The 2012 Man Booker Prize shortlist has been announced with all of its usual fanfare. Hilary Mantel is leading the pack with Bring Up The Bodies, the follow up to her historical novel Wolf Hall, which won the prize back in 2009.
If Mantel wins this year, she’ll be the first British writer to win the prize twice, following in the footsteps of literary heavyweights Peter Carey and J. M. Coetzee. And many – including me – believe it would be well deserved. In the first two parts of her Wolf Hall trilogy, Mantel has created a richly drawn, tangible and absorbing portrait of Henry VIII’s court. And even better, she declared she would spend her 2009 winnings on “sex, drugs and rock and roll”. A hands-down winner in my book.
It’s a good year all round for women writers, who make up half of the Man Booker shortlist. Deborah Levy’s first novel in some fifteen years, the poetic Swimming Home, has been shortlisted alongside The Lighthouse, Alison Moore’s stunning debut novel. The latter is a sparsely written tale of loneliness and abandonment and is well worth a read.
Smaller, independent publishers have done well this year too, with And Other Stories, Salt Publishing and Myrmidon Books all hoping to benefit from the ‘Booker bounce’: the increase in sales that typically follows when a book is shortlisted. With the publishing industry in what seems like perpetual turmoil, this can only be a good thing.
Also shortlisted are Will Self’s stream of consciousness tome, Umbrella (I am firmly in the "Self’s Prose Is Impenetrable" camp, though I’m sure he’s not that bothered), poet Jeet Thayil’s vibrant and chaotic debut story of a Mumbai opium den, Narcopolis, and World War II novel, The Garden of Evening Mists by Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng.
The winner will be announced on Tuesday 16th October 2012.
Hilar Mantel image via Man Booker Prize Media Centre