The 2016 Man Booker Shortlist has been announced, eliminating seven of the thirteen books on the original longlist previously announced. I was still (slowly) working my way through the longlist, so this will serve to refocus my TBR list a bit. Of the original thirteen, I have read three books – and two of those did not make it to the shortlist, the lone survivor being Eileen by American author Otessa Moshfegh.
The longlist included five titles from British authors, five from American authors, two from Canadian authors, and one from South African author J.M. Coetzee. The shortlist is made up of two British authors, two Canadians, and two Americans (and that makes me wonder if that was not the plan all along).
The Man Booker Shortlist:
Winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction
(US) Described by the publisher, Macmillan, this way: “A biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality—the black Chinese restaurant.”
(UK) From the book’s dust jacket we learn this about Hot Milk, “Sofia, a young anthropologist, has spent much of her life trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s unexplainable illness. She is frustrated with Rose and her constant complaints, but utterly relieved to be called to abandon her own disappointing fledgling adult life. She and her mother travel to the searing, arid coast of southern Spain to see a famous consultant–their very last chance–in the hope that he might cure her unpredictable limb paralysis.”
Hot Milk is Levy’s seventh novel. She is also the author of short story collections and numerous plays.
(UK) The book’s self-description: “A brutal triple murder. Dark and deadly deeds in a remote northwestern crofting community in 1869 lead to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae. There’s no question that Macrae landed the savage blows, but it falls to the country’s finest legal and psychiatric minds to uncover what drove him to commit such merciless acts of violence. Was he insane? Only the persuasive powers of his advocate stand between Macrae and the inevitability of the gallows at Inverness.Will he swing for his wicked acts?
(US) The Los Angeles Times describes Eileen like this: “The novel fixates on solitude and isolation, alcoholism and child abuse, the icy gray New England suburbia of her town, “X-Ville,” and the even grayer ambience of Moorehead, the boys’ juvenile detention center where Eileen works. She lives alone with her retired-cop alcoholic father since the death of her mother, and her relationship with him seems limited to buying him bottles of alcohol and avoiding him altogether. Her work life seems also unbearable, other than brief minutes when her fantasy life takes her to her crush, a security guard named Randy, who most likely doesn’t know she exists.”
(Canada) The Telegraph review of All That Man Is opens this way: “David Szalay’s fourth novel tells the stories of nine male protagonists at various stages of their lives. “It’s important to feel part of something larger,” says one and, from the students of the first chapter, through the middle-aged drifters at the book’s centre, to the retiree with whom it ends, Szalay’s 21st-century men feel their lives lack meaning. Most are British but there are Belgians and Danes too, so these are timely meditations on how this country sees Europe, how Europe sees us and how we see ourselves.”
(Canada) From the book’s publisher: “The Shanghai episode is one thread of a family history picked up by the novel’s heroine, Marie, a math professor living in present-day Vancouver. As the novel opens, Marie is thinking back to her father’s death by suicide in China. At that time, a family friend arrives in Vancouver. She tells stories that stretch back to the Japanese invasion; tales of her grandmother, Big Mother Knife, and her great aunt Swirl and the wars and political campaigns that led to separations, homelessness and death. These accounts slowly unravel the mystery of Marie’s father. She also reads fragments of The Book of Records, a largely improvised novel that reflects the haphazard construct of history.”
I have a copy of Hot Milk and I’ll see if I can find copies of the other four I haven’t read. For some strange reason, it always seems easier for me to find novels by British authors here in Houston than it is for me to find the work of Canadian writers.
American authors only became eligible for the prize in 2014 when the competition was opened up to any novel published in the U.K. that was first written in English. While I do think it’s kind of fun to see how Americans do in the competition, part of me wishes that the change had not been made because I always depend on the Man Booker lists to alert me to some of the better British and Canadian books of which I otherwise would never have heard.