Booker Prize 2015: A Likeable Longlist

on Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Cue the confetti cannons. Silly season has begun.

The good folk at Team Booker have just announced this year's longlist and, I'm glad to say, it is quite the impressive collection. In case you haven't seen it, the books in the running for the Man Booker Prize 2015 are:

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)

As predicted, Obioma made it and you'd have to think is in with a good chance. Ditto Marlon James. Both books have been real favourites among reviewers and readers alike. I've only read the Obioma but the James has been sitting on my shelf for months and I'm keen to finally have reason to get stuck into it. I'm also pleased to see Tom McCarthy get another look-in. His consistent output of innovative yet accessible literature is worthy of continuing recognition and, while I don't really see him winning the prize, he most certainly deserves to make it to the final six. The one that I'm really excited about, though, is Hanya Yanagihara. Her first novel, The People Of The Trees was a magnificent, complex, revelatory work and there's some good buzz about this new one. I haven't had the guts to delve in yet - it's 800-odd pages - but I have a long haul flight in the near future and it will most certainly be my companion for those nine hours. Last time I read a long book in a single sitting it was Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries and we all know how that turned out.

The list is not without its duds. The Andrew O'Hagan was underwhelming - I just don't get the fuss the critics made about it. Sure, the guy deserves a Booker somewhere down the track but if he didn't win it for Be Near Me or Our Fathers he sure shouldn't be winning it for this. At least it was better than Maf The Dog, but so is my average shopping list. Also, though i have yet to read it, most people I know who have had a go at Anne Tyler's 'retirement novel' have thought it considerably beneath her. A win might be a gold watch for an amazing career, but it would do the prize no great credit.

For the Aussies who were hoping for back to back Bookers... Peter Carey? That was our best chance? Come on. Amnesia was, if you'll excuse the pun, entirely forgettable. New Zealand didn't fare a great deal better with only one nomination but I was happy to see that it was for The Chimes, a book that I've had my eye on for a while by an author who, a mutual friend tells me, is a really talented, humble and lovely person.

So there you have it: the most promising list of seemingly deserving contenders we've seen in years. More thoughts to come but, until then, happy reading!


Anonymous said...

I've heard wildly-differing responses to Amnesia and decided to read it and see for myself. I haven't read it yet. Have heard similarly to you about the Tyler, and similarly to what you've said about O'Hagan's book. The Chimes is the one I'm most excited about. Haven't read it but it was recommended to me two days ago by someone I trust. And what is the story with The Luminaries? And a single sitting? Took me about four months, I read about nine books in between, it bored me shitless for more than half of it, but then something clicked and by the final page I was spinning. Most extraordinary reading experience *of my life*

The Bookworm said...

I happened to be flying to Detroit to visit my nephews. It's a 15 hour flight to Dallas (the easiest route) and I'm not good at sleeping on planes so I read The Luminaries in one sitting. I felt I'd climbed Everest by the end.

I'm with you on The Chimes. Haven't read it, been meaning to and now have good reason to push it up the pile. Got four or five short books to read first (two Modianos and two Garniers) but will definitely get to it.

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