Head of Social Media, Emma Ames, brings you a piece on the shortlist of the Man Booker 2018.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Man Booker Prize. The 2018 winner will be chosen by an excellent panel of judges: Kwame Anthony Appiah, Val McDermid, Leo Robson, Jacqueline Rose and Leanne Shapton, and will be awarded £50,000. The 2018 shortlist is comprised of three authors from the UK, Anna Burns, Daisy Johnson and Robin Robertson, two from the USA, Richard Powers and Rachel Kushner and the Canadian author, Esi Edugyan. The judges have described the shortlisted works as miracles of stylistic invention with a focus on language.
Anna Burns’ novel Milkman follows the tale of a female protagonist who struggles with the power of gossip, social pressure and continuous sexual harassment during a time of political upheaval and state violence. Burns, a Belfast-born writer, explores how social expectations, rumour and relationships can aid the abuse of an individual at the hands of a person in a community-recognised position of respect, specifically during the Troubles in Ireland.
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan is inspired by a true story of a child slave who escapes the harsh reality of work on sugar cane plantations. He is borne away in a hot-air balloon, traveling to parts of the world that would have been inaccessible to slaves in 1820, truly defining what it was like to be free. However, rather than concentrating solely on the horror of slavery, the main character, the novel’s namesake, struggles with the emotions of being free while others are not and the psychological scars of slavery, even after its abolishment.
The magically eerie Everything Under by Daisy Johnson is a surprising re-telling of a well-known myth (no, I’m not going to let it slip) from the perspective of Grettel, a girl raised by her mother on a riverboat, isolated to the point where they share their own language. After estrangement, Grettel seeks to pull the secrets of her mother’s life into the light; an almost impossible task due to her mother’s worsening dementia. A bewitching novel with intriguing characters, it is easy to understand why Johnson is The Man Booker’s youngest shortlisted author.
A true testament to the variety of the shortlist this year, the fourth novel by Rachel Kushner, The Mars Room, provides a brutal taste of reality through her protagonist, Romy Hall, a woman who has suffered through abuse, poverty, drugs, sex work and stalking and is now on her way to serving a life sentence in a female prison. The novel explores a range of serious, rampant social issues as Romy looks back on her life and its many injustices.
In stark contrast, Richard Powers’ shortlisted publication The Overstory is an exploration into the life and preservation of trees. In his novel, trees take on a voice as individuals that bring nine complete strangers together determined to save the last acres of untouched forests of America. Despite the scientific, ecological knowledge that is deeply rooted in the ideas of oncoming environmental catastrophe, there is rich exploration of character and human relationships.
The final shortlisted novel is the brilliant verse story The Long Take by Robin Robertson. Described as a genre-defying novel, Robertson has combined poetry and the novel form with stunning photography to illustrate the traumatic after-effects of war on the mind of a soldier. The main character feels unable to return to his past idyllic life after the Normandy Landings and takes comfort in the chaos of busy, hectic cities.
The shortlisted books come from many different genres and I personally can’t pick a winner. Make sure to check out the winner announcement on Tuesday October 16th.
Editor’s note: more information about the Man Booker can be found here.
Featured image by: Omeiza Haruna