The Man Booker Prize is arguably Britain’s most prestigious literary award. This year’s longlist has something for everyone, with nominees including a thriller and a graphic novel.
“On a stifling summer’s day, 11-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she said. I won’t be long. But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.
“Three years later, mum-to-be Catherine wakes to find a knife beside her bed, and a note that says: I could have killed you. Meanwhile Jack is still in charge - of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and - quite suddenly - of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother. But the truth can be a dangerous thing.”
“In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes ‘interesting’. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous.”
“Where is Sabrina? The answer is hidden on a videotape, a tape which is en route to several news outlets, and about to go viral.
“Sabrina is a tale of modern mystery, anxiety, fringe paranoia and mainstream misinformation - a book that tells the story of those left behind in the wake of tragedy and has important things to say about how we live now.”
Sabrina is the first graphic novel ever to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize.
“When two English brothers take the helm of a Barbados sugar plantation, nervousness and fear run high. Washington Black - an eleven year-old field slave who has known no other life - is aghast to find himself selected as personal servant to one of these men. His new master is the eccentric Christopher Wilde - naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor and abolitionist - whose single-minded pursuit of the perfect aerial machine mystifies all around him.
“Through Wilde, Washington is initiated into a world of wonder: a world where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning.”
“For Selvon, Ardan and Yusuf, growing up under the towers of Stones Estate, summer means what it does anywhere: football, music, freedom. But now, after the killing of a British soldier, riots are spreading across the city, and nowhere is safe.
“While the fury swirls around them, Selvon and Ardan remain focused on their own obsessions: girls and grime. Their friend Yusuf is caught up in a different tide, a wave of radicalism surging through his local mosque, threatening to carry his troubled brother, Irfan, with it.”
“Words are important to Gretel, always have been. As a child, she lived on a canal boat with her mother, and together they invented a language that was just their own. She hasn’t seen her mother since the age of sixteen, though - almost a lifetime ago - and those memories have faded. Now she works as a lexicographer, updating dictionary entries, which suits her solitary nature.
“A phone call from the hospital interrupts Gretel’s isolation and throws up questions from long ago. She begins to remember the private vocabulary of her childhood. She remembers other things, too: the wild years spent on the river; the strange, lonely boy who came to stay on the boat one winter; and the creature in the water - a canal thief? - swimming upstream, getting ever closer. In the end there will be nothing for Gretel to do but go back.”
“Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences, plus six years, at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility. Outside is the world from which she has been permanently severed: the San Francisco of her youth, changed almost beyond recognition. The Mars Room strip club where she once gave lap dances for a living. And her seven-year-old son, Jackson, now in the care of Romy’s estranged mother. Inside is a new reality to adapt to: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive.”
“Imagine a world very close to our own: where women are not safe in their bodies, where desperate measures are required to raise a daughter.
“This is the story of Grace, Lia and Sky, kept apart from the world for their own good and taught the terrible things that every woman must learn about love. And it is the story of the men who come to find them - three strangers washed up by the sea, their gazes hungry and insistent, trailing desire and destruction in their wake.”
“It is 1945, and London is still reeling from the Blitz and years of war. Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, are apparently abandoned by their parents, left in the care of an enigmatic figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and grow both more convinced and less concerned as they get to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women with a shared history, all of whom seem determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) the children. But are they really what and who they claim to be?
“Many years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all he didn’t know or understand in that time, and it is this journey - through reality, recollection, and imagination - that is told in this novel.”
“Nine strangers, each in different ways, become summoned by trees, brought together in a last stand to save the continent’s few remaining acres of virgin forest.
“The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fable, ranging from antebellum New York to the late-20th-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond, revealing a world alongside our own - vast, slow, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world, and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.”
“Walker is a D-Day veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder; he can’t return home to rural Nova Scotia, and looks instead to the city for freedom, anonymity and repair.
“As he moves from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco we witness a crucial period of fracture in American history, one that also allowed film noir to flourish. The Dream had gone sour but - as those dark, classic movies made clear - the country needed outsiders to study and dramatise its new anxieties.”
“Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years.”
Normal People isn’t published until September, but you can reserve it today.
“Farouk’s country has been torn apart by war. Lampy’s heart has been laid waste by Chloe. John’s past torments him as he nears his end.
“The refugee. The dreamer. The penitent. From war-torn Syria to small-town Ireland, three men, scarred by all they have loved and lost, are searching for some version of home. Each is drawn towards a powerful reckoning, one that will bring them together in the most unexpected of ways.”