The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan (Book 5 for the (Wo)Man Booker Prize)


Another book about family. Written beautifully, to be sure, but like Anne Enright’s The Green Road, not worthy of the Booker.

An old woman named Anne, suffering from dementia and the loss of her life long love, Harry. She speaks to a rabbit, who isn’t real, and heats up tins of soup for him in the microwave.

Her grandson, Luke, who is a Captain with his troop in Afghanistan, led by the Major into a wedding feast which goes horribly wrong.

Her daughter, Alice, an aloof woman with some validity to her attitude as we come to find out at the conclusion of the novel.

The illuminations refer to more than the beautiful lights in Blackpool. They also refer to how we discover who we are, often with great pain. They refer to the peeling back of shadows under which we live our life in apparent illusion.

I like the concentric circles on the cover. I like how they indicate that we come from a core which is our family, imperfect at best. I liked this book. But, I didn’t love it. (Quite possibly nothing after A Little Life will be able to affect me in such a powerful way.)

19 thoughts on “The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan (Book 5 for the (Wo)Man Booker Prize)”

  1. I landed in a similar place as you. It’s fine, kind of clever in the way it comes together at the end. I thought I might appreciate it more with a little distance, but I’m not finding that to be the case. Mostly, it makes me sorry A God in Ruins wasn’t longlisted because it covers similar ground in a more satisfying way.


    1. It’s interesting how we tend to land in the same places about books. My mother says, “Readers always know which is the best piece of writing,” and somehow, without a rubric or scale or anything numeric, we do. I haven’t read A God in Ruins, but thanks for the title “suggestion”.


    1. Like I said above to Teresa, love how we are all together. Beautiful to read. Smooth writing. Same old story, with the war in Afghanistan thrown in for good measure.


  2. Thank you for this beautiful review Meredith, short, yet your words say much.
    It seems to me, the selection this year is more appealing than last year.
    My feel is, A Little Life, will, should win the Man Booker Prize. I have not started as of yet, the reviews I see speak volumes about this novel.
    A nice end of day to you xox


    1. I try to keep my reviews on the short side. Mostly, because we readers have real books to read, not someone’s thoughts on them.

      I strongly suspect that A Little Life will win the Man Booker Prize. We’ll see…


  3. Since I’m pretty much out of the literary loop, I don’t understand the (Wo)Man Booker prize. Are women not included in the list for the Man Booker prize? Surely not. Or is this an independent, parallel prize that’s been established for some reason? Just curious.


      1. I’m so glad that you like your Kindle! I never thought I would prefer, at times, to read from a device than a real book. Except there are days, when a book is super thick for example, or I’m on vacation, that a Kindle is so perfect to hold. I also like how it’s illuminated, and I can make the font bigger. Still, I’ll always like the smell and feel of a real book best.


    1. My fault. I should have added a link to the post earlier in the month which mentioned that five of us women bloggers are reading for the Man Booker prize. Hence, the play on words; (Wo)Man Booker Prize. Sorry to be unclear.


  4. Hi Bellezza, Would you mind if I mention your blog in a post? I wanted to do a post on some blogs I enjoy, and yours is one of them. It would just be a short paragraph about why I like it, with a link to your blog. I’ll be sure to send the link once it’s live. Thanks!


  5. So as far as you’re concerned Little Life is a cert for the prize. Hopefully you are right & the collective “Oafish-Oil Judges can remember that they once we’re readers & come down from their high thrones and make a similar choice. But past experience has me not daring to hold my breath in anticipation ; -(


    1. I was at first surprised when I read your comment, that as far as I’m concerned A Little Life will win. I haven’t finished all the books yet, but, yeah. I guess I think that’s what will happen. It is too powerful, despite it’s flaws, to be ignored.

      As for judges…we know the idiots for the IFFP 2014 chose The Iraqi Christ, and there’s no explaining that decision. Oh, wait. It’s politically correct!


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