Well, everyone else (relatively speaking) seems to be doing this Booker longlist prediction thingy, ahead of the actual 13-title longlist’s release on Wednesday 29th July. With a little under two days to go, and with this avowedly not exhaustive rundown of eligible contenders within eyesight, plus another couple of book bloggers’ predictions to remind me of what’s out there, here’s what I’d not be surprised to see on that list on Wednesday…
Sarah Hall The Wolf Border (Faber) I’ve read 11½, I think, of the books on that Goodreads list; this is the ½ (actually more like a third, but give me time). The word that comes to mind is spellbinding: Hall is terrific on atmosphere, on a subtle and increasing wrongness, and on landscape, and even in a novel that is set (I think) five minutes into the future, with a project to reintroduce wolves to the British countryside well underway, this book has something of the fairytale about it, in the best way: never twee nor whimsical, yet perniciously, and deliciously, unsettling. Few can touch her for her prose.
Paul Murray The Mark and the Void (Hamish Hamilton) Full disclosure: I’m friends with the author. No doubt that colours my impression of his new novel a little, but as well as being a very, very funny comic novel — of the sort that the Booker has in times past been a little stuffy about — it is, more importantly, a book that engages fully with the world we live in, a book that describes the various banking crises that have affected us all over the last seven or eight years and is powered by a genuine anger at the disparities in society between those responsible for causing the economic crash in Ireland (who are bailed out) and those who bear the crash’s brunt (who are abandoned to their fate). I hope we’re past the point where the fact that a novel is very funny prevents it being taken seriously.
Belinda McKeon Tender (Picador) I just finished this earlier today and am in its thrall still a little. On the surface a college novel set in Dublin, the heart of the book is an acutely (almost shudder-inducingly so, at points) observed psychological depiction of a needy and manipulative central character and the friend she thinks she’s protecting from the ravages of an uncaring and dangerous world. No spoilers: the book takes a radical left turn about halfway through which could, I felt, have scuppered it; McKeon’s skill is in taking what seems an improbable twist and working it through intelligently, carefully, and with heart for her very flawed characters.
Okay, well, I can’t write mini-essays on all of these, but as for the remainder (let’s go for a round ten and see how many I get of the eventual thirteen) I’ll pick:
Hanya Yanagihara A Little Life (Picador)
Colm Toibin Nora Webster (Penguin)
Marilynne Robinson Lila (Virago)
Anne Enright The Green Road (Jonathan Cape) You can see a (rave) review I wrote of this novel here.
Kate Atkinson A God in Ruins (Doubleday)
Benjamin Wood The Ecliptic (Scribner)
And something by Nell Zink. Both The Wallcreeper and Mislaid (Fourth Estate) are eligible, I think — I prefer the former, but the latter (though I think it had immense flaws, some of which real life has adjusted my feelings towards) seems more likely perhaps.
Disclaimer: at least one of the above is not among the ones I’ve read yet: I’m following gut instinct. And I do feel that there might be something a little weirder among the thirteen — Kirsty Logan’s The Gracekeepers, perhaps, or Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things: something with a little of the fantastical about it. See you in 48 hours to find out how wrong I have been…