When the Booker Prize Party Ends, What’s Next?

Hilary Mantel winning the Booker Prize
Two times Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel. Can she make it a record-breaking third win?

The wine has long gone, the applause has died, guest appearances on TV and radio wind down or at least change in nature (think Western Daily Press instead of The Times). And then what??  

The romantic idealists among us would have the winning novelist retreat to a remote Scottish Highland’s cottage to work on their next prize-winner.

What are the chances they will find succeed?

Authors who have managed to win the Booker accolade a second time are in a very elite group. Only four in the 50 years since the prize was inaugurated.

Double Booker Winners

J M Coetzee achieved the double with Life and Times of Michael K in 1983 and then Disgrace in 1999.

Peter Carey won the prize in 1988 with Oscar and Lucinda and then again in 2001 with The True History of The Kelly Gang.

Hilary Mantel became the first woman to twice win the Booker Prize. Wolf Hall, the first of her “Thomas Cromwell” series won in 2009 and the second, Bring Up The Bodies in 2012.

Cover of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, winner of the Booker Prize

More recently, Margaret Atwood had the unusual honour of being the first person to ever share the prize. She won the Booker Prize in her own right with Blind Assassin in 2000 and then her novel Testaments shared it with Bernardine Evaristo in 2019.

Almost Made It

There have been many authors who, having won the top accolade, went on to get pipped at the prize post.

Salman Rushdie won the Booker Prize in 1981 with Midnight’s Children but go further than the shortlist with his controversial novel Satanic Verses . Ian McEwan won the prize  with Amsterdam and was shortlisted for a later novel, Saturday. Having walked off with the prize for The Gathering, Irish author Anne Enright was longlisted for the 2015 prize with The Green Road.

But most other winners, like Ben Okri, Keri Hulme and Yann Martel had their moment of glory and then fizzled out. They’ve continued to write of course but never achieved a repeat of that moment in the spotlight.

Who will win the 2020 award?

The big question now is whether Hilary Mantel can achieve the extraordinary and win for a third time with the final episode in the trilogy: The Mirror and The Light. I’m reading it currently and it’s every bit as good as the first two titles in the trilogy.

But we will have to wait until July 28 when the longlist is announced to get even a sniff of the competition for the 2020 winner. That’s assuming the announcement is not postponed as it was for the winner of the International Booker Prize because readers were having difficulties getting hold of books.

This will be an extraordinary year clearly – as a result of Covid-19, publishers have pushed back the publication dates of many titles that could be prize contenders. The entry rules say all submitted titles have to be published by end of September 2020. So I suspect when the longlist does come out, there will be many books on that list which are yet to be published.

We’ve got used to that in recent years. It’s rare that all the books on the longlist have been published by the time the announcement is made. But this year we may find the majority are yet to hit the bookshops.

If publication dates get pushed out beyond late September some of publishers who submitted titles for consideration back in March might have to pull out and re-enter next year. Unless of course the judges decide in these unprecedented times that they need to be more flexible with the rules.

So far there has been silence from the Booker Prize organisers.

Full Disclosure

This article was first published in 2012. It has been updated to reflect recent winners of the Booker Prize.

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 May 8, 2020, in Book prizes, Man Booker Prize and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I only have 100 pages left and am so enjoying it. She deserves a 3rd win

  2. I wonder what it’s like for the Booker judges this year. No idea when their reading for the prize starts but considering how many novels they have to get through it must have been some time ago given that they have to agree a longlist by the end of July, if they stick to that date. So much slipping and sliding in the publishing schedules it must be a nightmare for all concerned.

  3. Karen, just wanted to let you know how much I am loving your blog. It’s superb. Would you be happy for me to put a link to yours on mine as a blog I read? (that’s assuming I can work out how!) xx

    • With that kind of flattery how could I resist the request!! Just glad to know my meanderings are of interest to someone other than myself and my mum (who like mums all over the world thinks her daughter is brilliant anyway).

  4. I always wonder about this myself, especially the authors from earlier years who may not be as active or in the limelight today. Some of the modern authors are outspoken about the prize process (Julian Barnes for example). For what it’s worth, it is possible to win more than once: Peter Carey and J.M. Coetzee have both done it.

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