonement is a richly intricate book. Unshowy symmetries and patterns underlie its emotional force and psychological compulsion.

  • Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times.


    Oxygen by Andrew Miller

    At times, reading this disparate, exact novel, you have the suspicion that Andrew Miller's writing might be capable of anything. It is particularly adept, however, at inhabiting neutered, almost insulated lives.

    Andrew Miller:
    Andrew Miller: "A bleak world invested with a peculiar beauty"
    Here, he brings his attentions up to date, but the places his imagination visits are no less strange and no less directly realised, and the preoccupation with emotional vacuums persists.

  • Tim Adams, The Observer.

    Miller creates a hero, Alec, who is a struggling, UEA-educated translator returning to his West Country childhood home. He is there both to confront his failure - his elder brother Larry is an ex-tennis star turned soap-opera celeb living the high life in San Francisco - and to care for his ailing mother, Alice, who sits amid the fading memories of her echoing house as cancer comes to claim her piece by piece.

    Most fiction catalogues its characters' achievements; Miller lingers remorselessly on their failures. It's a bleak world, but one invested with a peculiar beauty.

  • Alfred Hickling, The Guardian.


    Number9dream
    David Mitchell

    The imaginative excursions of Number9Dream are rather more wearing and require something of the patience of a parent with a very small child to endure. A simple plot is manically embellished with dreams and fantasies that succeed in suffocating the story itself.

  • Rachel Cusk, Express on Sunday.

    David Mitchell
    David Mitchell: "Requires the patience of a parent with a very small child"
    Each of the eight chapters (the ninth is a blank page) is ruled by a different narrative element and haunted by a different stylistic genre, as though Mitchell were seeking a prose equivalent of the mix 'n' match culture he evokes.

    We pass through science fiction, fairytale, shoot-'em-up video game, children's fable, ghost story, pastoral tragedy and urban nightmare.

  • Patrick Gale, Mail on Sunday.


    The Dark Room
    Rachel Seiffert

    Many novelists take the subject of the second World War, most frequently the horrors of the Holocaust, as the theme for fiction. Rachel Seiffert's committed and courageous début takes on this most profoundly difficult of tragedies and attempts to make sense of the angry shame.

    Rachel Seiffert's novel
    Rachel Seiffert: "Not an easy book"
    This is not an easy book, and perhaps not an entirely successful one, yet it is a fine and important novel.

  • Eileen Battersby, Irish Times.

    The novel could be read as a kind of "guilt-literature", an attempted exorcism. However, its refusal to shy away from its subject elevates it above this status.

    Her work does not attempt to imagine itself into the hellish universe of the camps - it keeps a respectful distance, and this in itself has the effect of allying the reader with the incomprehension of the German people. Yet this is not a refusal to acknowledge events.

  • Zoe Green, Observer.


    Hotel World
    Ali Smith

    In this voice from beyond the grave Ali Smith has created the perfect literary ghost.

    Ali Smith
    Ali Smith: "Bristles with inventiveness"
    The scene in which Sara goes into her grave and starts antagonising her happily slumbering corpse is a masterpiece of black comic dialogue.

  • Melissa Katsoulis, the Times.

    Ali Smith's second novel owes debts of honour to Joyce and Woolf but repays them with interest, modernising the modernists for a new century.

    Emotionally charged and compassionate, it bristles with inventiveness. Remember you must live. And remember you must read this book.

  • David Robinson, Scotsman.

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