Who will win this year’s Booker Prize?

According to the bookmakers, William Hill, this year’s Man Booker prize is a neck and neck race between Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies and William Self’s Umbrella. They both come in at odds of 2:1 whereas Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis is the rank outsider.

But the outcome isn’t nearly as clear as those odds suggest. On the BBC’s The Culture Show last week, the panel members weren’t in agreement on which novelist deserved to win. While it was universally agreed Mantel’s book is as good as Wolf Hall with which she won three years ago, doubt was cast on whether it was appropriate to give the title to the second in a trilogy. The chairman of judges Peter Stothard, hasn’t ruled out the possibility, saying that if anything Mantel’s command of her narrative method is even stronger second time round. The panel also touted Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home  as a potential winner, along with  Umbrella and Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse.

Over at the Guardian, the various contributors are unanimous in not agreeing who should win. Robert McCrum acknowledges that it will be a difficult decision – he is tipping Will Self’s Umbrella but with a side bet on  The Lighthouse. But even he admits: “I say this every year: caveat emptor. With Booker, anything goes.” His fellow Guardian contributor Nicholas Wroe however, is backing Narcopolis while Sarah Crown argues in favour of Swimming Home.

The Independent seems to be backing Moore while the Daily Mail sees Umbrella as the clear favourite because of its compelling plot even though it recognises that the book doesn’t aspire to accessibility.

Across the Atlantic, this year’s award is also attracting considerable interest. For Paul Levy at the Wall Street Journal, there is no question but the prize has to go to Mantel. It would be typically ‘boneheaded’ of the judges however to pick Umbrella simply “because it is the most difficult/experimental/tricky book on the 2012 shortlist.

….one novel is so superior that only non-literary reasons could excuse their awarding the £50,000 to one of the other five. Hilary Mantel’s “Bring Up the Bodies,” a sequel to her 2009 Man Booker Prize-winning “Wolf Hall,” occupies an eminence of its own.

The sole reason possible for denying Ms. Mantel the 2012 prize would be that the judges feel it is someone else’s turn to win. It would be disgraceful, but perfectly in keeping with the perverse record of Man Booker Prize judges down the years.

Since the only one I’ve read out of the six shortlisted titles, is Mantel, I don’t feel that qualified to name my own favourite. It partly depends on whether the judges want to go for readability over inventiveness I suppose. I understand the argument against selecting Mantel but isn’t it more difficult to write a second novel about the same character and to keep the same quality?

We’ll find out soon enough I suppose!

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on October 14, 2012, in Booker Prize and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’d like Hilary Mantel to win mostly for the sake of history. But I haven’t read anything from the shortlist yet, so really, all I could do is read the speculations of those who have at least read one shortlisted work.

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  2. I haven’t read any of them either so I’m in no position to say anything either. But I’m very curious about which one will come out on top. It sounds like so much fun to have been part of a shadowing group, reading the entire short list and deciding on a winner!

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  3. I’m in no position to judge, either, but I notice you’re reading ‘White Tiger’ and the year that won I was part of a shadowing group that read the short list and came up with our own winner. We couldn’t agree and so in then end went for the book most people had liked second best -‘White Tiger’. I’ve often wondered if the real judges did the same and if so then presumably a book no one thought to be the best won that year. Perhaps that happens more often than we think.

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