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

2000 Costa Winner

English Passengers by Matthew Kneale


Publisher: Penguin

Length: 462 Pages

About: Eccentric Victorians sail to Tasmania

Style: 1st person, letters and reports

Where: Isle of Man, England, on board ship and Tasmania

When: 1820-1859



Publisher’s synopsis:

To refute geological evidence that the world is more than 6000 years old, Reverend Geoffrey Wilson creates a theory that God created a land (the Garden of Eden) where cooling of rocks took place in a short period. Tasmania is regarded as the most likely place and so a ship, Sincerity, is chartered with the most unlikely mix of characters aboard. Meanwhile we are shown the plight of Aborigines fighting the newly arrived Westerners.



 Accompanying Mr Renshaw’s letter was a reference from the eminent botanist Dr Dyson, who had been engaged in instructing Timothy, and who praised his student’s work upon cold-climate plants – especially thistles – describing him as ‘a rising talent in this rare field.’ It was only when I met the younger Renshaw that I found myself wondering if Dyson’s praise were not double-edged, and if the rareness of his field might be a subtle qualification upon his rising talent.




‘…By the time all these threads are gathered, there is a nice anticipation in place. The expedition approaches a Tasmania the reader knows has long lost its innocence. This tension carries the story through revenge, betrayal and a series of surprises to an unexpected denouement. English Passengers is one of the most satisfying historical novels I have read.’ 

Times Online 24th March 2000 Derrek Hines


Not so Good:

 ‘…This is a sad tale of suffering, rape, murder and the misguided efforts of a paternalistic do-gooder (modeled on a real person, George Robinson, who tried to save, clothe and Christianize the aborigines). Much of it is told by Peevay, member of an aborigine band. It is no easy job for a novelist to imagine himself into the head of a Stone Age hunter-gatherer. Kneale's Peevay is an earnest, admirable, good-hearted try, but does not fully come alive. This element of the story feels a touch tedious….' 

New York Times 28th May 2000 Adam Hochschild


About the Author

Matthew Kneale was born in London in 1960. His first novel, Whore Banquets won a Somerset-Maughan Award and his novel Sweet Thames won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. 


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Film directed by Alan Bleasdale – No release date as yet













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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