Bravo The Booker Prize!

If you’d told me I’d be writing a post with the title above a year ago when I wrote this about the lack of women on the 2014 Man Booker Prize longlist, or even on Tuesday when I tweeted this:

then I would have laughed at you. But yesterday at midday the 2015 longlist was revealed and it’s the most exciting, most diverse longlist the prize has ever created.

For only the second time since longlists have been published, there are more female writers than male writers (7 to 6) and for the first time ever, almost half of the list are books by writers of colour (6 to 7 by white writers). I’ve read and reviewed three of the books and enjoyed them all: Lila by Marilynne Robinson, The Chimes by Anna Smaill and A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. I’m particularly thrilled about The Chimes as I think it’s been largely ignored in the UK and it’s a clever, inventive book with a gripping story.

I’ve also read Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (review coming on publication week) and it’s my tip for the win at the moment. It’s an extraordinary novel, one of the best I’ve ever read. I already have two of the other novels by women on my TBR: The Green Road by Anne Enright and Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy so I’ll be making a start on those shortly. I’m intrigued by The Moor’s Account by Leila Lalami and will pick that up when the paperback’s published.

A brief mention for the men too as, for the first time in years, I’m excited to read books listed by them too! I’m very keen to read Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings. I had a peek at the first page yesterday and its lyrical prose had me hooked. Sunjeev Sahota’s from down the road and his book The Year of the Runaways is set in Sheffield which gives it added interest for me. I also heard him read from it earlier in the year and was intrigued. Finally Bill Clegg’s Did You Ever Have a Family for two reasons: several years ago I read his first memoir Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man which was very well written and the novel has a female protagonist, which intrigues me.

It’s impossible to know whether the diversity of this year’s list has been instigated by new director, Gaby Wood, or this year’s chair of judges, Michael Wood (or indeed the judges collectively), or whether there’s been a change in submissions from publishers (although I find it hard to believe the 156 submissions are split equally by gender and white writers/writers of colour). Whatever the reason for this development, it’s a welcome one. Although it’s still possible (although I would have thought unlikely) for the judges to create an all-male or an all-white shortlist, it is both possible for them to create an all-female or an all-writers of colour shortlist and impossible for them to create an all-white male shortlist and, at last, that looks like progress.

Bill Clegg (US) – Did You Ever Have a Family (Jonathan Cape)

Anne Enright (Ireland) – The Green Road (Jonathan Cape)

Marlon James (Jamaica) – A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications)

Laila Lalami (US) – The Moor’s Account (Periscope, Garnet Publishing)

Tom McCarthy (UK) – Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)

Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) – The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press)

Andrew O’Hagan (UK) – The Illuminations (Faber & Faber)

Marilynne Robinson (US) – Lila (Virago)

Anuradha Roy (India) – Sleeping on Jupiter (MacLehose Press, Quercus)

Sunjeev Sahota (UK) – The Year of the Runaways (Picador)

Anna Smaill (New Zealand) – The Chimes (Sceptre)

Anne Tyler (US) – A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)

Hanya Yanagihara (US) – A Little Life (Picador)

34 thoughts on “Bravo The Booker Prize!

  1. I’m mustering the emotional (and physical, because it’s a chunky book) to tackle A Little Life!

    I’ve only read The Green Road from the list – loved it.

    • Yes, you do need to psyche yourself up for A Little Life but it’s difficult to put down (on a gripping level, rather than a physical one!) once you’re into it. Excellent news about The Green Road, I’m looking forward to it. Suspect I’ll get started on it today.

  2. It is great and encouraging to see such a diverse list! And so good to see The Chimes and Lila on there since they weren’t on the Baileys longlist!

    I’m reading Marlon James’ book now and enjoying. I’ve never got on with O’Hagan’s books but maybe this one will change my mind. I have read the McCarthy and I’m baffled as to why it’s on this list. It’s all show and one part I found somewhat offensive – it’s probably the book I’ve least liked this year.

    • Yes, it’s odd how sometimes books championed for the Baileys sometimes turn up on the Booker Prize list. A couple of years ago it was A Tale for the Time Being.

      O’Hagan’s is the book I’m least interested in. I prefer his journalism. The McCarthy I have a passing interest and actually your comment intrigued me so I’ve requested it from the library.

      • Yes, the Booker rightly recognized Ozeki and last year Hustvedt where the Baileys did not.

        My reasons for disliking McCarthy’s book include many of the same reasons that I dislike Paul Murray’s new novel – more concept than story. But also both books contain what feels like a very masculine hetero sense of humour which I just don’t find funny. Although, overall I liked Murray’s book more. I’d be very interested to hear what you make of either book. And I’m very eager to read what you post about A Little Life!

  3. It is great and encouraging to see such a diverse list! And so good to see The Chimes and Lila on there since they weren’t on the Baileys longlist!

    I’m reading Marlon James’ book now and enjoying. I’ve never got on with O’Hagan’s books but maybe this one will change my mind. I have read the McCarthy and I’m baffled as to why it’s on this list. It’s all show and one part I found somewhat offensive – it’s probably the book I’ve least liked this year.

    • Yes, it’s odd how sometimes books championed for the Baileys sometimes turn up on the Booker Prize list. A couple of years ago it was A Tale for the Time Being.

      O’Hagan’s is the book I’m least interested in. I prefer his journalism. The McCarthy I have a passing interest and actually your comment intrigued me so I’ve requested it from the library.

      • Yes, the Booker rightly recognized Ozeki and last year Hustvedt where the Baileys did not.

        My reasons for disliking McCarthy’s book include many of the same reasons that I dislike Paul Murray’s new novel – more concept than story. But also both books contain what feels like a very masculine hetero sense of humour which I just don’t find funny. Although, overall I liked Murray’s book more. I’d be very interested to hear what you make of either book. And I’m very eager to read what you post about A Little Life!

  4. I think it is best list for a while a little life is possibly the winner just from what I’ve seen on twitter seems very popular

  5. I think it is best list for a while a little life is possibly the winner just from what I’ve seen on twitter seems very popular

    • Yeah, I’m not sure Twitter’s always the best judge but it’s been out in America for a while now and has had rave reviews there too.

  6. I’m hopelessly out of touch with recent release these days, but it’s good to see such a diverse range of novels on the list. The Green Road might tempt me, though – I’ve heard nothing but great things.

    • It is hard to keep up and there are some surprises on the list regardless of how up-to-date you are, I think. I’m looking forward to that one too.

  7. I’m hopelessly out of touch with recent release these days, but it’s good to see such a diverse range of novels on the list. The Green Road might tempt me, though – I’ve heard nothing but great things.

  8. I have to agree with you – this is the first time I’ve been enthused about the Booker Prize in years. I have A Little Life lined up to read first, The Chimes on order at the library and I like the look of The Moor’s Account, as well as remembering being impressed by The author when she was longlisted for the Orange Prize a few years ago.

  9. Why should I care what gender or what color an author is? A good author is a good author. And reading is truly colorblind. Let’s keep it that way.

  10. Why should I care what gender or what color an author is? A good author is a good author. And reading is truly colorblind. Let’s keep it that way.

  11. I’ve only read two of them so far – I have one more in my TBR pile and some of the rest are in my wishlist.
    It does seem a (self-consciously?) more diverse list than usual.
    Anyway, I’m rooting for Seven Killings.

    • I think it must be self-consciously diverse as it’s such a change from previous years. I don’t think that’s a bad thing though – the book I’m least interested in and the one I’ve read and am not convinced should be on there are both by white authors. It’s good to see writers other than the usual list getting some exposure.

  12. A Little Life is going to the top of my list. I’ve heard amazing things about it from lots of bloggers I trust! It’s definitely an improvement on last year’s list which I found quite underwhelming. It’s very encouraging to see a truly diverse list this time.

  13. Very much a pleasant surprise to see such variety in the long list and your analysis pinpoints the reasons, I’d really become a little bored with the Booker, it had been fishing in the same pond for too long, great to see stories that reflect a casting of the net wider, exactly what readers need.

  14. Very much a pleasant surprise to see such variety in the long list and your analysis pinpoints the reasons, I’d really become a little bored with the Booker, it had been fishing in the same pond for too long, great to see stories that reflect a casting of the net wider, exactly what readers need.

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  16. I’ve just finished a Little Life and am really looking forward to reading your review. It was the MOST harrowing bookI’ve ever read and left me crying long after it had finished. It really gets into you and leaves feeling the full emotional impact of its story. But if any book should ever come with a trigger warning, I think it’s this one!!! The scenes of self harm are so graphic and the self-hatred so all encompassing I can imagine it is a very difficult book for anyone with histories of self harm to read. Still not sure if I would recommend it or not although it had the biggest impact on me out of any book in a while. And I finished it in one day which shows how gripping it was! Really looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

  17. I’ve just finished a Little Life and am really looking forward to reading your review. It was the MOST harrowing bookI’ve ever read and left me crying long after it had finished. It really gets into you and leaves feeling the full emotional impact of its story. But if any book should ever come with a trigger warning, I think it’s this one!!! The scenes of self harm are so graphic and the self-hatred so all encompassing I can imagine it is a very difficult book for anyone with histories of self harm to read. Still not sure if I would recommend it or not although it had the biggest impact on me out of any book in a while. And I finished it in one day which shows how gripping it was! Really looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

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