Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Prize Winning Fiction
Prize Winning Fiction

1969 Booker Prize Winner

Something to Answer For by P H Newby


Publisher: Faber & Faber

Length: 284 pages

About: Murder mystery in 1950s Egypt

Style: 3rd person

Where: Egypt

When: 1950s



Publisher’s synopsis:

It was 1956 and he was in Port Said. About these two facts he was reasonably certain but a murderous attack left him certain about little else – maybe just the conviction that the British usually did the right thing and that to be a crook a man must assume the society he lived in was honest.




The old girl kept writing and complaining about the police. It was enough to start Townrow on a sequence of dreams. Night after night he floated in the sunset-flushed, marine city. He could smell the salt and the jasmine. He dreamed that Mrs Khoury, Mr Khoury and he were all sailing out of the harbor in a boat that slowly filled with water. He dreamed he was in a hot, dark room with a lot of men who argued and shouted. It must have been in the Greek Sailing Club because when a door opened there were oars and polished skiffs; and opposite, high over Simon Artz’s, of the other side of the Canal, was Johnnie Walker with his cane and his top hat setting off for Suez. Or was it the Med.?





Events move swiftly against the violence and anarchy of the city under constant shelling; they are skillfully managed as a photomontage for Townrow's disorientation. A little Kafka-a little Greene-a little Ambler in a charade which is also an expertly agile entertainment poised between the unsuspected and the unknown.

March 28th 1969 Kirkus Review

For full review click here.

The only firm conclusion I've been able to draw is that this book is a victim of the vagaries of fate. The simple fact is that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's beautifully written, shot through with crisp, mordant wit, and Newby plays out his narrative with consummate skill to ensure it baffles and intrigues, leaving the readers hooked and thrashing about for meaning, desperate for him to reel things in.

The Guardian Book Blogs, Sam Jordison, 21st November 2007 For full review click here



Not so good:

Townrow might be the most unreliable narrator I have come across - it is impossible to distinguish what is actually happening and what is fantasy in his head. I do think he might actually be in Egypt, but whether or not people are dead or alive, whether the British are attacking the Suez canal or not, and whether he is good or bad is a complete mystery. This is the first recipient of the Booker prize, and to be honest that is a bit of a mystery to me as well.

Good Reads Jenny, March 9th 2007

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About the author

P H Newby was born in 1918 in Crowborough, Sussex. In October 1939 he was sent to France, to fight in the war as a private, in a Medical Corps Unit. He was released from duty in December 1942, and taught English Literature at Fouad 1st University, Cairo. When his first novel, A Journey into the Interior (1946) was published, he returned to England to write. He was the first winner of the Booker Prize, his novel Something to Answer For (1969). He was given a CBE for his work as Managing Director of BBC Radio. P H Newby died in 1997.






















Page turner









Age guide: 12





Novels by same author:

A Journey to the Interior (1945)

The Spirit of Jem (1947)

Agents and Witnesses (1947)

Mariner Dances (1948)

The Loot Runners (1949)

The Snow Pasture (1949)

The Young May Moon (1950)

A Season in England (1951)

A Step to Silence (1952)

The Retreat (1953)

Picnic at Sakkara (1955)

Revolution and Roses (1957)

Ten Miles From Anywhere (1958)

A Guest and His Going (1960)

The Barbary Light (1962)

One of the Founders (1965)

A Lot to Ask (1973)

Kith (1977)

Feelings Have Changed (1981)

Leaning in the Wind (1986)

Coming in with the Tide (1991)

Something About Women (1995)








None to date












2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner

It's a massive day in arts and journalism because the 100th annual Pulitzer Prize winners were just announced, and there's a big surprise. 2015's best artistic and nonfiction writing across 21 categories were recognized during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Hebert Bayward Swope, a reporter for The New York World, in 1916. (And if you're as big a fan of Newsies as I am, that paper should ring a bell, but try to think of it more positively.)

The major prize for book nerds, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press), a legitimate surprise, if you've been paying attention to the book nerd and industry buzz. The feeling around the prize in the last few months would have you putting all your hard-earned cash down on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to take home the award, but that's why you should never gamble. Viet Thanh Nguyen is no less deserving, and moreover, it's his debut novel, which makes it such a wonderful win.

Extract from New York Times to view full article...

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