The Man Booker Prize is a literary award that any author would give their right hand for. Every year, original books published in the UK are evaluated and selected based on their literary merit. An advisory committee is formed, consisting of different literary personalities selected by the Booker Prize Foundation. The Man Booker prize has been in place since 1969 and has quickly grown into one of the most significant prizes in the publishing field. Figuring on the longlist in itself is an honor, let alone getting through to the shortlist.
This year’s long list has a number of literary heavyweights on it, including Arundhati Roy and Zadie Smith. With a variety of literary styles, this set of stories promises to be a treat for the reader. And this is the biggest reason why they have reached where they have. While every one of the stories is brilliant, they own a uniqueness that makes them the greats they are, including the two new authors, Fiona Mozley and Emily Fridlund.
Here is the list of books selected for the Man Booker Prize 2017:
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy:
Arundhati Roy’s second novel is a love story marked by violence and heartbreak, and set in the darkness that sometimes eclipsed India. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness has unconventional protagonists. While Anjum is a transgender living in a graveyard, three men are head over heels in love with Tilottama, an enigma unto herself. With Arundhati Roy’s magical prose, this heartbreaking love story demonstrates love, laughter, tears, hope, fragility, and steeliness.
Swing Time, Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith takes the power of the willingness to change and turns it into a marvelous novel. A story of two girls (including the narrator) who meet at a tap dance class in London, Swing Time jumps from one momentous life event to the next. Smith combines every character arch with a panache that’s heartening. Along with reinvention, Smith also explores the intimate bond between friendship, jealousy, compromise, loyalty, and emotional bargains. The appropriateness of the title is too stark to be ignored.
Elmet, Fiona Mozley
Set in a small copse in Elmet (now West Riding), Fiona Mozley’s debut novel follows the lives of siblings Daniel and Cathy, who live under the impression that this copse is solely theirs. An impression that was instilled in them by their father. But greed is a common emotion. It’s not long before neighbors begin to covet this little copse, resulting in their father’s innate violence to increase multifold. A beautiful narration of the bond between a father and his children, Elmet also expounds on how society and family life are intricately linked.
Exit West, Mohsin Ahmed
Refugee crises have heartbreaking histories, some of them, heartbreaking results. And Mohsin Ahmed poetically captures this in words. From an unnamed city full of refugees to some of the most beautiful locales of the world, Saeed and Nadia are made to make the transition. Militancy makes sure that ambition is rushed out of the platonic world that they know. Exit West is strong in its description of wartime life, replete with the devastation and destruction of humanity. The tone of the narrative, however, is hopeful and looks forward to a positive future.
4321, Paul Auster
Paul Auster is known for his crisp, concise narratives. But in 4321, he decides to be generous and go all defensive on Dickens’ behalf. However, that is not all that 4321 has to offer. The protagonist, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, narrates the stories of 4 different, simultaneous lives that he leads. With a number of significant historic events used as a backdrop, Archibald trudges through his life, though the narrative can hardly be called doing that. Despite the complex interweaving of lives and narratives and timelines, 4321 is based on a simple supposition: that of the dilemma of making choices.
Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
George Saunders is widely known for his short stories. For his first novel, he produces a daring work of contemporary fiction. Lincoln in the Bardo tells the story of the spirit of Willie, the deceased 11-year-old son of US President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln mourns for his son and at nights, visits the marble crypt in the cemetery where Willie was buried. This tempts Willie’s spirit to start interacting with his mourning father and refrain from moving on to the afterlife, in the process, disturbing the other spirits in the cemetery. Saunders depicts this poignant story with the compassion that he is known for.
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
Set in Georgia, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad is a stunning narrative about slaves on cotton plantations. Cora, a slave and an outcast among fellow slaves, meets Caesar, a Virginian import. Caesar shares his knowledge of the underground railroad with Cora. They try to escape but are terrified to learn that they are being followed by slave catchers across the country. Whitehead amasses all his brilliance and bestows it upon this story of brutality and ferocious willpower.
Solar Bones, Mike McCormack
With the Goldsmiths Award already on its gilded mantelpiece, Solar Bones is well on its way to getting its author Mike McCormack on the world literary map. That is, if it hasn’t already. Revolving around Marcus Conway, a civil engineer pining for his family, the story follows him through his memories. It is all about people and places, and their reactions to external situations that they can and cannot control.
Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie
Immigrants have enough trouble adjusting with their new environs as it is. But when love and loyalty go to war against each other in such families, what can they do? Kamila Shamsie doles out generous amounts of heartbreak as she follows Isma’s story of dreams and devastation. Isma takes care of her siblings, Aneeka and Parvaiz for years before fulfilling her dream in the United States. But she cannot help but worry about Aneeka and Parvaiz. To top it all, Parvaiz disappears into the mist to fulfil their father’s jihadist legacy. What can Isma do? Will Eammon, with all his political clout, be able to help her win love and win back family?
Days Without End, Sebastian Barry
Prize-winning author Sebastian Barry tells the tale of Irishman Thomas McNulty, who, after a traumatic life in his home country decides to start afresh in the USA. As life goes, McNulty discovers that it is not so easy to do so. His experiences in the USA are not so different from those he left behind in Ireland. There’s the civil war, one in which he volunteers for the US army. It is during this time that he falls in love with a comrade, a description that makes and breaks your heart at once, thanks to its treatment of same-sex relationships like they were completely normal (which they are).
Autumn, Ali Smith
The first post-Brexit novel and the first in Ali Smith’s season tetralogy, Autumn takes the theme of individual experiences with time and plays around with it. From Elisabeth, who has her own ideas of job security and leisure, to Daniel Gluck, who dreams of dying or returning to his youth and who has been Elisabeth’s closest friend since she was 8, Autumn follows their story and the story of the EU referendum, following which the turmoil in the country reaches a peak. Of course, at 101 years old, Daniel remains unaffected by it all, thanks to his frequent naps. His concept, as he tells Elisabeth, is that everything is terminable. So does all the agony, the fear, the longing, and the hope really matter?
History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund
Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves is the story of 14-year-old Linda, who is bullied and picked on by her peers at school because of her belonging to an obscure cult. Thanks to this ancestry, she lives on the outskirts in a ‘cabin in the woods’. Her want to fit in brings her life to intertwine with that of Mr. Grierson, who is quite encouraging of her, and the Gardner family who, from across the lake, become Linda’s neighbors. Grierson pushes her to take part in a competition in which Linda writes an essay on the history of wolves and expounds on the qualities of the alpha animal. Grierson is later arrested for indulging in child pornography, leaving a profound effect on Linda. The Gardner family accept Linda into their midst by enlisting her to babysit their 4-year-old son, Paul. She finds herself liking how she settles in, but soon there are circumstances that she doesn’t quite understand. It is now Linda’s prerogative to make the right choice for herself.
Reservoir 13, Jon McGregor
When 13-year-old Rebecca Shaw goes missing in Peak District, England, the villagers join the police in the search for the missing girl. But what happens to their daily life? Their life before they started giving their all to Rebecca’s case? Even after 13 years, Rebecca’s disappearance continues to haunt the villagers in ways that no one else can comprehend. Jon McGregor brilliantly weaves the story of how such incidents affect the lives of those around which they take place. In the 13 chapters, reservoirs, mines, and lakes are dug into to find Rebecca. And what Reservoir 13 tries to accomplish (which it does) is the depiction of common life during the search over 13 years.
With such literary gems in the long list, it’s going to be a tough call for the panel to adjudge the best. As for us, we can only be thankful to these authors for giving us stories that make us think, feel, and love everything that we hold close to us again!