Booker Prize longlist predictions are rarely dominated by one book, but the question of whether or not The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel will make the cut will shape a lot of the debate this year. It would open up the potential for Mantel to be the first author to win the Booker Prize three times following the first two books in the trilogy about the life of Thomas Cromwell, Wolf Hall in 2009 and Bring Up the Bodies in 2013.
If the judges do select ‘The Mirror and the Light’, they will still need to nominate another 12 books to sit alongside it on the “Booker dozen” longlist. I haven’t read many eligible books this year due to library closures during lockdown which is my main source of new books. However, I was lucky enough read a review copy of Summerwater by Sarah Moss which is due to be published next month and I would very much like to see Moss receive a long overdue nomination for this brilliantly unnerving novel set in a Scottish holiday park. I also enjoyed Scabby Queen by Kirstin Innes which is about the life of a Scottish pop star and political activist who takes her own life.
I recently bought a copy of Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld which is a reimagining of the life of Hillary Rodham Clinton if she hadn’t married Bill – an intriguing premise if ever there was one. Another fictionalised version of a real person’s life that I am keen to read is Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell about William Shakespeare’s son and is O’Farrell’s first foray into historical fiction. I am also looking forward to reading The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. One of the most talked-about books of the summer, Bennett’s second novel tells the story of twin sisters, one of whom constructs a new identity as a white woman.
Of books written by previous winners other than Mantel, Actress by Anne Enright could be in with a chance although I can’t say I have particularly fond memories of reading ‘The Gathering’ which won in 2007. I think Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell about a 1960s rock band has strong potential to be on the longlist too and sounds more appealing than Cloud Atlas which was shortlisted in 2004 (and which I failed to finish). Apeirogon by Colum McCann could follow the Irish author’s longlisting in 2013 with his latest novel based on the stories of two real families in the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
Debut novels which have been well-received this year include Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez about a young gay black man who flees a religious community in Wolverhampton for London and Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart which is set in Glasgow in the 1980s. That Reminds Me by Derek Owusu recounts the life of a British-Ghanaian man and won this year’s Desmond Elliott Prize. I particularly like the sound of The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams about a Victorian lexicographer who adds false entries to the dictionary.
The longlist will be announced on Tuesday 28th July followed by the shortlist on 15th September. Which books do you think will appear on this year’s longlist?
20 responses to “The Booker Prize 2020: Predictions, Possibilities and Preferences”
There was a beautiful interview with Maggie O’Farrell about Hamnet on the radio. I am looking forward to reading it.
Reading The Gathering was a scarring experience regarding how I view Anne Enright. I’m going to read Actress when I can get it to see if I can find healing.
Yes I’ve heard so many good things about Hamnet – my expectations are very high!
I want to read Rodham, Actress, and Hamnet first, out of the above books. 😍
Rodham and Hamnet are definitely top of my list too!
Well done for thinking of all of these! My mind always goes blank when I try to think about what has been released in a particular eligibility period. I doubt I’ll be up to following the prize race very closely this year, but I will of course be curious to see which books the judges nominate and whether I’ve read any of them yet.
I’m currently reading The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams and enjoying it a lot, and I can also vouch for The Vanishing Half. I have plans to read the Mitchell, Moss, Owusu and Stuart. The other novel I’d most want to see on the longlist is The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld. Rodham was good fun, but doesn’t strike me as prize material.
Mantel seems like a shoo-in this year, though, doesn’t she? If not for the Women’s Prize, then for this (though not both, I reckon).
Yes, I’ve never managed to read a complete shortlist but it’s always fun thinking of the possibilities! Glad to hear you are enjoying The Liar’s Dictionary. Rodham is more of a personal preference than a strong possibility but you never know with the Booker! I wonder if Mantel will take both this year – I thought she would in 2013 but A. M. Homes won the Women’s Prize that year.
I would love to see Sarah Moss on the list and David Mitchell as I love both their work. I’d say Mantel is a definite though. There are a couple of Irish
books that might make it too I think.
Yes, I would love to see Sarah Moss on the longlist too. I was defeated by Cloud Atlas but I might be slightly tempted to try Utopia Avenue one day…
I always enjoy your Booker predictions. Even when they’re not right, you have great books on your list.
Surprised to read you didn’t finish Cloud Atlas. I have Utopia Ave on the way and am looking forward to it too, but I always think of Cloud Atlas as his best (I loved The Bone Clocks until it lost me in the last section).
Thank you! Yes, I’m afraid Cloud Atlas defeated me and I haven’t returned to his books since. Utopia Avenue is the first one I’m vaguely tempted by though…
I wonder if a crime/thriller will make it on to the list. I can think of plenty that deserve a place, Andrew Taylor’s Seeker series, or SG Maclean. I think Emma Donoghue should get a look in with her new novel about the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic set in a hospital and including a real-life woman doctor. I never quite know what qualifies but there are new novels by Kate Greville and Rachel Joyce. I would hope to see some debut novels on the list.
Lee Child is one of the judges this year, so a crime/thriller title is definitely a possibility – like when Snap by Belinda Bauer was longlisted when Val McDermid was on the panel.
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