The Lost Man Booker Prize

I know, I know — sometimes these celebratory Man Booker awards can seem a bit indulgent.  But I love them.

I did not know this, but in 1969 and 1970 the Booker Prize was awarded retrospectively.  In 1971 it became a prize for the best novel in the year of publication.  From the Man Booker webpage: 

At the same time, the date on which the award was given moved from April to November.  As a result of these changes, there was a whole year’s gap when a wealth of fiction, published in 1970, fell through the net.  These books were simply never considered for the prize.

Now, to correct this, forty years later, a longlist of 22 books “which would have been eligible and are still in print and generally available today” has been chosen.  This long (very long) list will be wittled down to six by a three-judge panel: Rachel Cooke, Katie Derham, and Tobias Hill. 

Their shortlist will be announced March.  Then we, the “international reading public” get to pick the ultimate winner with our votes.  This time, Salman Rushdie will not win — I don’t think.

Here is the list:

  • Brian Aldiss: The Hand Reared Boy
  • H.E. Bates: A Little of What You Fancy?
  • Nina Bawden: The Birds on the Trees
  • Melvyn Bragg: A Place in England
  • Christy Brown: Down All the Days
  • Len Deighton: Bomber
  • J.G. Farrell: Troubles
  • Elaine Feinstein: The Circle
  • Shirley Hazzard: The Bay of Noon
  • Reginald Hill: A Clubbable Woman
  • Susan Hill: I’m the King of the Castle
  • Francis King: A Domestic Animal
  • Margeret Laurence: The Fire Dwellers
  • David Lodge: Out of the Shelter
  • Iris Murdoch: A Fairly Honourable Defeat
  • Shiva Naipaul: Fireflies
  • Patrick O’Brian: Master and Commander
  • Joe Orton: Head to Toe
  • Mary Renault: Fire from Heaven
  • Ruth Rendell: A Guilty Thing Surprised
  • Murial Spark: The Driver’s Seat
  • Patrick White: The Vivisector

I haven’t read a one of them.  I haven’t heard of most of them — or several of the authors.  I look forward to hearing about them, hopefully picking up a gem, and perhaps I’ll try to make my way through the shortlist when it comes next month.

8 thoughts on “The Lost Man Booker Prize”

  1. Colette Jones says:

    I was happy to see this prize announced. I have only read Susan Hill’s I’m the King of the Castle, but I have Margaret Laurence’s The Fire Dwellers on the shelf, and liked her Diviners very much.

    It is interesting that Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business is what brought the issue to the fore, yet it did not make the list.

  2. I own Troubles, it’s the first of a very highly regarded trilogy, I’ve not started it yet though.

    Master and Commander is marvellous, Napoleonic naval fiction, inspired a recent film which rather messed it up by condensing the plot of four of the relevant novels into one film which made it a bit of a muddle.

    Seems a slightly populist list. HE Bates? Len Deighton? I like both, but I’m not sure I’d put either up for a Booker.

  3. I agree with Max — looks to me like they had to do a lot of stretching to get a list. I think I actually read the Deighton at the time, but he has long since left my list of favorite authors. I know I’ve read The Fire-Dwellers and The Driver’s Seat (and may use this prize as an excuse to reread both since I’ve had both Spark and Laurence on my re-visit list). And I think I read the Murdoch at the time — I used to be keen on her but all the books started to seem the same.

  4. Trevor says:

    I share your happiness, Colette. I like books from the sixties and seventies, so the list, and particularly the shortlist, will be a lot of fun for me.

    Max, I saw Master and Commander when it came out several years ago, but I’ve never read the book. Also, I’m particularly interested in the Deighton from what I’ve heard.

  5. The Deighton sounds very interesting, I think he’s an underappreciated writer, Fleming gets all the attention but Deighton’s better I think.

    Master and Commander’s a lot of fun. One of the best portrayals of friendship around, and it contains the immortal line:

    “Jack, you have debauched my sloth.”

    I suspect the prize is an attempt to promote the Booker generally, get a bit more buy in, but I don’t think the issues with the Booker are related to a lack of popular vote or anything like that.

  6. Forgot to say, although it’s nice to see Aldiss getting some recognition, The Hand Reared Boy (which is supposed to be pretty well written) isn’t typical of his output.

    Aldiss was a highly regarded science fiction writer who also wrote some non-sf (such as this one). The main reason he’s remembered though is for the sf, which was read to a degree outside sf circles. Arguably for me that puts the wrong book on the list in terms of his body of work. That said, this is what he had out in 1970, so there’s not much choice.

    Still, I suspect the reason he’s on the list is for his sf, not this novel. A case I think of awarding the man for the novel that’s eligible, rather than for the novel that should be on the list.

  7. kimbofo says:

    I’m delighted to see Patrick White on there. I read the Vivisector a couple of years ago (review here: http://kimbofo.typepad.com/readingmatters/2006/10/the_vivisector_.html ), and while it was hard work it was a hugely rewarding read.

    Also pleased to see Nina Bawden named. I haven’t read The Birds in the Trees, although I bought a copy of it last year not long after I read her brilliant A Woman of My Age.

    Oh, and I have Muriel Spark’s The Driver’s Seat in my TBR. I must dig it out for a read. She’s become a recent favourite of mine.

  8. Trevor says:

    Of all of the books above, I think The Vivisector is the one I’ve most encountered in the blog world. Glad to see your review, kimbofo, which was posted quite a while before I started blogging.

    And though I didn’t care for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie when I reviewed it a year or so ago, my wife and I watched the film version a few weeks ago, and I’m pleased to say that some of my questions about the book are still there — only now they are more intriguing :).

Leave a Reply