Every year, with the announcement of the ManBooker long-and-shortlists and winners, commentators furiously champion their favourites, protest at omissions and pitch both “elitist” and “dumbed-down” , “dominated by old-white-guys” and “dominated by immigrants-in-London” accusations at the judges. We like anything that gets people talking about books, so here is the shortlist.
Peter Carey – Parrot and Olivier in America
Emma Donoghue – Room
Damon Galgut – In a Strange Room
Howard Jacobson – The Finkler Question
Andrea Levy – The Long Song
Tom McCarthy – C
And some of our reactions (we haven’t read absolutely all of them, even collectively, but that doesn’t stop us from having opinions!)
I was surprised that Christos Tsiolkas’ Slap did not make the cut, and hope that it wasn’t excluded because of the controversial subject matter and unappealing characters. We also thought David Mitchell would make it onto the list, but tend to agree with judge Andrew Motion’s comment that The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet doesn’t have the resonance of some of his previous works. But it would be in the grand tradition of Booker-awarding for an author to receive the prize for “the wrong book”, as a sort of unacknowledged apology for previously unrewarded brilliance.
However, I was delighted to see Emma Donoghue’s Room remain in contention. She’s a fabulous author and not read by nearly enough people, possibly because of a misconception her fiction writing must be difficult because she’s a professor who has written history books. This might be the exposure she needs – Room is a fascinating book, particularly because of the way it’s told. She uses a child-narrator, which on most occasions would be the death-knell of any interest I would have in reading a book, but in this case it works. Because he observes everything, but has had almost no normal experience of life, he utterly fails to understand the implications of what he sees. Highly recommended, even if it doesn’t win.
Of course, if the judges want to create a big hoo-hah media circus, they might award the prize to Peter Carey, making him the first person to win three times.
The winner will be announced on October 12th.
Read more about the award here: