Howard Jacobson, David Mitchell and Ali Smith are among the British heavyweight writers who will compete for the Man Booker prize in its first incarnation as a global literary award.
Australia’s own Richard Flanagan has also made the cut with his stunning novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North.
Thirteen novels were named on the longlist for the prize which for more than 40 years has rewarded only Commonwealth writers. The rules changed last year, sparking fears that it would quickly be dominated by Americans. Despite four Americans being longlisted, chair of judges, the philosopher AC Grayling, said it had been “a vintage year”.
Take a closer look at the 2014 Longlist, and be your own judge…
The Man Booker Prize 2014 Longlist
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
by Joshua Ferris
Paul O’Rourke – dentist extraordinaire, reluctant New Yorker, avowed atheist, disaffected Red Sox fan, and a connoisseur of the afternoon mochaccino – is a man out of touch with modern life. While his dental practice occupies his days, his nights are filled with darker thoughts, as he alternatively marvels at and rails against the optimism of the rest of humanity.
So it goes, until someone begins to impersonate Paul online. What began as an outrageous violation of privacy soon becomes something far more soul-frightening: the possibility that the virtual ‘Paul’ might be a better version of the man in the flesh .
Joshua Ferris was born in Illinois in 1974. He attended the University of Iowa and the University of California, Irvine. He now lives in Brooklyn, New York.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
by Richard Flanagan
August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.
This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.
Richard Flanagan was born in Longford, Tasmania, in 1961. His novels, Death of a River Guide, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Gould’s Book of Fish, The Unknown Terrorist, and Wanting have received numerous honours and are published in twenty-six countries. He directed a feature film version of The Sound of One Hand Clapping. A collection of his essays is published as And What Do You Do, Mr Gable?.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
by Karen Joy Fowler
Rosemary’s young, just at college, and she’s decided not to tell anyone a thing about her family. So we’re not going to tell you too much either: you’ll have to find out for yourselves what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other. Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone – vanished from her life. There’s something unique about Rosemary’s sister, Fern. So now she’s telling her story; a looping narrative that begins towards the end, and then goes back to the beginning. Twice. It’s funny, clever, intimate, honest, analytical and swirling with ideas that will come back to bite you. We hope you enjoy it, and if, when you’re telling a friend about it, you do decide to spill the beans about Fern – it’s pretty hard to resist – don’t worry.
Karen Joy Fowler is the author of six novels and three short story collections. The Jane Austen Book Club spent thirteen weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list and was a New York Times Notable Book. Fowler’s previous novel, Sister Noon, was a finalist for the 2001 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. Her debut novel, Sarah Canary, was a New York Times Notable Book, as was her second novel, The Sweetheart Season.
The Blazing World
by Siri Hustvedt
Artist Harriet Burden, consumed by fury at the lack of recognition she has received from the New York art establishment, embarks on a shrewd experiment: she hides her identity behind three male fronts who exhibit her work as their own. And yet, even after she has unmasked herself, there are those who refuse to believe she is the woman behind the men.
Presented as a collection of texts compiled by a scholar years after Burden’s death, the story unfolds through extracts from her notebooks, reviews and articles, as well as testimonies from her children, her lover, a dear friend, and others more distantly connected to her. Each account is different, however, and the mysteries about Harriet Burden start to multiply. One thing is clear: Burden’s involvement with the last of her ‘masks’ turned into a dangerous psychological game that ended with the man’s bizarre death.
Siri Hustvedt‘s work has been published in The Paris Review, Fiction, and The Best American Short Stories, and she is also the author of Reading to You, a poetry collection, and three collections of essays, Yonder, Mysteries of the Rectangle: Essays on Painting, and A Plea for Eros, and a non-fiction work, The Shaking Woman: A History of My Nerves. Her most recent novel is The Summer Without Men. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, Paul Auster.
by Howard Jacobson
Set in the future, a world where the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited, J is a love story of incomparable strangeness, both tender and terrifying. Two people fall in love, not yet knowing where they have come from or where they are going. Kevern doesn’t know why his father always drew two fingers across his lips when he said a world starting with a J. It wasn’t then, and isn’t now, the time or place to be asking questions. Ailinn too has grown up in the dark about who she was or where she came from.
J is a novel to be talked about in the same breath as Nineteen Eighty Four and Brave New World, thought provoking and life changing. It is like no other novel that Howard Jacobson has written.
by Paul Kingsnorth
Everyone knows the date of the Battle of Hastings. Far fewer people know what happened next…Set in the three years after the Norman invasion, The Wake tells the story of a fractured band of guerilla fighters who take up arms against the invaders.
Carefully hung on the known historical facts about the almost forgotten war of resistance that spread across England in the decade after 1066, it is a story of the brutal shattering of lives, a tale of lost gods and haunted visions, narrated by a man of the Lincolnshire fens bearing witness to the end of his world.
Written in what the author describes as ‘a shadow tongue’ – a version of Old English updated so as to be understandable for the modern reader – The Wake renders the inner life of an Anglo-Saxon man with an accuracy and immediacy rare in historical fiction. To enter Buccmaster’s world is to feel powerfully the sheer strangeness of the past.
The Bone Clocks
by David Mitchell
One drowsy summer’s day in 1984, teenage runaway Holly Sykes encounters a strange woman who offers a small kindness in exchange for ‘asylum’. Decades will pass before Holly understands exactly what sort of asylum the woman was seeking …
The Bone Clocks follows the twists and turns of Holly’s life from a scarred adolescence in Gravesend to old age on Ireland’s Atlantic coast as Europe’s oil supply dries up – a life not so far out of the ordinary, yet punctuated by flashes of precognition, visits from people who emerge from thin air and brief lapses in the laws of reality. For Holly Sykes – daughter, sister, mother, guardian – is also an unwitting player in a murderous feud played out in the shadows and margins of our world, and may prove to be its decisive weapon.
Metaphysical thriller, meditation on mortality and chronicle of our self-devouring times, this kaleidoscopic novel crackles with the invention and wit that have made David Mitchell one of the most celebrated writers of his generation. Here is fiction at its spellbinding and memorable best.
The Lives of Others
by Neel Mukherjee
Calcutta, 1967. Unnoticed by his family, Supratik has become dangerously involved in extremist political activism. Compelled by an idealistic desire to change his life and the world around him, all he leaves behind before disappearing is this note …
The ageing patriarch and matriarch of his family, the Ghoshes, preside over their large household, unaware that beneath the barely ruffled surface of their lives the sands are shifting. More than poisonous rivalries among sisters-in-law, destructive secrets, and the implosion of the family business, this is a family unravelling as the society around it fractures. For this is a moment of turbulence, of inevitable and unstoppable change: the chasm between the generations, and between those who have and those who have not, has never been wider.
Ambitious, rich and compassionate The Lives of Others anatomises the soul of a nation as it unfolds a family history. A novel about many things, including the limits of empathy and the nature of political action, it asks: how do we imagine our place amongst others in the world? Can that be reimagined? And at what cost? This is a novel of unflinching power and emotional force.
by David Nicholls
David Nicholls brings to bear all the wit and intelligence that graced One Day in this brilliant, bittersweet new book, which will delight his fans and bring him many new readers.
A novel about love and family, husbands and wives, parents and children, its publication will undoubtedly be one of the major events in the world of books in 2014.
by Joseph O’Neill
The new novel from Joseph O’Neill, his first since the Man Booker longlisted and PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction-winning ‘Netherland’. In 2007, a New York attorney bumps into an old college buddy – and accepts his friend’s offer of a job in Dubai, as the overseer of an enormous family fortune.
Haunted by the collapse of his relationship and hoping for a fresh start, our strange hero begins to suspect that he has exchanged one inferno for another.
A funny and wholly original work of international literature, ‘The Dog’ is led by a brilliantly entertaining anti-hero. Imprisoned by his endless powers of reasoning, hemmed in by the ethical demands of globalized life, he is fatefully drawn towards the only logical response to our confounding epoch.
by Richard Powers
Seventy-year old avant-garde composer Peter Els opens the door one evening to find the police outside. His DIY microbiology lab – the latest experiment in his lifelong attempt to extract music from rich patterns beyond the ear’s ability to hear – has come to the attention of Homeland Security. Panicked by the raid on his house, Els flees and turns fugitive, waiting for the evidence to clear him and for the alarm surrounding his activities to blow over.
But alarm turns to national hysteria, as the government promises a panicked nation that the ‘Bioterrorist Bach’ will be found and brought to trial. As Els feels the noose around him tighten, he embarks on a cross-country trip to visit, one last time, the people in his past who have most shaped his failed musical journey. And through the help of these people – his ex-wife, his daughter, and his longtime artistic collaborator – Els comes up with a plan to turn this disastrous collision with national security into one last, resonant, calamitous artwork that might reach an audience beyond his wildest dreams.
How To Be Both
by Ali Smith
Passionate, compassionate, vitally inventive and scrupulously playful, Ali Smith’s novels are like nothing else.
How to be Both is a novel all about art’s versatility. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it’s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There’s a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There’s the child of a child of the 1960s.
Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real – and all life’s givens get given a second chance.
History of the Rain
by Niall Williams
Bedbound in her attic room beneath the rain, plain Ruth Swain is in search of her father. To find him, Ruthie must first trace the Swains, their jutting jaw lines, narrow faces and gleamy skin, from the restless Reverend Swain, her great-grandfather, to grandfather Abraham, to her father, Virgil ? via pole-vaulting, salmon fishing, poetry and a wild rain-sodden history of the pursuit of the impossible on fourteen acres of the worst farming land in Ireland. A celebration of books, love and the healing power of storytelling, this is an exquisite, funny novel in which every sentence sings.
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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