See who’s on the shortlist for the 2019 Booker Prize

Tuesday, September 3, 2019 - 09:15

Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport, Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, Chigozie Obioma’s An Orchestra of Minorities, Salman Rushdie’s Quichotte, and Elif Shafak’s 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World have been announced as the six books shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction

These six novels were chosen from a longlist of 13 titles by the Booker Prize panel, which this year comprises five judges; writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch, publisher and editor Liz Calder, novelist Xiaolu Guo, pianist, composer and conductor Joanna Macgregor, and chair of the judges, Hay Festival founder, Peter Florence. In total 151 works were submitted for consideration; all of them published in the UK or Ireland between 1 October 2018 and 30 September 2019.

The Booker Prize – formally the Man Booker Prize – is awarded each year for the best original novel written in the English language, and published in the UK. Established in 1969 the prize was initially only available to authors from Commonwealth, Irish and South African citizens, however this was opened out in 2014 to English language novels from authors of any nationality.

On Sunday 13 October, all six authors in contention for the prize will appear at Southbank Centre for the 2019 Booker Prize Readings, where they will each read extracts from their shortlisted novels. Until then, here’s a little more about each of the shortlisted works.

Margaret Atwood – The Testaments (Vintage, Chatto & Windus)

With The Testaments not released until 10 September, it’s a little difficult to offer up a synopsis, except to say it is set 15 years after Offred’s final scene in The Handmaid’s Tale and is narrated by three female characters. Beyond that we can only offer you the words of the author Margaret Atwood who states ‘Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.'

In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalised readers for decades.
Penguin Random House, on The Testament
Margaret Atwood

Currently residing in Toronto, Margaret Atwood is a Canadian poet, essayist, literary critic and novelist. Since 1961 she has published seventeen books of poetry, sixteen novels, ten books of non-fiction, eight collections of short fiction, eight children’s books and one graphic novel. Atwood previously won The Booker Prize in 2000, for The Blind Assassin.

Lucy Ellmann – Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar Press)

Latticing one cherry pie after another, an Ohio housewife tries to bridge the gaps between reality and the torrent of meaningless info that is the United States. She worries about her children, her dead parents, African elephants, the bedroom rituals of ‘happy couples’, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and how to hatch an abandoned wood pigeon egg. Is there some trick to surviving survivalists? School shootings? Medical debts? Franks ’n’ beans? Ducks, Newburyport is a scorching indictment of America’s barbarity, past and present, and a lament for the way we are sleepwalking into environmental disaster.

This is a book about the chaos of consciousness and the artificiality of traditional narrative; it’s about, as the narrator says, “the fact that there’s a lot you just have to blank out if you want to get through life
The Guardian on Ducks, Newburyport
Lucy Ellmann
Lucy Ellmann

Born in Illinois, Lucy Ellmann was dragged to England as a teenager and now resides in Scotland. Her first novel, Sweet Desserts, won the Guardian Fiction Prize. Her fourth novel, Dot in the Universe was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and shortlisted for the Believer Book Award. Ducks, Newburyport is her seventh novel.

Bernardine Evaristo – Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton)

Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of 12 very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.

In Evaristo’s eighth book she continues to expand and enhance our literary canon. If you want to understand modern day Britain, this is the writer to read.
The New Statesman on Girl, Woman, Other
Bernardine Evaristo
Bernardine Evaristo

British writer Bernardine Evaristo is the award-winning author of eight books and numerous other published and produced works. Her previous novel Mr Loverman was a recipient of the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize. A Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University, her writing and projects are based around her interest in the African diaspora.

Chigozie Obioma – An Orchestra of Minorities (Little Brown)

Umuahia, Nigeria. Chinonso, a young poultry farmer, sees a woman attempting to jump to her death from a highway bridge. Horrified by her recklessness, Chinonso joins her on the roadside and hurls two of his most prized chickens into the water to demonstrate the severity of the fall. The woman, Ndali, is moved by his sacrifice, and bonded by this strange night, the pair fall in love. But in a quest to bridge the gap in status that exists between them, Chinonso finds himself getting further and further away from his dream, from Ndali and the place he called home.

Obioma writes with an exigent precision that makes An Orchestra of Minorities feel at once timely and speculative. The novel aches with [lead character] Chinonso... Obioma compels the reader to root for him, to see the poor chicken farmer’s story as an epic.
The Atlantic on An Orchestra of Minorities
Author Chigozie Obioma
Chigozie Obioma

Once described by The New York Times as “the heir to Chinua Achebe", Chigozie Obioma is a Nigerian writer and assistant professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska. An Orchestra of Minorities is his second novel; his first, the multi-award-winning The Fisherman was also shortlisted for The Booker Prize in 2015.

Salman Rushdie – Quichotte (Jonathan Cape)

Inspired by the classic Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, Quichotte is the story of an aging travelling salesman who falls in love with a TV star and sets off to drive across America on a quest to prove himself worthy of her hand. Quichotte’s tragicomic tale is one of a deranged time, and deals, along the way, with father-son relationships, sibling quarrels, racism, the opioid crisis, cyber-spies, and the end of the world.

The novel crackles with wickedly effective pastiche and pages of broad satire.
The Evening Standard on Quichotte
Salman Rushdie: From Midnight's Children to Trump's America
Salman Rushdie

Sir Salman Rushdie is a British Indian novelist and essayist who previously won The Booker Prize in 1981 for his second novel Midnight’s Children. Rushdie is also a two-time winner of the Whitbread Book Award, for The Satanic Verses (1988) and The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995) and a recipient of The Norman Mailler Prize. Quichotte is Rushdie’s twelfth novel.

Elif Shafak – 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking)

For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her.

Shafak takes a piercing, unflinching look at the trauma women’s minds and bodies are subjected to in a social system defined by patriarchal codes. It’s a brutal book, bleak and relentless in its portrayal of violence, heartbreak and grief, but ultimately life-affirming.
The Guardian on 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in This Strange World
Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is a Turkish-British novelist, essayist, academic, public speaker and women's rights activist who has published 17 books, 12 of which are novels. Shafak’s ninth novel Honour was longlisted for several international awards and given second place for France’s Prix Escapade; her tenth novel The Architect’s Apprentice was shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize.

The 2019 Booker Prize shortlisted writers appear at Royal Festival Hall on Sunday 13 October to read from and discuss their work, ahead of the announcement of the winner two days later. Tickets for the readings are now on sale.

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