The Booker’s (baker’s) dozen 2013

This year’s Man Booker Prize longlist is out, so let’s take a gander:

  • Tash Aw – Five Star Billionaire (Fourth Estate)
  • NoViolet Bulawayo – We Need New Names (Chatto & Windus)
  • Eleanor Catton – The Luminaries (Granta)
  • Jim Crace – Harvest (Picador)
  • Eve Harris – The Marrying of Chani Kaufman (Sandstone Press)
  • Richard House – The Kills (Picador)
  • Jhumpa Lahiri – The Lowland (Bloomsbury)
  • Alison MacLeod – Unexploded (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Colum McCann – TransAtlantic (Bloomsbury)
  • Charlotte Mendelson – Almost English (Mantle)
  • Ruth Ozeki – A Tale for the Time Being (Canongate)
  • Donal Ryan – The Spinning Heart (Doubleday Ireland)
  • Colm Tóibín – The Testament of Mary (Viking)

I have read precisely none of those – not that that’s about to stop me from opining about the list…

Given that The Rehearsal remains my favourite of all the books I’ve read during the lifetime of this blog, I’m naturally very pleased to see Eleanor Catton on the longlist. The Luminaries has not been published yet, but it promises to be a great big tome set in the New Zealand goldrush of the 1860s, taking in astronomy, murder mysteries, and more besides. I’m really looking forward to it.

The other writer I am particularly pleased to see longlisted is Alison MacLeod. I know her more as a fine writer of short stories, but I’m certainly intrigued to read one of her novels. Unexploded, set in wartime Brighton, isn’t out yet either, so there’s not much more I can say there.

Looking at the list more generally, I think the range of author nationalities is nice to see. The Booker has perhaps been starting to look a mite parochial in recent years, having gone to well-established English authors for four years in a row. With only Jim Crace really fitting that description here, we may well see a different outcome this year.

The longlist is lighter on small-press titles than I’d have liked. There’s only really Sandstone Press (and congratulations to them on a second longlisting, following The Testament of Jessie Lamb a couple of years ago). You could add in Canongate, Granta and Bloomsbury as independent publishers, I suppose – but they’re not small presses in quite the same way. After such a strong showing for small publishers last year (And Other Stories, Myrmidon and Salt – half the shortlist), I can’t help feeling a little disappointed about that.

Which of the books would I most like to read? Taking the Catton and MacLeod books as givens… The Kills has me especially intrigued – a vast political thriller cross-pollinated with a literary mystery, which was first published as a series of enhanced ebooks with added audio and video. Five Star Billionaire and We Need New Names sound interesting. I’ve heard so many good things about A Tale for the Time Being that I really ought to give it a go… That’s a full shortlist right there.

3 Comments

  1. I thought it was quite a left-field selection too – I imagine we’ve read quite a few books between us this year (60 odd for me, mainly new releases), so for neither of us to have read any of the ones on the list is rather surprising. She’s not my cup of tea, but I was shocked Evie Wyld wasn’t on there. Like you, I’m interested by Eleanor Catton. And I wonder if the expansiveness of this longlist, and the Granta young british writers, is indicitive of a new desire for literature to tackle globalisation, look beyond the shores of the UK? Some thoughts here: http://workshyfop.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/man-booker-prize-2013-longlist.html

  2. David Hebblethwaite

    28th July 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Thom (and for the link to your interesting post). I’ve read upwards of 100 books so far this year (unusually high for me), but none on the longlist (though the two I would definitely have read – the Catton and MacLeod – are not yet published; I did start the Ozeki but wasn’t in the mood for it; and I’d probably have checked out the House if I had a way to access the ebook sample I was sent by the publisher;).

    I’d certainly like to think that this and the Granta list are signs of literature wanting to look at the wider world. I think that’s something which has to happen – indeed, will inevitably happen one way or another

  3. Yes, I got Ruth Ozeki’s from the library, but never mustered the enthusiasm to actually read it…

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