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

1991 Costa Winner

The Queen of the Tambourine by Jane Gardam


Publisher: Picador

Length: 226 pages

About: Downward spiral of surburban housewife

Style: 1st person

Where: England (London)

When: 1990s



Publisher’s synopsis:

Eliza Peabody is one of those dangerously blameless women who believe they have God in their pocket. She is a modern-day Florence Nightingale, always up at the Hospice or the Wives' club; she is too enthusiastic; she talks too much. Her concern for the welfare of her wealthy south London neighbours even extends to ingenuous, well-meaning notes of unsolicited advice under the door. It is just such a one-sided correspondence that heralds Eliza's undoing. Did her letter have something to do with Joan's abrupt disappearance from number forty-one? What to make of the long absences of her husband and Joan's, and of the two men's new, inseparable friendship? And why will no one else on Rathbone Road speak of Joan? As Eliza's own life seems to disintegrate, she finds that, despite the pity and embarrassment with which her neighbours greet her, she is at last being drawn into their lives - although not in the way she had once fantasised about. This is a sharp, poignant and wickedly funny tale of love, heartache and disillusionment





Joan I can assure you that (Charles) will never look at another woman. If he were the type for that - I may as well say it straight out, as I always do - if he were, as would be natural in a healthy man of his age, to turn elsewhere for comfort, he would surely turn to me. I do tend to captivate men because of my looks. This is not conceit but fact.






British author Gardam, who won a Whitbread Award for this jigsaw puzzle of a novel, keeps up the suspense to the end, writing like a sorceress in the meantime. Though the book's last-page revelations are bluntly abrupt, Gardam's portrait of an insanely imaginative woman in an elusive midlife crisis is impeccably drawn.

Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times Book Critic 28th September 2007


Not so good

Very mixed feelings about this book. At times I really enjoyed her humor but it couldn't hold me for long so I would put the book down for a while and then come back to it. I really didn't care much for the characters and had a difficult time caring what happened to them. Am I glad I read it? Not particularly and probably wouldn't have finished it if it wasn't a selection for the book group. Marj's review May 2012


About the author

Jane Mary Gardam OBE FRSL (born 11 July 1928) is an English writer of children's and adult fiction. She also reviews for The Spectator and The Telegraph, and writes for BBC radio.

Jane Gardam was born in Coatham, North Yorkshire to William and Kathleen Mary Pearson, and grew up in Cumberland and the North Riding of Yorkshire. At the age of seventeen, she won a scholarship to read English at Bedford College, London now part of Royal Holloway, University of London (BA English, 1949}. After leaving university Gardam worked in a number of literary related jobs, starting off as a Red Cross Travelling Librarian for hospital libraries, and later a journalist.

She was married to David Gardam QC and had three children, Tim, Kitty, a botanical artist who died in 2011, and Tom. Tim Gardam is the Principal of St Anne's College, Oxford.



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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.

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