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The Dinner Guest
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International Booker Prize > 2018 MBI Longlist: The Dinner Guest

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message 1: by Hugh (last edited Mar 13, 2018 03:24AM) (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3166 comments Mod
The Dinner Guest by Gabriela Ybarra Gabriela Ybarra (Spain), Natasha Wimmer, The Dinner Guest (Harvill Secker)


Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8769 comments Hmmm - this was one of the 3 'surprises' on the prize list for me - and it was a considerable disappointment.

my review

This may be more my taste that the merits of the book bu ultimately this sort of book – a semi-fictional tribute to the author’s family members – is just not too my taste. I had a similarly adverse reaction 2 years ago to the MBI longlisted War and Turpentine, where my review concluded: “family biography tends to be of disproportionate interest to those in the family”, and I had the same sentiments here.

Also the book is frustratingly brief and many of the more promising threads simply aren’t pursued.

There is a nice intersection though with Frankenstein in Baghdad as both have scenes showing how car bombings, kidnappings and assassinations can become, somehow, routine:

here:
During the roughest years at the beginning of the eighties – the so-called años de plomo, or Years of Lead – the neighbours pretended that nothing was happening: they played tennis, had cocktails, went out sailing and visited the open-air restaurants of Berango. The tension was under wraps. A car in flames, a dead body, and a few hours later everything seemed to return to normal.

FiB
If she had gone straight back to Tayaran Square, she would have found that everything was calm, just as she had left it in the morning. The pavements would be clean and the cars that had caught fire would have been towed away. The dead would have been taken to the forensics department and the injured to the Kindi Hospital.

But then the comparison of the two books doesn't do this one any favours.

Sorry to start a thread on a downer.....


Neil | 1885 comments I went into this one with some trepidation, given that I had just put down (at just under halfway through) another book translated from Spanish (The Impostor). However, I really enjoyed it, although I share Paul's frustration with its brevity.

This means I have now read 11.5 of the 12 books that are available in the UK. I don't have any plans to go back to complete The Impostor, so that's me done with this year's MBI, unless The Flying Mountain is short listed when I will have to make a decision about whether to buy a copy.


message 4: by Tony (new)

Tony | 592 comments Absolute shit. Proof that it's not only over-privileged Brits and Americans who get to write crap books because of their family name and connections. I feel disgusted that a lot of books and publishers who could have done with the publicity were overlooked for this PRH travesty. Not happy.


message 5: by Paul (last edited Apr 29, 2018 05:20AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8769 comments While not everyone would agree it is necessarily the worst on the list - there is one that basically consists of saying 'absolute shit' and variations on those words for several hundred pages, and another that is marred by its random use of semi-colons - it is certainly the weakest.

No real idea how this got on a list where if books are not to everyone's taste they are all at least distinctive and ambitious.


message 6: by Tony (new)

Tony | 592 comments I try to give the jury the benefit of the doubt - now there is no doubt...


Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8769 comments Although I doubt they picked because of the name (unknown in UK) and Penguin Random House had another book plus this jury was pleasingly open to small/Indy presses. So I think they must have seen something we didn't.


message 8: by Tony (new)

Tony | 592 comments What? Seriously, apart from some touching moments between mother and daughter, this book has nothing going for it. One of the judges must have seriously steamrolled this through at the longlist stage, and the others let it go until the shortlist. Some of the writing is so incredibly dull, flat and bland.


message 9: by Paul (last edited Apr 29, 2018 06:17AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8769 comments Yes I don't think it has anything going for it - hence my weakest comment. (although most people had a book they personally liked less)

I am more saying I don't think it is the publisher's brand or author's name that got it on the list so someone (perhaps singular is more the case as you suggest) must have seen something.

And it is not as if it has been panned in the press e.g.:
https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/bo...

or (a former shadow jury member I think?)
https://winstonsdad.wordpress.com/201...

Although does feel press have fallen more for backstory than the book - which may be the issue - see e.g. Guardian which is an interview not a review
https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...


message 10: by Tony (new)

Tony | 592 comments What I meant was that if it this had been the story of María Sánchez, an unknown secretary from Bilbao, it would never have been published in the first place. I suspect that it's only because of the family that the book was picked up (seriously, buying apartments in New York...).

It doesn't surprise me that some people have latched onto the backstory - which has very little to do with the rest of the book. I'm sorry, but compared to this, VS1 is a masterpiece ;)


message 11: by Tony (new)

Tony | 592 comments "Ybarra, who has a master’s degree in marketing from New York University and currently works in network analysis in Madrid, expertly blends techniques of fiction and non-fiction in her first novel. "

No. She. Doesn't.


message 12: by Paul (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8769 comments Would agree with that (except the Vs1 comparison, this one I haven't returned). Just surprised the UK judges fell for same thing


message 13: by Val (new)

Val | 1016 comments Paul wrote: "...this sort of book – a semi-fictional tribute to the author’s family members – is just not too my taste."
I decided to give this one a miss for just that reason.


message 14: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 4875 comments So, Tony, if I understand you correctly, you don’t care for this book?


message 15: by Paul (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8769 comments He is just bluffing. Secretly he begged the rest of the shadow jury to shortlist it.


message 16: by Tony (new)

Tony | 592 comments *reply censored*


message 17: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 4875 comments 😊


message 18: by Tony (new)

Tony | 592 comments Just finished my review - out Monday Morning/Sunday Evening depending on your location. Just rereading it to make sure it's not libellous ;)


message 19: by Tony (new)

Tony | 592 comments Here's my (rather negative) review:

https://tonysreadinglist.wordpress.co...

Believe me, this is the toned-down version...


message 20: by Paul (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8769 comments Yes I was little disappointed that the libel lawyers won't need to be instructed! Although the worse MBI/IFFP book in the last 7 years or so is a striking claim.

Even in MBI history alone I would put Forrest Gump (aka A Whole Life) and Mirror Shoulder Signal down there with it for sheer blandness.

And it doesn't come close to plumbing the depths of A Cup of Rage or the book which I have a horrible feeling may win this year's prize.


message 21: by Paul (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8769 comments Odd that I find myself on this thread defending this one to an extent given I think I was the first person to read it on night the shadow jury and the M+G forum and told you all not to bother following suit!


message 22: by Tony (new)

Tony | 592 comments The others you mentioned (except for 'A Whole Life') would have been up there (in fact, I'm tempted to go back and add 'A Cup of Rage' to the hall of shame!), but for me this is the bottom of the pile...


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