Who will win the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction?

The Pulitzer Prizes

Are you wondering who will win the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction?  You only have to wait a couple more days.  All Pulitzer Prize winners will be announced on Monday, April 18, beginning at 3:00 pm ET.  This year is special because it is the 100th awarding of the prizes.

Do you remember last year’s fiction award winner?  It was one of my favorites, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  You can read my gushing review of that terrific book here.

all the light we cannot see

The prize isn’t just for fiction, however.  There are twenty-one categories which recognize excellence in journalism and the arts.  Here’s the full list:

JOURNALISM

  • Public Service
  • Breaking News Reporting
  • Investigative Reporting
  • Explanatory Reporting
  • Local Reporting
  • National Reporting
  • International Reporting
  • Feature Writing
  • Commentary
  • Criticism
  • Editorial Writing
  • Editorial Cartooning
  • Breaking News Photography
  • Feature Photography

LETTERS, DRAMA AND MUSIC

  • Fiction
  • Drama
  • History
  • Biography or Autobiography
  • Poetry
  • General Nonfiction
  • Music

SPECIAL CITATIONS (not every year)

It’s too late to enter for 2016, but if you think you’re worthy of this prestigious award, you can check out the procedures here.   Nominated finalists are not publicized, so it’s anybody’s guess who will win!

The Pulitzer Prize website, pulitzer.org, is an excellent source of information about the award and its history.  And for some additional fun facts, click here to read my post about the 2015 winners.

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Book Club Mom’s Best of 2015

2015

I’m jumping in and sharing my favorites of 2015 – what were yours?


The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

the grapes of wrath


Night by Elie Wiesel

Night


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

all the light we cannot see


“The Year of Getting to Know Us” by Ethan Canin

Scribner Anthology


“The Man Who Knew Belle Starr” by Richard Bausch

Scribner Anthology


Joy in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse

Just Enough Jeeves


Very Good, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Just Enough Jeeves


Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five


Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Burial Rites cover


A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

A God in Ruins cover


What did you read in 2015?  Have you made a list of favorites?

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All the Light We Cannot See – favorite parts

all the light we cannot see

I’m still thinking about All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr! That’s always a sign of a great book. Here are some of my favorite things, with only small spoilers:

First of all, can’t you just imagine a story taking place in this ancient walled city?

stmalo1

GREAT IMAGERY

There are so many examples. Here are just a few:

  • Doerr uses great imagery to make you understand how the characters feel about the war and the German occupation of France. Early on, Marie-Laure thinks she can smell gasoline under the wind, “As if a great river of machinery is steaming slowly, irrevocably, toward her.” (p. 61)
  • And Doerr compares the machinery in the distance to Hitler, as Frau Elena sits in the orphanage parlor and worries, “Coal cars grind past in the wet dark. Machinery hums in the distance, pistols throbbing, belts turning. Smoothly. Madly.” (p. 65)
  • Marie-Laure thinks about the bombing of Saint-Malo as if a big tree is being uprooted: “The notion occurs to her that the ground beneath Saint-Malo has been knitted together all along by the root structure of an immense tree, located at the center of the city, in a square no one ever walked her to, and the massive tree has been uprooted by the hand of God and the granite is coming with it, heaps and clumps and clods of stones pulling away as the trunk comes up, followed by the fat tendrils of roots – the root structure like another tree turned upside down and shoved into the soil..” (pp. 95-6)

GREAT CHARACTERS

Here are my favorites:

  • Marie-Laure because of her courage.
  • Papa and his love for Marie-Laure.  I love his puzzle boxes and the miniature neighborhoods he builds to help her learn her way around.
  • Werner despite his moral conflicts, because of what he does at the end and how he realizes that this is his moment, “All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?” (p. 465)
  • Madame Manec because of what she says to Etienne: “Don’t you want to be alive before you die?” (p. 270) I love how this idea becomes an important recurring theme.
  • Etienne because of how he transforms. When he acts, “he feels unshakable; he feels alive.” (p. 331)
  • Volkheimer because he has both good and bad sides. As Doerr develops this character, he introduces another great recurring theme, “What you could be.” (p. 251)
  • Frederick because of his courage to follow his own moral compass at Shulpforta.

THEMES

Courage, love, defiance, overcoming the belief that we are all locked into unchangeable roles.

UNIQUE STRUCTURE

  • Connections between characters and events that are not immediately apparent but are revealed later.
  • Characters that disappear from the storyline after you start caring about them, forcing you to wonder how they are doing and what they are thinking. Not everyone likes this, but I think Doerr does it deliberately to make you think.
  • Jumping back and forth between storylines and time periods. Some readers have complained about this. I think it forces you to think about what’s happening.
  • References to light and the moon throughout the book, but no exact repetition of the title in the text. A late reference ties it all together.
  • The mix of fairy-tale legends with wartime reality.

MISCELLANEOUS COMMENTS

  • Not everyone appreciates parallel references to books within a book’s story. Marie-Laure’s favorite book is Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne, and there are many references. I never read this one, but my general knowledge of Captain Nemo and the Nautilus was enough to make it work.
  • Because this story takes place during World War 2, some readers think there aren’t enough references to the Holocaust and the major events of the war. I think All the Light We Cannot See is more a story about characters doing great things during a terrible period of history, and that Doerr purposely focuses on the characters, not all the events of the war, which figure prominently in many other historical fiction books.
  • Some readers do not like Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel’s villainous character, saying it does not fit with the rest of the book. I think it’s a necessary device to incorporate the Sea of Flames diamond plot into the storyline, but I agree with some of the comments.
  • Not everyone likes how the author ties up the story.  You’ll have to read it to understand what I mean.  I think the final chapters are necessary, and I always like when an author leaves a few loose ends for me to think about.
  • I especially love the indirect reference to The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. Can’t say more because it will spoil the story!

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

all the light we cannot see

All the Light We Cannot See
by
Anthony Doerr

Rating:

I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed this terrific book set during World War II in the walled coastal city of Saint Malo, France. It’s easy to understand why All the Light We Cannot See won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It’s a story full of great characters, important themes, and a plot that’s a wonderful mix of reality and fairytale.

Imagine being Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a young blind girl in Paris, whose entire world revolves around her father, Daniel, a trusted locksmith at the city’s Museum of Natural History. He’s built her a miniature model of their neighborhood and is busy teaching her how to find her way. Meanwhile, the threat of German occupation is real, and the museum is rushing to pack up and send off its valuable exhibits and specimens, before they become German property. Among these priceless objects is the Sea of Flames diamond, a legendary stone of mesmerizing beauty, but thought to carry a curse. When Marie-Laure and her father flee France for Saint Malo, he’s carrying a gem, but is it the Sea of Flames or a decoy?

At the same time, Werner Pfennig is a young boy growing up in an orphanage in the coal mining town of Zollverein, Germany. Desperate for a way out of a life destined for the coal mines, Werner discovers a broken radio. He’s instantly fascinated and teaches himself how to fix and build radios. A genius understanding of the math behind transmitting and receiving signals earns him a glowing reputation, but his hopeful future takes a turn when he’s called to fix a radio for a German officer. The officer recruits Werner to be a member of an elite Hitler youth group and he’s sent away to a brutal camp.

Werner becomes an expert in radio transmission, but questions of morality weigh heavy on him, especially when he’s on missions to locate enemy transmissions. When her father has to leave, Marie-Laure feels helpless in her uncle’s house where it’s becoming more and more dangerous. Slowly, these characters develop and find a way to make a difference, but their futures carry sadness as well.

I won’t spoil the story for you, so I will stop here. This is the kind of book you study. It’s full of great quotes, wonderful ideas and serious moral questions. I’m sure I will be reading this again!

I have many favorite parts, and I’ll write about them tomorrow!

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Reading update – All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

all the light we cannot see

I’m busy reading All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr and I already know that this will become one of my favorite books. I’m about 100 pages in and, when I have to put it down, all I can think about is the characters Doerr has created, what they will do and what will happen to them.

To show you what I mean, here are a few lines that make me want to keep reading:

In another half second her father’s hands are in her armpits, swinging her up, and Marie-Laure smiles, and he laughs a pure, contagious laugh, one she will try to remember all her life, father and daughter turning in circles on the sidewalk in front of their apartment house, laughing together while snow sifts through the branches above. (p. 41)

And yet everything radiates tension, as if the city has been built upon the skin of a balloon and someone is inflating it toward the breaking point. (p. 70)

In her coat against the black trees, her face looks paler and more frightened than he has ever seen it. Has he ever asked so much of her? (p. 108)

Thanks for visiting – check back soon for my review!

Best Fiction of 2014 – books I want to read

A busy book club mom can’t read everything as soon as it comes out, so here’s a list of what I want to read soon. I got these titles from a bunch of “Best of the Bests” floating around the internet this time of year. One book appeared on almost every list – All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, so I may start there.

 

a girl is a half-formed thingan

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing – Eimear McBride

This is McBride’s debut novel about a young woman’s relationship with her brother who suffered a childhood brain tumor.

 

all the light we cannot see

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

A National Book Award Finalist, this is a story about a blind French girl and a German boy who meet in occupied France during World War II.

 

big little lies

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

A story about the lives of three women, their marriages and all the baggage – ex-husbands, children, sadness, loss, scandals and lies.

 

the boston girl

The Boston Girl – Anita Diamant

A novel about a family, friendship and young Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early twentieth century.

 

let me be frank with you

Let Me Be Frank With You – Richard Ford

Four linked stories about the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy are narrated by Ford’s famous literary storyteller, Frank Bascombe.

 

lucky us

Lucky Us – Amy Bloom

Two women friends travel through America during the 1940s in search of fame and fortune.

 

the miniaturist

The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

A novel about a young newlywed in seventeenth century Amsterdam, an unusual wedding gift – a miniature model of their home – and the artist she hires to furnish it.

 

stone mattress

Stone Mattress: Nine Tales – Margaret Atwood

Nine new stories by one of the best in short fiction.

 

the vacationers

The Vacationers – Emma Straub

The Post family travels on a two-week vacation to the Balearic Island of Mallorca to celebrate, but their idyllic vacation takes a turn when old resentments, sibling rivalries and secrets break the surface.

 

we are not ourselves

We Are Not Ourselves – Matthew Thomas

Eileen Tumulty is an Irish-American from Queens, New York, with an eye to reach for the American Dream, an ambition her husband does not share. Years of marriage make this rift nearly impossible to mend.

 

Thanks to the following sources: Amazon.com, BuzzFeed Books, The Daily Beast, Entertainment Weekly, Goodreads, Kirkus Reviews, The New York Times, The Washington Post

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