From a longlist of 13 books, the Booker Prizes announced its shortlist of six novels on Tuesday, September 6. Fifty-three years after its inception, the Booker Prize has made history on two counts – at 87, English author Alan Garner is the oldest nominated author; and with a page count of 116, Irish author Claire Keegan’s Small Things Like These is the shortest novel ever to be nominated.
The six authors represent five different nationalities and four continents, and the nominations are split equally between women and men. Zimbabwean author NoViolet Bulawayo was shortlisted in 2013 for We Need New Names, and this year she is on the shortlist for Glory. American author Elizabeth Strout was longlisted for the award in 2016 for My Name is Lucy Barton, and has made it to the shortlist this year for Oh William!. American author Percival Everett’s novel The Trees marked independent publisher Influx Press’s maiden entry to the Booker Prize shortlist, while Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka, also the only Asian on the list, ensured the same status for independent publisher Sort of Books.
All of the shortlisted authors receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. The winner – to be announced on October 17 – will receive an award of £50,000.
The shortlist (in alphabetical order) is as follows:
- Glory, NoViolet Bulawayo
- Oh William!, Elizabeth Strout
- Small Things Like These, Claire Keegan
- The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, Shehan Karunatilaka
- The Trees, Percival Everett
- Treacle Walker, Alan Garner
Glory, NoViolet Bulawayo
A long time ago, in a bountiful land not so far away, the animals lived quite happily. Then the colonisers arrived. After nearly a hundred years, a bloody War of Liberation brought new hope for the animals – along with a new leader: a charismatic horse who commanded the sun and ruled and ruled – and kept on ruling…
Glory tells the story of a country trapped in a cycle as old as time. And yet, as it unveils the myriad tricks required to uphold the illusion of absolute power, it reminds us that the glory of tyranny only lasts as long as its victims are willing to let it.
What the jury said: “A fictional country of animals ruled by a tyrannical and absolute power is on the verge of liberation. The fiction becomes almost reality as we picture the parallel between this Animal Farm, Zimbabwe, and the fate of many African nations. An ingenious and brilliant political fable that bears witness to the surreal turns of history.”
Oh William!, Elizabeth Strout
Lucy Barton is a successful writer living in New York, navigating the second half of her life as a recent widow and parent to two adult daughters. A surprise encounter leads her to reconnect with William, her first husband – and longtime, on-again/off-again friend and confidante.
Recalling their college years, the birth of their daughters, the painful dissolution of their marriage, and the lives they built with other people, Strout weaves a portrait, stunning in its subtlety, of a tender, complex, decades-long partnership.
What the jury said: “No-one writes interior life as Strout does. This is meticulous observed writing, full of probing psychological insight. Lucy Barton is one of literature’s immortal characters – brittle, damaged, unravelling, vulnerable and most of all, ordinary, like us all.”
Small Things Like These, Claire Keegan
It is 1985, in an Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant, faces his busiest season. As he does the rounds, he feels the past rising up to meet him – and encounters the complicit silences of a small community controlled by the Church.
What the jury said: “A story of quiet bravery, set in an Irish community in denial of its central secret. Beautiful, clear, economic writing and an elegant structure dense with moral themes.”
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, Shehan Karunatilaka
Colombo, 1990. Maali Almeida, war photographer, gambler and closet queen, has woken up dead in what seems like a celestial visa office. His dismembered body is sinking in the Beira Lake and he has no idea who killed him. At a time when scores are settled by death squads, suicide bombers, and hired goons, the list of suspects is depressingly long.
But even in the afterlife, time is running out for Maali. He has seven moons to try and contact the man and woman he loves most and lead them to a hidden cache of photos that will rock Sri Lanka.
What the jury said: “Life after death in Sri Lanka: an afterlife noir, with nods to Dante and Buddha and yet unpretentious. Fizzes with energy, imagery and ideas against a broad, surreal vision of the Sri Lankan civil wars. Slyly, angrily comic.”
The Trees, Percival Everett
Something strange is afoot in Money, Mississippi. A series of brutal murders are eerily linked by the presence at each crime scene of a second dead body: that of a man who resembles Emmett Till, a young black boy lynched in the same town 65 years before.
The investigating detectives soon discover that uncannily similar murders are taking place all over the country. As the bodies pile up, the detectives seek answers from a local root doctor, who has been documenting every lynching in the country for years…
What the jury said: “Eerie, provocative, blackly comic Southern noir. A page-turner with a sharp, provocative edge, as it harks back to the real-life murder of the young Emmett Till, it has important things to say about race.”
Treacle Walker, Alan Garner
Joe Coppock squints at the world with his lazy eye. He reads his comics, collects birds’ eggs and treasures his marbles, particularly his prized dobbers. When Treacle Walker appears off the moor one day – a wanderer, a healer – an unlikely friendship is forged and the young boy is introduced to a world he could never have imagined.
In this playful, moving and evocative fable, set once again in his beloved Cheshire, the masterly Alan Garner delivers both a stunning fusion of myth and folklore and a profound exploration of the fluidity of time.
What the jury said: “Garner bared to the bone in late style. This tiny book compresses all his themes – time, childhood, language, science and landscape entangled – into a single, calmly plaintive cry.”