Man Booker Prize Long list 2017

Today the Man Booker Prize long list for 2017 was announced, a prize that was introduced originally to try to get people to read the more literary titles, that often struggled to attain the popularity or success of their bestselling genre cousins, it was promoted as a prize for “the best novel in the opinion of the judges”, an objective that remains true today, and one of the reasons that for me, given its subjectivity, the long list is where the true gems lie!

I have only read one on the list, Exit West and have yet to review it, and I have one on the shelf Zadie Smith’s Swing Time. I’d like to read The Underground Railroad, Solar Bones, and Resevoir 13. I’m also interested to read a Kamila Shamsie novel, not sure if it will be this one or an earlier novel. What are you tempted by from the list?

Here is the list below, with summaries extracted from the Man Booker website:

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber) – Archibald Isaac Ferguson, only child of Rose and Stanley is born in New Jersey on March 3, 1947. Ferguson’s life then takes four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four Fergusons made of the same genetic material, four boys who are the same boy, go on to lead four parallel, entirely different lives.

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber) – After signing up for the US army in the 1850s, Thomas McNulty and John Cole, barely 17 years, go to fight in the Indian wars and, ultimately, the Civil War. Having fled  hardships themselves, they find these days vivid and filled with wonder, despite the horrors they are both witness to and complicit in. Their lives are further enriched and endangered when an Indian girl crosses their path.

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) – Linda, 14, lives on a dying commune on the edge of a lake. She and her parents are the last remaining inhabitants, the others having long since left amid bitter acrimony. She has grown up isolated both by geography and her understanding of the world, an outsider at school, regarded as a freak.

One day she notices the arrival of a young family in a cabin on the opposite side of the lake. She starts to befriend the mother and son and for the first time feels a sense of belonging that has been missing from her life, until the father arrives home and she fails to see the terrible warning signs.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton) – In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, Saeed and Nadia begin to fall for each amid the sound of bombs getting closer and despite the radio announcing new laws, curfews and public executions. Not safe for a woman to be alone, or to stay any longer, they hear rumours of strange black doors in secret places across the city, doors that lead to London or San Francisco, Greece or Dubai. Nadia and Saeed to seek out one such door, joining the great outpouring of those fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world.

Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)  – Marcus Conway has come a long way to stand in the kitchen of his home and remember the rhythms and routines of his life. Considering with his engineer’s mind how things – bridges, banking systems, marriages – are constructed – and how they may come apart.

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4th Estate) – Midwinter, a teenage girl on holiday has gone missing in the hills at the heart of England. Villagers join the search, fanning out across the moors as police set up roadblocks and news reporters descends on their quiet home. Meanwhile, work must continue: cows milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured, beds made, sermons written, a pantomime rehearsed. The search goes on, as does everyday life. As the seasons unfold some leave the village, others are pulled back, come together or break apart. There are births and deaths; secrets kept and exposed; livelihoods made and lost; small kindnesses and unanticipated betrayals. Bats hang in the eaves of the church and herons stand sentry in the river; fieldfares flock in the hawthorn trees and badgers and foxes prowl deep in the woods – mating and fighting, hunting and dying.

Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals) – Daniel is heading north, looking for someone. The simplicity of his  life has turned sour and fearful. Back then, Daniel and Cathy were not like other children at school, and were less like them now. Sometimes Daddy disappeared, and returned with rage in his eyes. But when he was home he was at peace. He told them the little copse in Elmet was theirs alone. That wasn’t true. Local men, greedy and watchful, circled like vultures. All the while, a terrible violence in Daddy grew. A lyrical commentary on contemporary English society and one family’s precarious place in it; an exploration of how deep the bond between father and child can go.

The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton) – In a city graveyard, a resident unrolls a threadbare Persian carpet between two graves. On a sidewalk, a baby appears suddenly, a little after midnight, in a crib of litter. In a snowy valley, a father writes to his five-year-old daughter about the number of people who attended her funeral. 

A cast of characters caught up in the tide of history. Told with a whisper, a shout, tears and laughter, it is a love story and a provocation. Its heroes, present and departed, human and animal, have been broken by the world we live in and then mended by love – and for this reason, they will never surrender.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury) – On 22 February 1862, two days after his death, Willie Lincoln is laid to rest in a marble crypt in a Georgetown cemetery. That night, shattered by grief, his father Abraham arrives at the cemetery, alone, under cover of darkness.

All evening, Abraham Lincoln paces the graveyard unsettled by the death of his beloved boy, and the grim shadow of a war without end. Meanwhile Willie is trapped between the dead and the living – drawn to his father with whom he can no longer communicate, existing in a ghostly world populated by the recently passed and the long dead. Unfolding over a single night, narrated by multiple voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is an exploration of death, grief and the deeper meaning and possibilities of life.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury) – Isma is free. After years raising her twin siblings following their mother’s death, she is studying in America. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister in London – or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew.

Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. The son of a powerful British Muslim politician, Eamonn has his own birth right to live up to – or defy. Two families’ fates are devastatingly entwined in this searing novel that asks: what sacrifices will we make in the name of love?

Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton) – How about Autumn 2016? Daniel is a century old. Elisabeth, born in 1984, has her eye on the future. The UK is in pieces, divided by a historic once-in-a-generation summer.

Autumn is a meditation on a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, on what harvest means. This first in a seasonal quartet casts an eye over our own time.  Who are we? What are we made of? Shakespearian jeu d’esprit, Keatsian melancholy, the sheer bright energy of 1960s Pop art: the centuries cast their eyes over our own history-making. From the imagination of Ali Smith comes a shape-shifting series, wide-ranging in timescale and light-footed through histories, and a story about ageing and time and love and stories themselves.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton) – Dazzlingly energetic and deeply human, Swing Time is a story about friendship and music and true identity, how they shape us and how we can survive them. Moving from north-west London to West Africa, it is an exuberant dance to the music of time.

Two brown girls dream of being dancers – but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early 20s, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either…

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet) –  Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. All the slaves lead a hellish existence, but Cora has it worse than most; she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans and is approaching womanhood, where it is clear even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they take the perilous decision to escape to the North.

Whitehead’s Underground Railroad has assumed a physical form: a dilapidated box car pulled along subterranean tracks by a steam locomotive, picking up fugitives wherever it can. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. At each stop, Cora encounters a different world. The narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America, from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. It is a story of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a reflection on history.

Happy Reading!

The Short List will be announced 13 September

Winner announced 17 October

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27 thoughts on “Man Booker Prize Long list 2017

  1. I was surprised to see how many I’d read, and Becky from Becky’s Books has reviewed some too, so between us we’ve got more than half of them covered. I’ve got The Ministry of Utmost Happiness on my TBR so I’ll read that first. (I bought it today before the longlist came out, how’s that for synchronicity!)

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  2. Hmm… I’ve only ‘read’ one, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, and I abandoned it at about page 50, so it’s probably lucky I’m not on the judging panel! I am looking forward to Days Without End soon, though, and Reservoir 13 sounds interesting…

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  3. Hi Claire, Most years I’m lucky if I’ve read one or two and sometimes none of them have made it into my reading world. But this year, and I’m not sure what has made the difference, I’ve read three and am on to my fourth—I started Reservoir 13 last night. I was most impressed by Colson Whitehead’s TheUnderground Railroad. It’s evocative, imaginative, challenging and it kept me up late because I just had to know whether Cora made it out alive. I enjoyed Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End but not nearly as much as his earlier A Long Long Way which is one of my all time favourites. As for Ali Smith’s Autumn —I just didn’t get it and am still wondering what I missed but not enough to attempt a reread.

    I often find myself wondering about how books make it in to my reading world, why some, not others … you know I’ve never read a Zadie Smith, and it’s not as if I haven’t heard of her … perhaps it’s time I rectified that.

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    • Wow that’s great going, onto your fourth already and a really good one too from all accounts thus far. There are plenty of familiar names this years, not so many debuts or little knowns, I do want to read Whitehead’s historical fiction, I’m in line to borrow it from a friend so hope to get to it eventually, much after everyone else no doubt!

      I love that mystery of how some books make it into our reading world and others elude us, even though they may be familiar from having heard them mentioned. I hope more great reads continue to cross your path Jill!

      I’ve just seen Catherine Chidgey’s new book pop up on NetGalley, The Wish Child, have you read that or heard anything about it?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have read it and not having read any of her previous novels (like so many they sit on my bookshelf unopened, waiting for the day when good intentions bear fruit) I didn’t know what to expect. It was difficult to get in to at first, and then I got irritated with the intrusive narrator, and then somewhere along the way I fell in love. I found it a complex and very rewarding read, glad I persevered. It took out the prize for Best Novel at the NZ Book Awards and I think it deserved that win. I’m keen to read Ashleigh Young’s essays Can You Tolerate This? which won the non-fiction prize. I discovered her blog recently, her writing is beautifully lyrical, in a wry, self-deprecating sort of a way.

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      • I’m pretty sure great reads will keep coming my way, especially if I keep reading your blog. 🙂Homegoing is on my must read list, too, thanks to you along with so many others you’ve reviewed. I’m looking forward to seeing what you think of The Power, too.

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  4. Hello Claire, I just turned the second page in Paul Auster’s novel <> by sheer coincidence. Did not know it was picked to be part of the Man Booker long list 2017. Went to have a look on Goodreads, were it is receiving high marks.
    I have , , and which I would like to read. Kamila Shamsie is an author I would like to know, will check her novels. I’ll be interested in your review of EXIT WEST, I read the novel but can’t say I loved it. I think I need to re – read it.
    Thank you for your post dear Claire

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  5. hmmm…all the titles I put in parentheses have disappeared so here they are
    Paul Auster 4321, I am presently reading.
    History of Wolves, I read.
    Lincoln in the Bardo, I read, an excellent novel.

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  6. Solar Bones and Elmet tempt me – well all of them really, apart maybe from the Arundhati Roy, which seems to have had pretty negative reviews. Well, the ones I read anyway.

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  7. Pingback: Swing Time by Zadie Smith #ManBookerPrize – Word by Word

  8. Pingback: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid #ManBookerPrize – Word by Word

  9. Did you read Arundhati Roy’s earlier novel? Is this new one on your list? I didn’t read God Of Small Things but now I want to read both – not sure if it will happen before September though.

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  10. Pingback: Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie #ManBookerPrize – Word by Word

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