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Barry last year, Toibin and Trevor Booker-mugged this year?

The Guardian's Robert McCrum, he who, of late, has been too enthusiastic about Kindle, has asked why Colm Toibin's 'small masterpiece' has been left off this year's Booker shortlist. He's right. It is a small masterpiece. A narrative of exile expertly controlled and slowly revealed until all the sadness is there, gaping. William Trevor also didn't make it. One has to ask why. I felt that Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture was robbed last year. What links these three great books from masters of the form? Yes, they're all Irish. Too good by half, it would seem.

Anyway. I've been struggling with getting my own revised structure down on paper this week, but I think I've done it, well, not 'done it' as set in stone, but it gives me a good idea of what needs to be included. Much thought still has to go into the chronology of all the events, which will not be linear. Wondering where to get a sense of Brussels in the nineteenth century, which is where Mary Burns spends 1845/6, I have turned to Charlotte Bronte's Villette. It has been on my bookshelf for a good few years and I've never got round to reading it. Many claim that it is overshadowed by Jane Eyre, and that Villette is a masterpiece in its own right. I'm enjoying it so far. Not sure if I'll get the sense of 19thC Brussels that I'll need but....onwards.

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Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

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