The Booker Prize is a brave new world: an essential guide

Lifestyle

The Booker Prize is a brave new world: an essential guide

Will 2020 go down in history as the year Americans finally took over the literary prize?

Susannah Goldsbrough

After the strong British line-up of the past two years, nine of the 13 authors on this year’s Booker Prize longlist are from the US or US-based. It’s a stark contrast.

Notable Brit omissions include two of the year’s most directly political novels: Summer, the final instalment in Ali Smith’s Brexit-themed Seasonal quartet, and Jenny Offil’s climate emergency novel Weather. Only three UK works –Sophie Ward’s cleverly philosophical Love and Other Thought Experiments, Gabriel Krauze’s gritty coming-of-age story Who They Was and the final instalment of Hilary Mantel’s majestic Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror & the Light –have been left to face down the international competition. Is this really the best of British talent? Some will argue it’s time to add “literary” to the UK’s list of national crises.

More cheering, however, is the number of first-time authors: Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age, C Pam Zhang’s How Much of These Hills is Gold, Avni Doshi’s Burnt Sugar, Diane Cook’s The New Wilderness, Brandon Taylor’s Real Life and Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain, as well as Ward’s and Krauze’s works, are debuts. Similarly pleasing is the number of female authors...

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