Who will take the Booker?

Ian McEwan is in the running to become only the third author to win the Man Booker prize for a second time, having secured a place on the shortlist with On Chesil Beach. He is, however, likely to face stiff competition from the virtually unknown New Zealand-born author Lloyd Jones, whose novel Mister Pip was installed as the favourite for the £50 000 prize.

After the massacre of entries from long-established writers when the long list was announced, the shortlist of six, from which the winner of the most respected of all fiction awards will be chosen, offered fewer surprises. The judges omitted all four first-time novelists on the long list and the only high-profile casualty was AN Wilson’s fictional portrait of Hitler, Winnie and Wolf.

Instead, McEwan and Jones are joined by Nicola Barker — whose novel, Darkmans, a contemporary ghost story set in modern-day Ashford — is a critical and popular favourite. Also on the list are Anne Enright — whose fourth novel, The Gathering, tells the story of the 12strong Hegarty family — and Indra Sinha, whose Animal’s People draws a campaigning portrait of an Indian community blighted by an American chemical firm.

The final shortlisted book is Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which is set against the backdrop of the political unrest that followed the attacks on the World Trade Centre on 9/11. It has been described by Jonathan Ruppin, buyer at Foyles bookshop, as a “stunning novel and my choice to win”.

The judges’ chairperson, Howard Davies, said: “Selecting a shortlist this year from what was widely seen as an exciting long list was a tough challenge. We hope the choices we have made, after passionate and careful consideration, will attract wide interest.”


McEwan’s inclusion is likely to raise some eyebrows among the literary community because of the slightness of his book. At less than 200 pages it is felt by many to be a novella rather than a novel.

William Hill said Mister Pip was installed as a favourite because of the “unprecedented” amount of money being placed on the book; until until a month ago, it was a 20-1 outsider. The bookmaker was by no means alone in noting a groundswell of interest in Jones’s tale of a Pacific island, which grows enthralled with Dickens’s Great Expectations when it is isolated during wartime.

Amazon found that Mister Pip sustained the biggest percentage increase of all books on the Man Booker long list after it was announced. “It is a real achievement to grow sales in the way Mister Pip has,” said Amazon’s head buyer, Kes Nielsen.

Davies said it was “rubbish” to suggest that McEwan — who won in 1998 with Amsterdam — was a runaway certainty for the prize. “All five other authors are very close to him in the view of the judges.”

Rodney Troubridge, fiction head at booksellers Waterstone’s, said: “Even if he doesn’t pick up the prize in October, Ian McEwan can only be seen as the big winner in this year’s Booker.

“If he wins, then the already bestselling On Chesil Beach will do even better and his reputation as probably our greatest living — and relatively young — author will continue to grow. If he loses, whoever else on this shortlist of less established writers wins will be dubbed David against his Goliath and they will always be referred to as ‘the writer that beat Ian McEwan to the Booker’.

“That said, I do think that Ian McEwan is on unstoppable form.”

Ruppin, at booksellers Foyles, said: “Booksellers and buyers need not worry about the lack of household names because the list is full of the literary giants of the future.”

The other judges are poet Wendy Cope, Giles Foden, author, biographer and critic Ruth Scurr and actor Imogen Stubbs. The winner will be announced on October 16. — Â

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

John Ezard
Guest Author
Sarah Crown
Guest Author

Related stories

Top authors who won’t be at the Booker dinner

Who will win the Man Booker 2012? Whoever does, a number of very big names didn't even make the long list, including Ian McEwan and Peter Carey.

McEwan censures Mid-East nihilism

British author Ian McEwan launched an eloquently powerful attack on Israeli policies in his speech accepting the Jerusalem prize for literature.

Home dramatics

<b>MOVIE OF THE WEEK:</b> Shaun de Waal reviews the film adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel <i>Atonement</i>.

Straying into her mind

Male novelists represent the internal lives of women, writes Jane Rosenthal.

Booker’s giant-killing long list

Ondaatje, Coetzee, Swift, Lessing and Keneally cast aside in favour of novels from lesser-known authors. John Ezard reports.
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Durban city manager says NPA erred in his bail conditions

The corruption-fraught metro is coming to grips with having a municipal manager who is on bail for graft, yet has returned to work

Why anti-corruption campaigns are bad for democracy

Such campaigns can draw attention to the widespread presence of the very behaviour they are trying to stamp out — and subconsciously encourage people to view it as appropriate

Tax, wage bill, debt, pandemic: Mboweni’s tightrope budget policy statement

The finance minister has to close the jaws of the hippo and he’s likely to do this by tightening the country’s belt, again.

SA justice delays extradition of paedophile to UK

Efforts to bring Lee Nigel Tucker to justice have spanned 16 years and his alleged victims have waited for 30 years
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday