But in the last few years, things have changed. The panel has clearly cast their net wider and this year’s list may be the most eclectic in recent memory. From the extraordinary, sweeping The Luminaries to the epic thriller The Kills.
One thing appears for certain. The Man Booker Prize this year will be earned with risk and innovation, not just a body of work.
Take a closer look at the 2013 Longlist, and be your own judge…
The Man Booker Prize 2013 Longlist
Five Star Billionaire
by Tash Aw
Justin is from a family of successful property developers. Phoebe has come to China buoyed with hope, but her dreams are shattered within hours as the job she has come to seems never to have existed. Gary is a successful pop artist, but his fans and marketing machine disappear after a bar room brawl. Yingyui has businesses that are going well but must make decisions about her life. And then there is Walter, the shadowy billionaire, ruthless and manipulative, ultimately alone in the world.
In Five Star Billionaire, Tash Aw charts the weave of their journeys in the new China, counterpointing their adventures with the old life they have left behind in Malaysia. The result is a brilliant examination of the migrations that are shaping the new city experiences all over the world, and their effect on myriad individual lives.
Tash Aw is a recent graduate of UEA. He is Malaysian by birth but now lives in London. The Harmony Silk Factory is his first novel.
We Need New Names
by NoViolet Bulawayo
To play the country-game, we have to choose a country. Everybody wants to be the USA and Britain and Canada and Australia and Switzerland and them. Nobody wants to be rags of countries like Congo, like Somalia, like Iraq, like Sudan, like Haiti and not even this one we live in – who wants to be a terrible place of hunger and things falling apart?’
Darling and her friends live in a shanty called Paradise, which of course is no such thing. It isn’t all bad, though. There’s mischief and adventure, games of Find bin Laden, stealing guavas, singing Lady Gaga at the tops of their voices.
They dream of the paradises of America, Dubai, Europe, where Madonna and Barack Obama and David Beckham live. For Darling, that dream will come true. But, like the thousands of people all over the world trying to forge new lives far from home, Darling finds this new paradise brings its own set of challenges – for her and also for those she’s left behind.
NoViolet Bulawayo was born in Tsholotsho a year after Zimbabwe’s independence from British colonial rule. When she was eighteen, she moved to Kalamazoo, Michi-gan. In 2011 she won the Caine Prize for African Writing; in 2009 she was shortlisted for the South Africa PEN Studzinsi Award, judged by JM Coetzee. Her work has appeared in magazines and in anthologies in Zimbabwe, South Africa and the UK. She earned her MFA at Cornell University, where she was also awarded a Truman Capote Fellowship, and she is currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University in California.
by Eleanor Catton
It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.
The Luminaries is an extraordinary piece of fiction, which more than fulfils the promise of The Rehearsal. Like that novel, it is full of narrative, linguistic and psychological pleasures, and has a fiendishly clever and original structuring device. Written in pitch-perfect historical register, richly evoking a mid-19th century world of shipping and banking and goldrush boom and bust, it is also a ghost story, and a gripping mystery. It is a thrilling achievement for someone still in her mid-twenties, and will confirm for critics and readers that Eleanor Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international writing firmament.
Eleanor Catton was born in 1985 in Canada and raised in Christchurch, New Zealand. She won the 2007 Sunday Star-Times short-story competition, the 2008 Glenn Schaeffer Fellowship to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the 2008 Louis Johnson New Writers’ Bursary and was named as one of Amazon’s Rising Stars in 2009. Her debut novel, The Rehearsal, won the Betty Trask Prize, the Amazon.ca First Novel Award, the NZSA Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, the Prix Femina literature award, the abroad category of the Prix Médicis, the University of Wales Dylan Thomas Prize 2010 and Stonewall’s Writer of the Year Award 2011, and longlisted for the Orange Prize 2010. In 2010 she was awarded the New Zealand Arts Foundation New Generation Award.
Catton described her next novel, The Luminaries, as “an astrological murder mystery” set in 1860s New Zealand.
by Jim Crace
As late summer steals in and the final pearls of barley are gleaned, a village comes under threat. A trio of outsiders – two men and a dangerously magnetic woman – arrives on the woodland borders and puts up a make-shift camp. That same night, the local manor house is set on fire.
Over the course of seven days, Walter Thirsk sees his hamlet unmade: the harvest blackened by smoke and fear, the new arrivals cruelly punished, and his neighbours held captive on suspicion of witchcraft. But something even darker is at the heart of his story, and he will be the only man left to tell it…
Told in Jim Crace’s hypnotic prose, Harvest evokes the tragedy of land pillaged and communities scattered, as England’s fields are irrevocably enclosed. Timeless yet singular, mythical yet deeply personal, this beautiful novel of one man and his unnamed village speaks for a way of life lost for ever.
Jim Crace is the prize-winning author of ten previous books, including Continent (winner of the 1986 Whitbread First Novel Award and the Guardian Fiction Prize), Quarantine (winner of the 1998 Whitbread Novel of the Year and shortlisted for the Booker Prize) and Being Dead (winner of the 2001 National Book Critics Circle Award). He lives in Birmingham.
The Marrying of Chani Kaufman
by Eve Harris
19 year-old Chani lives in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community of North West London. She has never had physical contact with a man, but is bound to marry a stranger. The rabbi’s wife teaches her what it means to be a Jewish wife, but Rivka has her own questions to answer. Soon buried secrets, fear and sexual desire bubble to the surface in a story of liberation and choice; not to mention what happens on the wedding night –
Eve Harris was born in London in 1973. She lives there with her husband and their daughter. Her novel, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman (2013) was inspired by teaching at an all girls’ Orthodox Jewish school in North West London. It is longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize.
by Richard House
Camp Liberty is an unmanned staging-post in Amrah province, Iraq; the place where the detritus of the war is buried, incinerated, removed from memory. Until, suddenly, plans are announced to transform it into the largest military base in the country, codenamed the Massive, with a post-war strategy to convert the site for civilian use.
Contracted by HOSCO, the insidious company responsible for overseeing the Massive, Rem Gunnerson finds himself unwittingly commanding a disparate group of economic mercenaries at Camp Liberty when the mysterious Stephen Lawrence Sutler arrives. As the men are played against each other by HOSCO the situation grows increasingly tense. And then everything changes. An explosion. An attack on a regional government office. When the dust settles it emerges that Sutler has disappeared, and over fifty million dollars of reconstruction funds are missing. Sutler finds himself accused and on the run. Gunnerson and his men want revenge for months of abuse and misinformation. Out of the chaos a man named Paul Geezler rises to restore order, a man more involved than he’s willing to admit. And then there’s the vicious murder of an American student in Italy. A murder that replicates exactly the details of a well-known novel.
A novel that seems to have a strange bearing upon a number of horrible things that are happening in the real world. Appealing to fans of Don DeLillo, Roberto Bolano and David Mitchell, The Kills is a novel of such originality and ambition that, after reading it, you will never see the world the same way again.
by Jhumpa Lahiri
From Subhash’s earliest memories, at every point, his brother was there. In the suburban streets of Calcutta where they wandered before dusk and in the hyacinth-strewn ponds where they played for hours on end, Udayan was always in his older brother’s sight.
So close in age, they were inseparable in childhood and yet, as the years pass – as U.S tanks roll into Vietnam and riots sweep across India – their brotherly bond can do nothing to forestall the tragedy that will upend their lives. Udayan – charismatic and impulsive – finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty. He will give everything, risk all, for what he believes, and in doing so will transform the futures of those dearest to him: his newly married, pregnant wife, his brother and their parents. For all of them, the repercussions of his actions will reverberate across continents WC and seep through the generations that follow.
Epic in its canvas and intimate in its portrayal of lives undone and forged anew, The Lowland is a deeply felt novel of family ties that entangle and fray in ways unforeseen and unrevealed, of ties that ineluctably define who we are. With all the hallmarks of Jhumpa Lahiri’s achingly poignant, exquisitely empathetic story-telling, this is her most devastating work of fiction to date.
Jhumpa Lahiri was born in 1967. She is a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama. She is the author of four works of fiction: Interpreter of Maladies (1999), which won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; The Namesake (2003), adapted into the popular film of the same name; Unaccustomed Earth (2008); and The Lowland (2013), longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize.
by Alison Macleod
Unexploded is the much-anticipated new novel from Alison MacLeod. May, 1940. On Park Crescent, Geoffrey and Evelyn Beaumont and their eight-year-old son, Philip, anxiously await news of the expected enemy landing on the beaches of Brighton. It is a year of tension and change. Geoffrey becomes Superintendent of the enemy alien camp at the far reaches of town, while Philip is gripped by the rumour that Hitler will make Brighton’s Royal Pavilion his English HQ. As the rumours continue to fly and the days tick on, Evelyn struggles to fall in with the war effort and the constraints of her role in life, and her thoughts become tinged with a mounting, indefinable desperation. Then she meets Otto Gottlieb, a ‘degenerate’ German-Jewish painter and prisoner in her husband’s internment camp. As Europe crumbles, Evelyn’s and Otto’s mutual distrust slowly begins to change into something else, which will shatter the structures on which her life, her family and her community rest. Love collides with fear, the power of art with the forces of war, and the lives of Evelyn, Otto and Geoffrey are changed irrevocably.
Alison MacLeod was raised in Canada and has lived in England since 1987. She is Professor of Contemporary Fiction at Chichester University and lives in Brighton.
She is the author of three novels: The Changeling (1996); The Wave Theory of Angels (2006); and Unexploded (2013), longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize.
She has also written a collection of stories, Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction.
by Colum McCann
1919. Emily Ehrlich watches as two young airmen, Alcock and Brown, emerge from the carnage of World War One to pilot the very first non-stop transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to the west of Ireland. Among the mail being carried on the aircraft is a letter which will not be opened for almost one hundred years. 1998. Senator George Mitchell criss-crosses the ocean in search of an elusive Irish peace. How many more bereaved mothers and grandmothers must he meet before an agreement can be reached? 1845. Frederick Douglass, a black American slave, lands in Ireland to champion ideas of democracy and freedom, only to find a famine unfurling at his feet. On his travels he inspires a young maid to travel to New York to embrace a free world, but the land does not always fulfill its promises for her. From the violent battlefields of the Civil War to the ice lakes of northern Missouri, it is her youngest daughter Emily who eventually finds her way back to Ireland.
Can we cross from the new world to the old? How does the past shape the future? In TransAtlantic, National Book Award- winning Colum McCann has achieved an outstanding act of literary bravura. Intricately crafted, poetic and deeply affecting it weaves together personal stories to explore the fine line between what is real and what is imagined, and the tangled skein of connections that make up our lives.
Colum McCann, originally from Dublin, Ireland, is the author of six novels and two collections of stories. His most recent novel, Let the Great World Spin, won the National Book Award and was an international bestseller. His fiction has numerous other international literary awards and been published in thirty-five languages. He lives in New York.
by Charlotte Mendelson
Home is a foreign country: they do things differently there. In a tiny flat in West London, sixteen-year-old Marina lives with her emotionally delicate mother, Laura, and three ancient Hungarian relatives. Imprisoned by her family’s crushing expectations and their fierce unEnglish pride, by their strange traditions and stranger foods, she knows she must escape. But the place she runs to makes her feel even more of an outsider. At Combe Abbey, a traditional English public school for which her family have sacrificed everything, she realises she has made a terrible mistake. She is the awkward half-foreign girl who doesn’t know how to fit in, flirt or even be. And as a semi-Hungarian Londoner, who is she? In the meantime, her mother Laura, an alien in this strange universe, has her own painful secrets to deal with, especially the return of the last man she’d expect back in her life. She isn’t noticing that, at Combe Abbey, things are starting to go terribly wrong.
Charlotte Mendelson was born in London in 1972 and grew up in Oxford. She has written and reviewed for the Guardian, the TLS, the Independent on Sunday, the Observer and elsewhere. She currently lives in London.
She is the author of four novels: Love in Idleness (2001); Daughters of Jerusalem (2003), which won both the Somerset Maugham Award and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award; When We Were Bad (2007), shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction; and Almost English (2013), longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2013.
A Tale for the Time Being
by Ruth Ozeki
Within the pages of this book lies the diary of a girl called Nao. Riding the waves of a tsunami, it is making its way across the ocean. It will change the life of the person who finds it. It might just change yours, too. Crossing generations and continents, from World War Two to present day Japan, “A Tale for the Time Being” tells an unforgettable story, as wondrous as it is wise.
Ruth Ozeki was born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut, by an American father and a Japanese mother. She studied English and Asian Studies at Smith College. In June 2010 she was ordained as a Zen Buddhist priest. She divides her time between British Columbia and New York.
She is the author of three novels: My Year of Meats (1998),which won the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Award, the Imus/Barnes and Noble American Book Award, and a Special Jury Prize of the World Cookbook Awards in Versailles; All Over Creation (2002), the recipient of a 2004 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, as well as the Willa Literary Award for Contemporary Fiction; and A Tale for the Time Being (2013), longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2013.
The Spinning Heart
by Donal Ryan
My father still lives back the road past the weir in the cottage I was reared in. I go there every day to see is he dead and every day he lets me down. He hasn’t yet missed a day of letting me down.o In the aftermath of Ireland’s financial collapse, dangerous tensions surface in an Irish town. As violence flares, the characters face a battle between public persona and inner desires.
Through a chorus of unique voices, each struggling to tell their own kind of truth, a single authentic tale unfolds. The Spinning Heart speaks for contemporary Ireland like no other novel. Wry, vulnerable, all-too human, it captures the language and spirit of rural Ireland and with uncanny perception articulates the words and thoughts of a generation. Technically daring and evocative of Patrick McCabe and J.M. Synge, this novel of small-town life is witty, dark and sweetly poignant. Donal Ryan’s brilliantly realized debut announces a stunning new voice in literary fiction.
Donal Ryan was born in a village in north Tipperary in 1977. He currently lives with his wife and two children just outside Limerick City.
His first novel, The Spinning Heart (2012), won the 2012 Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards and is longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize.
The Testament of Mary
by Colm Toibin
In a voice that is both tender and filled with rage, The Testament of Mary tells the story of a cataclysmic event which led to an overpowering grief. For Mary, her son has been lost to the world, and now, living in exile and in fear, she tries to piece together the memories of the events that led to her son’s brutal death. To her he was a vulnerable figure, surrounded by men who could not be trusted, living in a time of turmoil and change.
As her life and her suffering begin to acquire the resonance of myth, Mary struggles to break the silence surrounding what she knows to have happened. In her effort to tell the truth in all its gnarled complexity, she slowly emerges as a figure of immense moral stature as well as a woman from history rendered now as fully human.
Colm Toibin was born in Ireland in 1955 and currently lives in Dublin. He is the author of five previous novels, collections of short stories and many works of non-fiction. He has twice been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for The Blackwater Lightship (1999) and The Master (2004), while The Master won The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (2006).
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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