And just like that, prize season is truly upon us, with the announcement of the Man Booker Shortlist (and the Giller longlist and the National Book Award longlists)! The six books on this year’s Booker shortlist are below, accompanied by the publisher’s blurb. Over at The Mookse and the Gripes Goodreads page, we have been talking about the books all season long. Come and join in!
The winner will be announced on October 25.
by Paul Beatty (US)
A biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game.
Born in the ‘agrarian ghetto’ of Dickens on the outskirts of Los Angeles and raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, the narrator of The Sellout spent his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. He was led to believe that his father’s pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family’s financial woes. But when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, he realizes there never was a memoir. All that’s left is the bill for a drive-thru funeral.
Fuelled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been wiped off the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town’s most famous resident – the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins – he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.
In his trademark absurdist style, which has the uncanny ability to make readers want to both laugh and cry, The Sellout is an outrageous and outrageously entertaining indictment of our time.
by Deborah Levy (UK)
Two women arrive in a Spanish village — a dreamlike place caught between the desert and the ocean — seeking medical advice and salvation. One of the strangers suffers from a mysterious illness: spontaneous paralysis confines her to a wheelchair, her legs unusable. The other, her daughter Sofia, has spent years playing the reluctant detective in this mystery, struggling to understand her mother’s illness.
Surrounded by the oppressive desert heat and the mesmerising figures who move through it, Sofia waits while her mother undergoes the strange programme of treatments invented by Dr Gomez. Searching for a cure to a defiant and quite possibly imagined disease, ever more entangled in the seductive, mercurial games of those around her, Sofia finally comes to confront and reconcile the disparate fragments of her identity.
Hot Milk is a labyrinth of violent desires, primal impulses, and surreally persuasive internal logic. Examining female rage and sexuality, Deborah Levy’s dazzling new novel explores the strange and monstrous nature of motherhood, testing the bonds of parent and child to breaking point.
His Bloody Project
by Graeme Macrae Burnet (UK)
A brutal triple murder in a remote northern crofting community in 1869 leads to the arrest of Roderick Macrae, a seventeen-year-old from the village. There s no question that he is guilty, but why did he commit the crime? Was he insane? Whose account should we believe? And will he hang? A riveting drama.
by Ottessa Moshfegh (US)
The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop, an unassuming yet disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father’s carer in his squalid home and her day job as a secretary at the boys’ prison, filled with its own quotidian horrors. Consumed by resentment and self-loathing, Eileen tempers her dreary days with perverse fantasies and dreams of escaping to the big city. In the meantime, she fills her nights and weekends with shoplifting, stalking a handsome prison guard named Randy, and cleaning up her increasingly deranged father’s messes. When the beautiful, charismatic Rebecca Saint John arrives on the scene as the new counselor at the prison, Eileen is enchanted and unable to resist what appears to be a miraculously budding friendship. In a Hitchcockian twist, her affection for Rebecca ultimately pulls her into complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.
Played out against the snowy landscape of coastal New England, blending true noir and the eerie, unforgettable books of Shirley Jackson and Flannery O’Connor, this mesmeric, terrifying, sublimely funny debut novel enthralls and shocks, and introduces one of the most original new voices in contemporary literature.
All That Man Is
by David Szalay (Canada-UK)
Here are nine men. Each of them is at a different stage in life, each of them is away from home, and each of them is striving – in the suburbs of Prague, in an over-developed Alpine village, beside a Belgian motorway, in a crap Cypriot hotel — to understand just what it means to be alive, here and now. Vibrating with detail and intelligence, pathos and surprise, All That Man Is is a portrait of contemporary manhood, contemporary Europe and contemporary life from a British writer of supreme gifts — the master of a new kind of realism.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing
by Madeleine Thien (Canada)
In Canada in 1991, ten-year-old Marie and her mother invite a guest into their home: a young woman who has fled China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests. Her name is Ai-Ming. As her relationship with Marie deepens, Ai-Ming tells the story of her family in revolutionary China, from the crowded teahouses in the first days of Chairman Mao’s ascent, to the Shanghai Conservatory in the 1960s and the events leading to the Beijing demonstrations of 1989. It is a history of revolutionary idealism, music, and silence, in which three musicians, the shy and brilliant composer Sparrow, the violin prodigy Zhuli, and the enigmatic pianist Kai struggle during China’s relentless Cultural Revolution to remain loyal to one another and to the music they have devoted their lives to. Forced to re-imagine their artistic and private selves, their fates reverberate through the years, with deep and lasting consequences for Ai-Ming — and for Marie. Written with exquisite intimacy, wit and moral complexity, Do Not Say We Have Nothing magnificently brings to life one of the most significant political regimes of the 20th century and its traumatic legacy, which still resonates for a new generation. It is a gripping evocation of the persuasive power of revolution and its effects on personal and national identity, and an unforgettable meditation on China today.
This year’s judges are:
- Dr. Amanda Foreman (Chair)
- Jon Day
- Abdulrazak Gurnah
- David Harsent
- Olivia Williams