If you’d told me I’d be writing a post with the title above a year ago when I wrote this about the lack of women on the 2014 Man Booker Prize longlist, or even on Tuesday when I tweeted this:
then I would have laughed at you. But yesterday at midday the 2015 longlist was revealed and it’s the most exciting, most diverse longlist the prize has ever created.
For only the second time since longlists have been published, there are more female writers than male writers (7 to 6) and for the first time ever, almost half of the list are books by writers of colour (6 to 7 by white writers). I’ve read and reviewed three of the books and enjoyed them all: Lila by Marilynne Robinson, The Chimes by Anna Smaill and A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. I’m particularly thrilled about The Chimes as I think it’s been largely ignored in the UK and it’s a clever, inventive book with a gripping story.
I’ve also read Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (review coming on publication week) and it’s my tip for the win at the moment. It’s an extraordinary novel, one of the best I’ve ever read. I already have two of the other novels by women on my TBR: The Green Road by Anne Enright and Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy so I’ll be making a start on those shortly. I’m intrigued by The Moor’s Account by Leila Lalami and will pick that up when the paperback’s published.
A brief mention for the men too as, for the first time in years, I’m excited to read books listed by them too! I’m very keen to read Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings. I had a peek at the first page yesterday and its lyrical prose had me hooked. Sunjeev Sahota’s from down the road and his book The Year of the Runaways is set in Sheffield which gives it added interest for me. I also heard him read from it earlier in the year and was intrigued. Finally Bill Clegg’s Did You Ever Have a Family for two reasons: several years ago I read his first memoir Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man which was very well written and the novel has a female protagonist, which intrigues me.
It’s impossible to know whether the diversity of this year’s list has been instigated by new director, Gaby Wood, or this year’s chair of judges, Michael Wood (or indeed the judges collectively), or whether there’s been a change in submissions from publishers (although I find it hard to believe the 156 submissions are split equally by gender and white writers/writers of colour). Whatever the reason for this development, it’s a welcome one. Although it’s still possible (although I would have thought unlikely) for the judges to create an all-male or an all-white shortlist, it is both possible for them to create an all-female or an all-writers of colour shortlist and impossible for them to create an all-white male shortlist and, at last, that looks like progress.
Bill Clegg (US) – Did You Ever Have a Family (Jonathan Cape)
Anne Enright (Ireland) – The Green Road (Jonathan Cape)
Marlon James (Jamaica) – A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications)
Laila Lalami (US) – The Moor’s Account (Periscope, Garnet Publishing)
Tom McCarthy (UK) – Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)
Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) – The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press)
Andrew O’Hagan (UK) – The Illuminations (Faber & Faber)
Marilynne Robinson (US) – Lila (Virago)
Anuradha Roy (India) – Sleeping on Jupiter (MacLehose Press, Quercus)
Sunjeev Sahota (UK) – The Year of the Runaways (Picador)
Anna Smaill (New Zealand) – The Chimes (Sceptre)
Anne Tyler (US) – A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)
Hanya Yanagihara (US) – A Little Life (Picador)