Booker prize shortlist 2018

And then there were six.

The Booker Prize judging panel announced today the books that have made it through to the shortlist round of the 2018 prize.

One surprise is that the biggest name on the longlist has now been removed from the prize. I’m still waiting for my copy of Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight  to become available in the library but I’ve seen nothing but praise for this book so it’s strange not to find it on the shortlist.

One disappointment is that Donal Ryan’s From A Low And Quiet Sea didn’t make it through. As you can read in my review I thought this was even better than his earlier Booker contender The Spinning Heart.  

No surprises that Belinda Bauer’s Snap is not on the shortlist. Frankly it was a surprise to find it on the longlist. Much has been made of the fact that this was the first crime novel to be included in the Booker longlist. That’s not factually correct (Eleanor Catton’s The Illuminations was a crime novel in a sense) but even  Snap isn’t anything remarkable according to many comments and reviews I’ve seen in recent weeks.  I’ll reach my own conclusion shortly since this has been chosen for our next book club read.

The other longlisted title about which there was a lot of fuss was Sabrina by Nick Drnaso, the first graphic novel to be included on the list. This has now disappeared from the contenders.

So what are we left with? These are all the shortlisted titles, ranked in order by members of the Mookes and the Gripes group on Goodreads.

Robin Robertson (UK):  The Long Take (Picador): debut novel from a Scottish poet, written partly in verse. Chronicling the drift of a Canadian D-Day veteran across post-war America, Robertson fuses poetry, cinema and the traditions of noir into an elegy for a lost age.

Richard Powers (USA): The Overstory (William Heinemann): Pulitzer- winning                  novelist longlisted in 2014 for Orfeo. The Overstory is a mosaic of stories spanning time and space, joined together by the overarching strata of the world’s trees and a mission to save the last virgin forest

Daisy Johnson (UK): Everything Under (Jonathan Cape): debut novel that reimagines The Oedipal myth of divided families, inter-generational rivalry and twisted fate. Set in a remote cottage in the British countryside, the novel centres on the complex and fractured relationship between an isolated young lexicographer and her mother, a woman gradually succumbing to dementia.

Anna Burns (UK) : Milkman (Faber & Faber): described as a darkly wry – but disquieting – coming of age novel set in a thinly-disguised Belfast of the “Troubles”. The narrative focuses on a nameless, 18-year-old narrator and her affair with the somewhat sinister ‘Milkman’, a much older married man allied with the paramilitaries.

Rachel Kushner (USA): The Mars Room (Jonathan Cape):  a novel partly set in a women’s correctional facility from an author who says her inspiration is Don DeLillo. The narrative follows convict Romy Hall as she begins two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility.

Esi Edugyan (Canada): Washington Black (Serpent’s Tail): Edugyan is a previous nominee having been shortlisted in 2011 for Half-Blood Blues. Her new novel is described as a dazzlingly inventive new story of antebellum-era slavery and exploration that spans the globe.

I have three of these on hold at the library so with a little luck I might get to read at least a few before the winner is announced on October 16.


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 September 20, 2018, in Book Reviews, Man Booker Prize and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. I have Washington Black, but purely by chance. I’m afraid a list that only includes UK, US and Canadian writers isn’t going to interest me. If they’re good, they’ll get plenty of publicity without needing the Booker. As for Snap – well, I’ve loved some of Belinda Bauer’s books but they’re just crime thrillers… not at all in the same class as Catton’s The Luminaries, where the crime was secondary to the depiction of the formation of a new society. I fear the Booker is no longer one of my bookish highlights…

    • I agree about the list being so limited. Following your blog, Karen, has given me lots to think about regarding how prizes are chosen and how authors rise to the top as a result.

      • I started reading the Booker winners hoping to find out why they are rated so highly and how winners are chosen. But I’m none the wiser – some choices just leave me baffled how they ever got onto the shortlist

    • I’m afraid my love affair with the Booker is also at at end. And its the lack of geographic diversity that annoys me most. Not a single Australian, New Zealand, African author on the long list this year. Only one Australian last year and even he was actually a South African by birth. Just not good enough

  2. BTW I think supporting experimental writing is really important, even if it is sometimes challenging to read, and am glad the Booker takes that a bit seriously. It refreshes the literary landscape and often results is really memorable books for me.

  3. I’m clearly out of touch with contemporary English language literature. I’ve not heard of most of these writers, except Powers and Kushner. A few sound intriguing to me, but whether I’ll read them is another thing.

    • The last couple of years when the list came out I had more than a few ‘Who’s she/he?” moments. I’ve just picked up the Kushner from the library. It seems to be strongly favoured as the winner but then the favourite hasn’t always won in previous years

      • I heard a brief discussion about the shortlist today and about how many of them are, in fact, short. Apparently the judges commented that some of the long books they read contained short books trying to get out!

  4. I haven’t read any of them, and don’t plan to (though I have Warlight and would have read it and the Donal Ryan anyway), but re your comment about experimental writing… perhaps their form is experimental, but the themes as described here are tiresomely dull. When you think of all the great issues of our age, where are the books about that?

  5. Haven’t read any of these but have Overstory in my TBR stack. Like you, disappointed that Donal Ryan wasn’t shortlisted.

  6. Funny, I was just having the opposite feeling, that it might be time to return and take a closer look, now that so many of the names are new and the formats and styles more varied. Although I agree that the experimental writing can be daunting, isn’t all the research pointing towards the fact that trying new things and keeping those brain pathways hopping is a good idea (speaking from a reader’s perspective, not trying to tackle the question of literary merit and which book/writer deserves more attention)?

  7. Now that The Overstory is more talked about I’m quite intrigued to read it. Milkman has had mixed reviews so I wasn’t really interested to pick it up, but I’m more likely to read The Mars Room personally from the list.

  8. I was surprised that Ondaatje and Rooney didn’t make it and disappointed about Donal Ryan. I think though that The Overstory might take it.

  9. I’ve placed library holds on five of the books (they don’t own the Robertson) but I doubt my ability to read many of them before the announcement, especially given the length of the Powers novel.

  10. I have read The Overstory and The Mars Room. Loved them both. I will read Washington Black. Today I am in your country, reading Ellis Peters’s Flight of a Witch!

  11. I am really sad that From a Low and Quiet Sea didn’t make it! But, I am fine with neither Warlight nor Sabrina making it, either. They were both highky overrated in my opinion. Now to open up Overstory while I await the others from the library.

  12. What horrified me is my own complete lack of concern about this list. I no longer expect the Booker to short list novels that I want to read. I’m not certain whether this says more about me as a reader or the way in which the Booker has changed but I feel it as a loss.

    • I think it probably has more to do with the prize than us; I feel similarly to you. More often than not, the past few years, the list has been less than stellar. I miss the likes of A. S. Byatt’s Possession, as if Paul Beatty’s The Sellout could even compare.

      • the more recent years have also left me scratching my head and wondering what the h*** the judges were thinking about. Consequently the winners from the past three years are sitting unread on my shelves

    • I think I’m hanging on more out of habit than real interest. The judges seem to be going for more experimental works in recent years which might suit the litterati but I often find not particularly enjoyable

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