The Eds (and friends) make predictions for the 2015 Man Booker Prize Longlist

man booker 2015 logoLast summer, the Shiny Eds discussed the 2014 Man Booker Prize longlist – the first with the extended eligibility criteria that let any book written in English and published in the year of the prize be eligible. This opened up the prize to become more international in its scope. One thing that annoyed many folk, including the Shiny Eds, was that several of the books on the longlist hadn’t even been published, making it impossible (unless you have connections) to read a proportion of those picked before the shortlist is chosen.

The longlist, traditionally a baker’s dozen of thirteen books, for the Man Booker Prize 2015 will be announced on July 29th (now appended to the bottom of this page – Ed). The basic eligibility criteria, as stated on the Man Booker Prize website are:

“Any novel originally written in English and published in the UK in the year of the prize, regardless of the nationality of their author. The novel must be an original work in English (not a translation) and must not be self-published.”

The year of the prize goes from October 2014 to September 2015 by the way, so no change there then with then with unpublished novels being included.

This year, rather than react to the longlist choices, we got out our crystal balls to have a go at predicting some of them. We also asked our reviewers and twitter followers to join in the fun. So here are our joint predictions, with links to our reviews where appropriate …

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God in RuinsA God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (review) : This seems an obvious choice to me but as Kate Atkinson’s name has never appeared on a Man Booker longlist it may not seem so to everyone else. It’s the story of Teddy, brother of Ursula Todd whose many lives were lived in Life After Life. In her author’s note Atkinson says she likes ‘to think of it as a “companion” piece rather than a sequel’ and indeed that’s how it reads. Atkinson flashes forward and back seamlessly, deftly tossing observations from the future, literary allusions, thoughts on nature, riffs on trivia such as the unthinking cruelty of parents when naming their children, into her narrative: it’s all beautifully stitched together. A virtuoso piece of writing delivered with apparent ease and grace. Susan Osborne

I’ll second that! Harriet

a little lifeA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara: Believe the hype from America, where Hanya Yanagihara’s second novel was released in March: this is sure to be one of the books of the year, if not the decade. With A Little Life Yanagihara has instantly shot to literary greatness; this is Pulitzer and Man Booker prize-winning material. It’s an emotional gut punch, but it’s also glorious. The Atlantic declared this the ‘Great Gay Novel’ we’ve been awaiting in the age of same-sex marriage, free of stereotypes and full of new relationship possibilities. Rebecca Foster

ghosh 3Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh: I’m spending the summer in the company of Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy and I’m basing my prediction for the third volume on the sheer brilliance of volume 1 – Sea of Poppies – and the first third of volume 2 – River of Smoke – my current read. This is historical fiction at its best. Unhurried, detailed, yet packed with drama. Ghosh’s objective is to paint a panorama of the opium trade and the impact it had on all layers of society in the run up to the Opium Wars. Of course, for a Booker longlisting to be viable, Flood of Fire must stand on its own merit, and I can’t yet say whether it does. I’m looking forward to finding out though! Lizzy Siddal

reif larsenI Am Radar by Reif Larsen:  is the most ambitious book I’ve read this year. It pushes literature and science in new directions; combining novel concepts with vivid, atmospheric writing. It manages to defy categorisation – effortlessly switching from historical fiction to science fiction; mixing literature of the highest quality with elements of romance and gripping thriller. It doesn’t just deserve a place on the Booker longlist; it deserves to win! Jackie Bailey (reviewed on her blog here)

neverhomeNeverhome by Laird Hunt (review): I’ve read some excellent novels this year, but I suspect this one will always stay at the top of the list. I’d never heard of Laird Hunt before this landed unsolicited in my mailbox, but I now know him to be an award-winning American novelist. Neverhome is a truly remarkable novel, the story of a young woman who disguises herself as a man and fights in the American Civil War. That would be an interesting theme in many hands, but in Hunt’s it becomes a heart-wrenching story of hope and disillusionment, of love and of suffering. The first-person narrative voice is superbly handled – a girl with little formal education, Ash Thomson writes of her thoughts and observations with an incredible vividness that can only be described as poetic. A brilliant, ultimately tragic, and wonderfully memorable read, which I think richly deserves a Booker nomination. Harriet

harufOur Souls at Night by Kent Haruf: I’m delighted to be able to include this thanks to last year’s change in the Man Booker rules which allows novels by American writers to be considered for the prize. For those of us who’ve come to know and love Haruf’s quietly brilliant novels set in the small town of Holt, Colorado, news of a new one is cause for celebration but this time the joy is muted. Haruf died last year and this is his last book. His insightful writing is clean and simple, stripped of ornament and all the more powerful for it. This last novel feels like a fitting end to the series: a beautiful, tender meditation on ageing and the joy it can sometimes bring along with sorrow. Susan Osborne (reviewed on her blog here).

sophie sibylSophie and the Sibyl by Patricia Duncker (review): Homberg, Germany in 1872 finds the Duncker brothers, who run a thriving publishing business, dancing attendance on visiting celebrated author, George Eliot. Younger brother, Max is in a spot of bother with his gambling debts, and so older brother, Wolfgang, tasks him with keeping Eliot company, in the hope that his charm will keep their profits high. But he also hopes to move him into the sphere of Sophie von Hahn, daughter of a wealthy friend, whom he would like his brother to consider as a potential bride. Max is soon entranced by both women – the enigmatic Sibyl, aka George Eliot for her intelligence, and dazzling Sophie for for her beauty and recklessness. But Sophie longs to meet George Eliot, and Max knows that Sophie’s gambling and horse riding put her beyond the pale. Described by The Guardian as a ‘sprightly, intellectually teasing novel’ and a postmodern comedy of manners, it sounds like a very fun take on the historical novel. Victoria

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (review):  I’d be amazed if Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant didn’t at least make the longlist, since he’s such a big name and the book is so obviously philosophically ambitious. Eleanor Franzen

wolf borderThe Wolf Border by Sarah Hall (review):

And if it’s not on the actual list, I’m going to be off on one! Stunning writing, particularly of the landscape; contemporary themes – reintroduction of the wolf; (reluctant?) motherhood; women who have ‘masculine’ jobs; an ‘unlikeable’ female protagonist. I think it’s all very well done. Naomi Frisby (@Frizbot)

The book I will be absolutely furious not to see on the shortlist–indeed, as the winner–is Sarah Hall’s The Wolf Border. It’s a meditation on parenthood, autonomy, family, and (oh yes) wolves, couched in the most extraordinary, spare descriptions of a lush Lake District landscape, with some of the best characterization I’ve ever read, neither excessive nor unrealistic. It is quite possibly her finest book to date, and is without a doubt one of my top five books of the year (even though the year is only halfway over). Give the woman a damn prize already. Eleanor Franzen

And seconded by Victoria

rushdieTwo Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie: His first novel for adults in six years, Rushdie’s latest is inspired by upon the Arabian Nights, all 1001 of them. It is set in the near future in a New York which has been hit by a major storm, and all sorts of strange things happen to some people who turn out to be descended from the jinn – the storm breached the veil between their world and ours. The mix of near future and mythology sounds like a must-read for me and it is also short. In an interview in the Daily Telegraph last October, Rushdie said “It’s not long. It will be something like 250 pages, which is like clearing my throat. I have finally learned how to shut up.” Annabel

dewittUndermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt: The third novel by the Canadian author of the previously shortlisted The Sisters Brothers, isn’t published until September, but it sounds irresistible. Described in the blurb as “an ink-black comedy of manners, … an adventure story, and a mystery, and a searing portrayal of rural Alpine bad behaviour with a brandy tart, but above all it is a love story.” We need more books with a sense of humour to be nominated for prizes, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it. Annabel

weatheringWeathering by Lucy Wood (review): There was a great deal of pre-publication anticipation for Weathering earlier this year which is not necessarily a good thing but Lucy Wood’s novel turned out to be an unalloyed treat: gorgeous language and sharp characterisation all wrapped up in an engrossing story. It opens with the drowning of Pearl, birdwatcher, jewellery repairer and mother to Ada. After the funeral, Ada arrives with her six-year-old daughter, Pepper, to get her mother’s house in order ready to sell, never intending to stay in this isolated, damp-ridden cottage from which she’d made her escape thirteen years ago and never looked back. Put like that, Weathering sounds like a fairly prosaic tale but what singles it out is the vivid word pictures Wood sketches, often poetic but sometimes pithy and very funny. I’ve chosen this one more in hope than expectation but you never know. Susan Osborne

And seconded by Victoria

And a few final thoughts:  Since the prize is now open to US authors, Jonathan Franzen’s Purity and Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child might be contenders. Eleanor Franzen

Thank you to everyone who contributed.

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And here is the actual longlist, published at noon on July 29th…

Bill Clegg (US) – Did You Ever Have a Family (Jonathan Cape)
Anne Enright (Ireland) – The Green Road (Jonathan Cape)
Marlon James (Jamaica) – A Brief History of Seven Killings(Oneworld Publications)
Laila Lalami (US) – The Moor’s Account (Periscope, Garnet Publishing)
Tom McCarthy (UK) – Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)
Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) – The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press)
Andrew O’Hagan (UK) – The Illuminations (Faber & Faber)
Marilynne Robinson (US) – Lila (Virago) – reviewed by Simon in Issue 3 here
Anuradha Roy (India) – Sleeping on Jupiter (MacLehose Press, Quercus)
Sunjeev Sahota (UK) – The Year of the Runaways (Picador)
Anna Smaill (New Zealand) – The Chimes (Sceptre)
Anne Tyler (US) – A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus) – review coming in the August Extra Shiny
Hanya Yanagihara (US) – A Little Life (Picador) – reviewed by Rebecca Foster here

8 Comments

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  3. samuel leopold

    my 9 picks for the longlist
    A LITTLE LIFE
    WOLF BORDER
    NORA WEBSTER
    ACADEMY STREET
    THE FISHERMEN
    I AM RADAR
    BURIED GIANT
    ALL INVOLVED
    A GOD IN RUINS

  4. Carol S

    I’ve just read Savidge Reads’ list then been directed here in comments by Annabel (thank you) I’m excited and surprised, Wolf Border I’m pretty sure was read on the radio and while enjoyable and interesting didn’t impact much on me at all, however you draw attention here to the descriptions of the Lake District somewhere I know very well and love so much it’s in my bones. I’m going to have to buy and read it now, on your advice! Maybe more than one copy as my reading sisters adore and spend as much time there as they possibly can.
    Amitav Ghosh is a superb writer and I’m convinced he’ll win the Nobel one day, he certainly deserves to. (He learnt an obscure, no longer in use Middle Eastern for one of his novels once).
    I began A Little Life last week and it is so not grabbing me. (unoriginal, derivative, so so writing) I’m only persisting because you all (& Simon) seem so enthralled by it. Will I have to eat my words?
    Kate Atkinson has yet to interest me, know I’m in a minority though. I have a couple of others listed here on my TBR and radar, some I’ve never heard of and must remedy.
    Great posting.
    Great posting.

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  6. I dithered over whether to vote for The Buried Giant – but as much as I enjoyed it and it certainly got me thinking, I couldn’t quite put my hand on my heart to say it is worthy of inclusion.
    Samuel – that’s 2 votes for I Am Radar (Jackie nominated it in our post above). Will have to elevate this up my reading list, and I shall definitely have to see what all the fuss over A Little Life is about.

    We’ll see whether any or all of us were right at midday today!

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