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Man Booker 2015 … and the winner is

No, not the title that’s been the bookie’s favoThe Man Booker Prize 2015 Logourite and had oodles of critical acclaim with one or two notable exceptions (I talk of course of A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara). Nope. The winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize announced tonight is the Jamaican writer Marlon James with A Brief History of Seven Killings. He becomes the first writer from Jamaica to win the award, thus demonstrating despite fears that the Booker was selling out to the Americans, that it is still carrying the torch for Commonwealth writers.

A brief historyJames was apparently the unanimous choice of the judges who reached their decision in just two hours. They called the novel “the most exciting” book on the shortlist and “full of surprises”. Inevitably the choice will not be welcomed universally – some readers will be disconcerted by the fact it has more than 70 characters, makes liberal use of Jamaican slang and profanities and a stop-start structure.  I’ve not read it – yet – and I suspect I’ll find it tough going just to keep up with all those characters and three decades of the turbulent world of Jamaican gangster life and politics. But I’m delighted the Booker didn’t settle for a safe option as the best novel of the year.

I should learn from this experience two things however : 1. don’t embark on reading the shortlist thinking that by doing so there’s a fair chance I might be reading the winner 2. don’t rely on me to pick the winner. I fail every time.

Man Booker Prize longlist 2015

I admit defeat. I am clearly not skilled in the art of book prize predictions. When the Man Booker prize judges announced their 2015 longlist today I found that none of the titles that came up in my crystal ball yesterday made the cut. Not one. I had floated briefly with nominating one of the titles that did get chosen: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Not that I’ve read it yet (I’m planning to take it with me on holiday in a few weeks) but it has been getting a lot of exposure recently and sounded like the kind of novel the judges would choose.

My reactions to the list are rather mixed.

On the plus side I was relieved that Kazuo Ishiguro and Kate Atkinson were not listed but disappointed that Colm Tóibín didnt get get selected.

On the plus side I’m delighted that the list contains so many authors that are new to me. But the diversity seems to have dissipated. Last year there were no long listed titles from the Commonwealth countries but five from USA. This year we have five USA authors again but only one each from Jamaica, New Zealand and India.

  • Did You Ever Have a Family (Jonathan Cape) by Bill Clegg, a literary agent from USA. This is his debut novel
  • The Green Road (Jonathan Cape) by Anne Enright. The Dublin-born author is a previous Booker Prize winner with The Gathering in 2007
  • A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications) by Marlon James, born in Kingston, Jamaica
  • The Moor’s Account (Periscope, Garnet Publishing) by Laila Lalami, born in Morocco and now living in USA. This novel was shortlisted for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize
  • Satin Island (Jonathan Cape) by Tom McCarthy, a Londoner
  • The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press) by Chigozie Obioma, Nigerian born now living in North America. This is his first novel
  • The Illuminations (Faber & Faber) by Andrew O’Hagan, the Scottish born author is a previous Booker shortlisted author with Our Fathers, in 1999
  • Lila (Virago) by Marilynne Robinson, winner of the Pulitzer prize in 2005 for Gilead
  • Sleeping on Jupiter (MacLehose Press, Quercus) by Anuradha Roy, born in Calcutta, India
  • The Year of the Runaways (Picador) by Sunjeev Sahota, born in Derbyshire, UK.
  • The Chimes (Sceptre) by Anna Smaill, a New Zealander. This is her debut novel
  • A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus) by Anne Tyler, American born, previously nominated for a Pulitzer prize
  • A Little Life (Picador) by Hanya Yanagihara, the second novel by this American author

Im not sure I’ll get to read many of these before the shortlist is announced on October 13.  My interest is leading towards The Year of the Runaways, The Illuminations and The Fishermen. 

For other views on the list take a look at:

PJE’s Booker Blog

Clare at Word by Word

 

 

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