The Booker Prize longlist (no longer sponsored by the Man Group) for 2019 is due to be announced on Wednesday 24th July which means it’s time for another game of what Julian Barnes once termed “posh bingo”. I’ve come up with a list of predictions in terms of what I think could be some strong possibilities alongside my own personal preferences, based on a few eligible books I have read in recent months as well as ones I haven’t. As ever, I have no idea which novels have actually been submitted for consideration.
Of the eligible books I have read, one of the most striking titles is Throw Me To The Wolves by Patrick McGuinness which is a literary crime novel loosely based on what happened to Christopher Jefferies when he was wrongly accused of murder and follows the 2011 shortlisting for McGuinness’s debut novel The Last Hundred Days. I would also like to see Little by Edward Carey on the longlist which is a fictionalised account of the early life of Madame Tussaud.
A Booker Prize shortlist wouldn’t be complete without at least one left-field choice of some sort, whether it’s the surprise inclusion of “popular” fiction, such as last year’s Snap by Belinda Bauer, or a book that is virtually unknown beforehand such as His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet. Of novels that are likely to have a wide readership regardless of literary prize success, I would like to see Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid on the longlist which I reviewed last week, although this would be dependent on the judging panel’s fondness of 1970s pop nostalgia and its unconventional documentary format.
Of novels by less well-known authors and published by smaller independent presses, Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann published earlier this month is a 1,000 page novel written as a stream-of-consciousness about a housewife from Ohio. I haven’t read it, but it is already on the way towards becoming a word-of-mouth hit this summer, and a place on the Booker Prize longlist would certainly be a boost for its indie publisher Galley Beggar Press. A Perfect Explanation by Eleanor Anstruther is far shorter in length but the debut novel published by Salt sounds very intriguing and is based on the true story of the granddaughter of the eighth Duke of Argyll who sold her son to her sister for £500.
Publishing date eligibility for this year’s prize runs from 1 October 2018 to 30 September 2019, so The Testaments by Margaret Atwood which is due to be published in September could be on there. It is a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale which was shortlisted in 1986 although Atwood has said her new novel is not based on the second season of the TV series. Also due in September, The Dutch House by Ann Patchett is already receiving positive early reviews and tells the story of a family who live on a large estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia over five decades.
There is usually some overlap with the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist and I think Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli could be a strong contender and is about a road trip across the United States and the plight of those trying to cross the Mexico-US border. There could also be further recognition for Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi which was longlisted for both the Women’s Prize and the Wellcome Book Prize this year and is about a young Nigerian woman who may or may not have bipolar disorder.
2019 might be a strong year for historical fiction on the Booker Prize longlist. I am keen to read The Hiding Game by Naomi Wood set in the Bauhaus art school in 1920s Germany and I like the sound of Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor which imagines how Bram Stoker attempts to pursue his literary ambitions while working for Henry Irving as General Manager at the Lyceum Theatre in London in the 1870s and The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan in which a wealthy landowner in 1793 advertises for someone to live in his cellar for seven years without any human contact. Alternatively, for something more up-to-the-minute, The Wall by John Lanchester is a dystopian novel about the terrifying possibilities of a post-Brexit world.
Which books do you want to see on this year’s longlist?