So, the end is near. In a few hours we’ll find out who takes down the big money prize and sees their sales figures rise for at least a couple of months. The Booker is still one of the biggest names in literary prizes, and there’ll undoubtedly be some celebrations tonight.
But what of the shortlist? I have to say, I’ve been pretty impressed. Yes, there are a couple of stinkers, but compared to previous lists that’s an improvement. Last year we had one great novel in Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary, and one pretty good one from Jhumpa Lahiri. The others, for me at least, ranged from pretty decent to bloody appalling. And the most appalling won.
This year, I’d say that both the Fowler and Flanagan are absolutely outstanding novels. The Ali Smith is very, very good, even if one half is not quite up to the same standard as the other. And the Ferris is bloody enjoyable, too. I’ve been harsh on the Mukherjee on here, but it is good in parts. The less said about the Jacobson, the better.
That’s not a bad effort. Two thirds of the shortlist are great or close to it, and without their shortlisting I probably would have only read the Smith.
The Booker gets a somewhat raw deal in my eyes. When the shortlist was announced, Twitter was awash with naysayers who bemoaned a safe list that didn’t include their favourite books. I don’t think anyone can argue with half of this year’s finalists.
Having said that, I am kind of dreading the announcement. The problem with reading the shortlist is that I now care. There are three novels that would be deserving winners, although I have to say I’m holding out for Fowler. But something tells me that I’m going to be disappointed when 9.30 comes. If Mukherjee wins it will be a shame, if Jacobson wins it will be a joke.