It’s that time of year again – the 2021 Booker Prize longlist will be announced on Tuesday 27th July and I have made 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 several that I haven’t. As ever, it’s impossible to know which novels have been submitted for consideration. Last year, for the first time since I started writing these posts, my longlist predictions list included the eventual winner Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, so my first prediction is that it is highly unlikely I will repeat this trick for a second year in a row….
The judging panel changes every year, but there has been a noticeable trend towards more established authors in recent longlists, most of whom have been nominated in previous years. The obvious literary contenders this year include the dystopian science-fiction work Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro which is the Nobel Prize-winning author’s eighth novel, having won the Booker Prize in 1989 for ‘The Remains of the Day’ as well as being nominated on three other occasions. Second Place by Rachel Cusk could be her first longlist appearance since 2005, and is about a woman who invites an artist to stay at her house by the coast. The Promise by Damon Galgut is set in pre-apartheid South Africa and stands a good chance of becoming his third nomination for the Booker Prize.
Eligible books for this year’s longlist must have been first published in the UK between 1st October 2020 and 30th September 2021, which means some titles have yet to appear in bookshops. A strong possibility (and personal preference even though I haven’t read it yet) is Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney which will be published in September, three years after Normal People was longlisted in 2018. Also due in September are The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki, which follows A Tale for the Time Being shortlisted in 2013, and Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead who was longlisted in 2017 for ‘The Underground Railroad’.
Hopefully, there should be room on the longlist for some new faces too. In terms of indie publishers, a couple of Bluemoose titles I would like to see are Panenka by Ronan Hession about a middle-aged man with mistakes he made in the past and Should We Fall Behind by Sharon Duggal which is a sensitive and non-judgemental portrayal of the most marginalised groups in society.
Elsewhere, Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason has been well received by critics and readers alike for its original depiction of the main protagonist’s experience of mental illness. Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead is an epic story of a female aviator and a Hollywood actress who portrays her sixty years later. I also like the sound of Lean Fall Stand by Jon McGregor which is about an Antarctic research trip that goes very wrong.
Finally, there is usually some overlap with the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist. No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood is a fragmented debut novel about the internet and grief amongst other things and Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller about 51-year-old twins who still live with their mother in rural isolation could be recognised too.
Which books would you like to see on the Booker Prize longlist this year?