Man Booker Prize 2013

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The longlist was announced on 23 July and the shortlist on 10 September. The winner was announced on 15 October.


The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton


Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries is set in the New Zealand gold rush of the late 1860s. It's a story about greed, power, gold, dreams, opium, secrets, betrayal and identity, but most of all, it's a celebration of the art of story telling, both in terms of Catton's book and the stories her characters have to tell. It's the kind of book that is perfect escapism and which wraps you up in its world. If you like big, chunky books that you can get lost in for hours, then this is one for you. Full review...


We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo


This powerful narrative bears witness to the experience of economic migrants. Not just black Africans coming from Zimbabwe, like NoViolet Bulawayo, but more generally, those several generations of hardy, resourceful immigrants driven to the USA in search of a better future. Such people leave behind less courageous family members, but not their emotions towards those they have loved or their nation of birth. Full review...

Harvest by Jim Crace


As harvest comes in, a village finds itself under threat. Invaded by a series of unfamiliar visitors, it will find itself utterly transformed over a short but apocalyptic seven days. We watch through the eyes of Walter Thirsk as three vagabonds escaping the enclosure of their fields are blamed for the trangressions of others, as the chartmaker Mr Quill enumerates the common land, and as Master Kent's benevolent rule is overtaken by a new owner, who comes with enforcers in the name of profit, progress and enterprise - or sheep farming as Walter quickly realises. Full review...

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri


Subhash and Udayan Mitra are brothers growing up in an India growing into its post-independence status. Subhash goes along with Udayan's ideas but it's Udayan who's the radical, fighting against the injustices of an elitism that remains once the British have left India. Eventually they go their separate ways, one studying abroad to avoid conflict and the other becoming more deeply embroiled. Life can't go on like this forever and it doesn't but the reverberations seem to, affecting generation after generation as Subhash realises that the search for peace isn't always an external thing. Full review...

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki


Ruth finds a 'Hello Kitty' bag washed up on the shore of Whaletown, the small Canadian island that she and her husband Oliver call home. As Ruth opens it and begins reading the diary safely protected inside, she learns about Nao, a teenager in Japan. Through her writing Nao becomes real and the tales of her varied life, struggles at school and fascinating relatives compels Ruth to search for her, or at least to discover her fate. Full review...

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin


The subject matter for Colm Tóibín's The Testament of Mary is exactly what the title suggests in that it relates Mary's feelings about the death of her son, Jesus, whose name it hurts her too much to even mention. It's a curiously slight offering though. Its 100 odd pages lands it somewhere between short story and novella territory. Even so, with Tóibín's excellence as a writer and the emotive subject matter, I expected to be more engaged with the story than I was. Full review...


Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw


China is a booming economy for people in a position to take advantage; people like Gary the pop star who once won a talent show, Yinghui the lingerie magnate or her childhood friend and property developer Justin who feels the weight of his family's expectations. Then there's Phoebe, moving to Shanghai from the country on a promise and a belief that to attract success one must act as if one already has it. Life will bring them into each other's orbit but it won't leave any of them the same as when they started. Full review...

The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris


After waiting till all her elder sisters' weddings were done and dusted in true ultra-orthodox Jewish style, it's now 19-year-old Chani's turn. She's only met Baruch, her fiancé, four times and he hasn't even seen her elbows but the match is made and the day eventually arrives. Baruch secretly studies forbidden gentile literature and Chani has an inquisitive streak often perceived as rebellious so God knows what the future holds. Perhaps they should take the Rabbi's marriage as an example? Or perhaps not… Full review...

The Kills by Richard House


Richard House's Booker-longlisted The Kills is a collection of four related books, originally published in e-book format between February and June 2013. In some ways, the e-book format is the natural habitat for House's creation as it includes a largely optional multi-media component to the story. It is a hugely ambitious piece about money, murder, greed, stories and where things start and equally where, if ever, they end. Covering more countries than feature in Michael Palin's passport, the book starts with corruption and embezzlement in a US civilian company working in the re-building of Iraq, and ends with a kind of 'Tales of the Unexpected' story in Cyprus having taken in a gruesome story of murder in Naples. Full review...

Unexploded by Alison MacLeod


It's 1940 and Britain lives in fear of a Nazi invasion that could happen any day. In case the worst happens, Evelyn's husband Geoffrey has buried a little something for her and their young son Philip in the garden. He tells her the tin contains a bit of money and his favourite photo of them. As she digs it up from impulse rather than necessity, she discovers that there's no photo but what there is instead makes Evelyn doubt that she knows the man she married. The events that follow make Evelyn realise that indeed she doesn't. Meanwhile the war continues and a German does invade their lives, but not in the way that either of them could envisage. Full review...

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann


In 1845 ex-slave, black American Frederick Douglass visits Ireland for a lecture tour about freedom and emancipation only to discover he's not preaching to the converted after all. In 1919 Alcock and Brown climb into a rickety aircraft to fly the Atlantic and land in Limerick. In 1994 Senator George Mitchell also travels to Ireland watched by a world that's about to see a miracle of negotiation. Meanwhile through it all Lily and her descendants are also there, not only watching history but living it on both sides of the Atlantic. Full review...

Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson


In the late nineteen eighties sixteen year old Marina is a border at Combe school, destined - as she and all about her know - for Cambridge and the medical profession. After her first term she’s wonders if she’s made a mistake as it’s definitely not like it was at Ealing Girls. There, a girl whose mother is emotionally fragile doesn’t stand out, even if the mother gets to sleep on the sofa in her in-laws’ flat because their son - her husband - upped and left her and their daughter. You would still fit in even if the family you’re living with is Hungarian and hasn’t entirely left the ways of the old country behind. At Combe there’s too much about Marina that she could be mocked for - or could get her a cruel nickname. Marina simply doesn’t fit in, but the family have sacrificed everything so that she can go there. Full review...

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan


'My father still lives back the road past the weir in the cottage I was reared in. I go there every day to see is he dead and every day he lets me down. He hasn't yet missed a day of letting me down.'

This is how we meet Bobby - Bobby Mahon, as we'll learn - and he's brutally honest about his feelings for his father, who has deliberately drunk away the farm he inherited from his father. But Frank Mahon isn't Bobby's only, or even main, problem. He's been earning big money as Pokey Burke's foreman but the financial crash has hit and Pokey has done a runner. An investment in a fake island off Dubai finished him and now he's disappeared. On the estate of forty houses he was building, just two are occupied and the rutted roads are nothing more than a racetrack for the joyriders. Full review...


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