There’s much to be excited about over this year’s Man Booker Prize Longlist of finalists. Indeed, the announcement on the website of Britain’s most prestigious literary award says the list is meant “to get people talking about – and then reading – books they most likely haven’t heard of or didn’t suspect were quite so good.”
A case in point is Sabrina, a graphic novel by U.S. author Nick Drnaso, which The Guardian claims is “a clever and chilling analysis of the nature of trust and truth and the erosion of both in the age of the internet.” It’s the first graphic novel ever to enter the finals for this prestigious annual award.
Another unusual entry is The Long Take by Robin Robertson, a noir narrative poem about a Canadian World War II veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder as he wanders through American cities. The Guardian claims Scottish author Robertson is “one of the finest lyric poets of our time” and goes on to say The Long Road “…is a beautiful, vigorous and achingly melancholy hymn to the common man that is as unexpected as it is daring.”
Also, there’s Snap by U.K. author Belinda Bauer, a crime novel that’s a bit of a surprise on the list, considering Publisher’s Weekly describes it as uneven and contrived, and Kirkus Reviews says it’s “a victim of its own niceness.” Scottish crime author Val McDermid, one of the Man Booker judges, says it’s the best crime novel she’s read “in a very long time.” I have Snap lined up for the next book to read to see for myself, if it is indeed one of the best crime novels.
I’ve just finished reading another finalist, From a Low and Quiet Sea, by Irish author Donal Ryan. It’s about three very different men struggling with what they’ve loved and lost, a small novel, under 200 pages, filled with moving prose set for the most part in Ireland. It’s powerfully good. The first main character is Farouk, trying to get his family out of Syria; the second is Lampy, a lovelorn teenager who’s lost a girl; and the third a wealthy accountant who lost his beloved brother. Ryan brings them together in an astonishing ending.
I’ve also got the advanced reading copy of another finalist, Washington Black by Canadian author Esi Edugyan to be published in September. It’s the story of an eleven-year-old field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation who becomes the personal servant to an eccentric owner. That owner introduces the young Washington Black or “Wash” to a life of adventure and meaning. Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues was nominated for the Man Booker 2011 Longlist, an involving novel about a black German trumpet player arrested in a Paris café during World War II and never heard from again. If it’s an indication of what to expect for the story of Wash, then we’ve got another great book from this author.
The Man Booker Prize committee claims this year they had “the greatest number of submissions ever – a staggering, daunting, and possibly unkind 171,” which they whittled down to their Longlist’s baker’s dozen. The next whittling will produce a shorter list of finalists on September 20. The winner will be announced October 16.
To get all the Longlist finalists, visit The Man Booker Prize website.