Will Self, Hilary Mantel and the rest: A look at the Man Booker Prize shortlist...
She's in, but she's no favourite: The Lighthouse author Alison Moore
British institution Michael Frayn didn't make it, neither did dynamic young upstart Ned Beauman. But the masterclass in unease The Lighthouse by Alison Moore is on there, as is Hilary Mantel's Tudor sequel and Will Self's ambitious modernist tome, the latter two being clear bookies favourites already. Chair of judges, Peter Stothard, on the list's announcement today put the selected novels' success down to 'the pure power of prose'. Here's our appraisal of those still in the running and the not entirely unanimous critical opinion of them...
Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists (Myrmidon Books)
A longlisted author in 2007, the Penang-born former lawyer gets a second chance with this novel about creating a Japanese garden during the occupation of Malaya, published by a small Newcastle publisher. ‘Action-packed, end-of-empire storytelling' says The Independent; ‘the overall effect is one of surprising blandness' counters the Guardian.
Deborah Levy, Swimming Home (And Other Stories/Faber & Faber)
The sometime playwright tackles the effects of depression in her first novel for 15 years, and does it brilliantly according to The Telegraph; ‘an intelligent, pulsating literary beast.' The Guardian were cooler but still approved: ‘the reader closes the book both satisfied and unnerved'.
Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies (Fourth Estate)
She needs little introduction, and we can safely say that it is less the public's insatiable appetite for Tudor history that has got the world behind her than a virtuosic ability to make 16th-century England as real as the present (many suspect she was actually there). Could it be her early leanings toward politics that make her insights into Royal wrangling so astute? The FT is so enamoured, they think her Tudors series could ‘rise above anything we have known in this country in our time...' Read more reviews here.
Alison Moore, The Lighthouse (Salt)
The regular short story writer (and the independent Norfolk publishing house that took her on) will surely benefit from this exposure for her first novel, garnered for wonderfully pared down prose (that is also sense-driven and rich with aroma). The Telegraph called it ‘thrilling and well-sprung', and most critics agree it is a painstakingly plotted page-turner. The FT loved its ‘queasy brilliance', The Observer for it being ‘quietly creepy'. Read more reviews here.
Will Self, Umbrella (Bloomsbury)
Is Will Self Booker winner material? He claimed recently that he doesn't write for readers, he's never been nominated before, but the judges have decided the ubiquitous panelist and novelist has a great work in him. His approach with Umbrella is a modernist one, foregoing linearity and rather ‘arranged like a Vorticist painting' (the Observer). Apparently, hard work is rewarded with this one however, and it is ‘an immense achievement' (the FT). Read more reviews here.
Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis (Faber & Faber)
This debut novel from the Indian poet about addiction in Bombay was labelled 'outstanding' by The Independent. The author told the First Post he wanted to write the secret ‘sex and drugs' history of the city, after losing time to his own alcoholism. ‘A blistering debut that can indeed stand proudly on the shelf next to Burroughs and De Quincey', say the Guardian.
Sorry no reviews have been returned.
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