The 2006 Man Booker Prize Shortlist

September 14, 2006 at 5:46 pm Leave a comment

The 2006 Man Booker Prize Shortlist

Kiran Desai – The Inheritance of Loss
Kate Grenville – The Secret River
M.J. Hyland – Carry Me Down
Hisham Matar – In the Country of Men
Edward St Aubyn – Mother’s Milk
Sarah Waters – The Night Watch

The news I’d dreaded really: “Sarah Waters heads Booker shortlist.”
Firstly, although I think Sarah Waters is a very good writer, her books are a bit on the populist side for the Booker, aren’t they? Surely Fingersmith was more suited to the WH Smith Thumping Good Read Award (if it’s still going) than the Booker?
Secondly because it meant no Carey or Mitchell – whose books I would be reading anyway. Perhaps that’s the intention. I think judges like to use the shortlist to draw people’s attention to books they wouldn’t otherwise read.
I think Hisham Matar had some help from Sod’s Law in making the shortlist. For weeks now I have been waiting for someone to return a copy of In the Country of Men to a library I frequent and today, when I checked the library catalogue online, it had turned up. I sped round there to get hold of it – only to find them shut due to a leaky roof. So that was a couple of hours reading time wasted chasing a wild goose. I expect someone will have reserved it by the time they are open again.
As I expected, the majority of women on the judging panel pushed the gender balance of the shortlist away from the male-dominated norm. However, the last time there were four women on the shortlist they all lost – to DBC Pierre in 2003. I don’t expect that to be allowed to happen this year though. There’ll be a woman winner this year come hell or high water, as sure as 2004 was bound to produce a gay winner. Axes have to be ground. I just hope the prize goes to MJ Hyland or Kiran Desai (I’m looking forward to reading The Inheritance of Loss – I thought her first novel Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard was wonderfully funny.)
As usual, the bookies have made the most well known author the favourite but, if the judges put their unground axes aside, I see this being a two horse race. There are two books on the shortlist that I was certain would be there – the two books that seem to impress everyone who reads them:
Carry Me Down and Mother’s Milk.
My instinct is that one of those two will win. If I were a betting man and I’d seen the odds the bookies were offering yesterday (St Aubyn 14-1, Hyland 16-1) I would have bitten their hands off.
The winner will be announced on Tuesday October 10th.
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My shortly-to-be-read-list The Smoking Gun

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