Tomorrow sees the announcement of the Man Booker Prize longlist for 2015. I was hesitating from making some predictions of what we might see since a) my previous attempts at anticipating the winners and losers have not exactly been stellar and b) I’m struggling to think of 13 titles which is the traditional number on the longlist.
But having scratched my head for several hours I’ve come up with a few that meet the stipulation that only novels written originally in English and published in the UK (regardless of the author’s nationality) can enter. The book has to have been published between October 2014 and September 2015.
First up are two novels I hope don’t win. I know that sounds a bit mean and disrespectful to the author if either is truly considered the best of the last 12 months. But neither of these books interests me and if it wins I will have to read it as part of my Booker Prize project.
I do expect to see The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro on the longest, and probably on the shortlist, given his stature and the fact this is his first novel for 10 years. It’s attracted widespread acclaim. I had planned to read it and even to see the great man at the Hay Festival but then discovered that much of it was a fantasy and it contained non human creatures that talk (a bug bear of mine). My library reservation was cancelled.
Another prediction I hope doesn’t materialise is Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins. This is another book I’ve not read but since it’s a companion to her earlier novel Life after Life which I could not finish (I got completely bored with it ) I’m not keen to read this one. I may be lucky here since she hasn’t made it to the longlist in the past and she’s written far better novels.
And now to the books I would like to see at least long listed.
Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh. This is the third novel in the Ibis Trilogy which began with Sea of Poppies set against a background of the Opium Wars in China. His latest novel Flood of Fire returns to the outbreak of that time and follows a cast of characters through to China’s devastating defeat and Britain’s seizure of Hong Kong. Ghosh is someone who meticulously researches his novel and brings the historic period to life through some well-drawn characters. I’m relatively new to his novels but have enjoyed everything I’ve read so far.
The change in rules which came about last year means that American authors can now enter the Booker Prize. Which means we could see Toni Morrison, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature and 1998 Pulitzer Prize, enter the fray with God Help the Child. Robinson is known as an author of epic themes and for raising the American consciousness. In her latest novel she explores how the sufferings of childhood shape the life of the adult, about the nature of beauty and veneration of being black.
I’m saving my favourite for last….
Norah Webster by Colm Tóibín, a tremendous study of grief and the rebuilding of a life in 1960s Eire. Norah is recently widowed, left with four children, little money, no job and far too many people trying to tell her how best to organise her life from here on. It’s a story told in chronological order, following Norah’s consciousness as she shapes her new life inch by inch. Tóibín is no stranger to the Booker Prize – he’s been on the shortlist three times: in 1999 for The Blackwater Lightship, in 2004 for The Master’ and 2014 for The Testament of Mary. Could this be his lucky year??
If you don’t trust my predictions and would like some alternative crystal ball views take a look at:
- Shiny New Books Booker predictions
- Simon at Savidge Reads
- The Guardian Not the Booker Prize nominations (you can cast your vote on the nominations)
Clearly I am not much use at spotting prize winning books. Last year I was rooting for Jim Crace’s The Harvest to win the 2013 Man Booker Prize. I got it completely wrong since the prize went to the (in my view) much less impressive The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.
This year I was 100% sure that Ali Smith would grab the prize. I was even flirting with the idea that I might put a flutter on her (except the last time I went into a book maker’s establishment I was seven years old so the routine might have changed a bit). Just as well I didn’t since those devilish judges turned their backs on Ms Smith in favour of Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North which is set during the construction of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in World War Two. Darn it, I have read three of the six shortlisted novels this year but wouldn’t you know it, I hadn’t got as far as this one.
I’m not familiar with Flanagan’s work but this sounds like a fascinating read even though it’s likely to be harrowing at times given its subject matter.
So Scotland misses out but at least the title goes to an author from the Commonwealth thus confounding everyone who signalled the demise of the prize when they ‘let in the Americans’.
The Man Booker judges announced today the six books shortlisted for this year’s award producing a list that despite all concerns about dominance by American authors, actually has a good global spread. We have two US, three British ( the judges are classing Neel Mukherjee as British although he originates from India) and one Australian.
No surprises to find Ali Smith on the list but I wasn’t expecting to see Karen Joy Fowler make it through to the penultimate round. Perhaps I’m being unfair to her since I’m only part way through We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. It reads very smoothly so far but I still wouldn’t out it in the same class as The Lives of Others which I read earlier this summer and enjoyed hugely. A copy of Howard Jacobson’s novel J that I reserved with my local library has just become available and will be waiting for me on my return from holidays this weekend so I should be able to read that before the winner is announced on October 14.
Anyone care to speculate which of these authors will be declared the 2015 winner? I would love to see the prize go to Neel Mukherjee but I suspect that won’t be the case and instead we will see it third time lucky for Ali Smith since her book features the kind of experimental narrative structure that the judges seem to like yet still is considered “readable”.
To Rise Again At a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
J by Howard Jacobson
The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
How to Be Both by Ali Smith