The 2018 Man Booker Prize Longlist has just been announced. This time we have six Brit writers, three American writers, two Canadian writers and two Irish writers. Seven of the writers are women and six are men. Four of the thirteen are debut novels.
I like the idea of the Man Booker Prize. It discovers new talent and gives a global platform to writers who might otherwise struggle to find an audience. That doesn’t mean I’m going to read all, or even most, of the Longlist. I’m beyond the stage in my life when I read what I should rather than reading what appeals to me. I’m looking for the wow-that-was-amazing reads, not the worthy-so-I-should-make-myself-r-get to-the-end reads.
Of the seventeen books, four have enough appeal to make me pick them up at a bookshop and take them to the till. My shortlist has one thriller, one love story, one debut dystopian novel, one historical (World War II) drama.
So here’s my personal, Man Booker Shortlist, based on not having read any of the novels yet.
I picked this one because I’m always hungry for new and original thrillers. Belinda Bauer is a CWA Gold Dagger winner with a reputation for edgy writing and I’ve never read her before so this is an easy win.
On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she said. I won’t be long.But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.Three years later, mum-to-be Catherine wakes to find a knife beside her bed, and a note that says: I could have killed you.Meanwhile Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother.. .
I’ve a weakness for Irish writers. Sally Rooney is new to me but the combination of love, politics, long-term complicated relationships and people from the same town but different circumstances staying connected does it for me.
Connell and Marianne both grow up in the same town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. But they both get places to study at university in Dublin, and a connection that has grown between them despite the social tangle of school lasts long into the following years.
Sally Rooney’s second novel is a deeply political novel, just as it’s also a novel about love. It’s about how difficult it is to speak to what you feel and how difficult it is to change. It’s wry and seductive; perceptive and bold. It will make you cry and you will know yourself through it.
This is one that I’d hold in my hand and think about. It’s a debut novel with a message by a short story writer. It could be wonderful or it could be too allegorical for me to care. So I looked it up and GoodReads and a couple of my favourite reviewers put it on the wonderful side so it’s in the basket.
Imagine a world very close to our own: where women are not safe in their bodies, where desperate measures are required to raise a daughter. This is the story of Grace, Lia, and Sky kept apart from the world for their own good and taught the terrible things that every woman must learn about love. And it is the story of the men who come to find them – three strangers washed up by the sea, their gazes hungry and insistent, trailing desire and destruction in their wake
This wouldn’t normally be my choice. The author’s name appears above the title but I’ve never chosen to read his novels, so why start now? Also, it’s set in World War II (again) which puts me off – but not always.
The killer first line was what changed my mind
“In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals”.
In a narrative as mysterious as memory itself – at once both shadowed and luminous – Warlight is a vivid, thrilling novel of violence and love, intrigue and desire. It is 1945, and London is still reeling from the Blitz and years of war. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, are apparently abandoned by their parents, left in the care of an enigmatic figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and grow both more convinced and less concerned as they get to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women with a shared history, all of whom seem determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all he didn’t know or understand in that time, and it is this journey – through reality, recollection, and imagination – that is told in this magnificent novel.