Unusually, I have not been grabbed this year by the one book that must be on the Man Booker List because it is going to be the winner. I was spot on with Luminaries, which did indeed go on to win; right that it was on the list, but not a winner, last year with A Little Life.
My suggested list this year is in alphabetical order because these are the books I would like to see on the long list, but I don’t have an outright winner, several favourites but since they cannot all win I am not picking them out yet. So:
Tahmima Anam – The Bones of Grace, this is a lovely ending to a trilogy that has been a long time in the making, but it stands alone so there is no downside (except the Reader’s loss) in not having read the first two.
Julian Barnes – The Noise of Time, a marvellous fictional account of the making of a piece of music, Shostakovich struggles with his piece at the same time as his struggles with the State become more fraught and perilous every minute, the grab bag is packed and outside the door…
William Boyd – Sweet Caress, this is Mr Boyd back on the form of his life, I do hope the judges see it this way…
Chris Cleave – Everyone Brave is Forgiven, war books are seldom fashionable choices for the Man Booker, but this may change, I have put more than one on my list, this is a masterpiece.
Robert Edric – Field Service, I think Robert Edric is a sadly overlooked author, I have loved pretty much every book he has written, but it is only when he departs from world war that he gets a look in, which is a pity since it is about war and its aftermath that he writes so well. Historical novels used not to be considered and look where they are now, a double winner, so maybe his time has come.
Georgina Harding – The Gun Room, a more modern war but seen through a lens, another great piece of imagination and empathy.
Thomas Keneally – Napoleon’s Last Island, a beautiful and unusual look at one of Europe’s great men in his last days, seen through the eyes of a young girl, Betsy Balcombe. Keneally hit upon this tale because of its Australian connections, and he has made it leap from the page.
Andrew Miller – The Crossing, this deals with the interior nature of suffering and grief in a most unusual tale and is all the more compelling for that.
CE Morgan – The Sports of Kings, it is very hard to classify this amazing book, her second novel. Nearer to Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley (also an American) than anything else I have read, but it is so much more than a novel about breeding race horses.
Maggie O’Farrell – This Must be the Place, this I am most confident will be included like the Julian Barnes and the Sarah Perry it seems to be on everyone’s list, it is a sweeping story that crosses continents and times with vigour and intelligence, not to mention beautiful prose.
Sarah Perry – The Essex Serpent, another second novel which I think is required reading. Her first, After Me Comes the Flood won a lots of prizes and was greatly admired, there is no reason why this should not do the same.
Frances Spufford – Golden Hill, I haven’t seem this on anyone else’s list, maybe because it is something of a spoof of an eighteenth century novel in the manner of a Richardson or Swift, it is marvellously funny and paints a very vivid portrait of a well known and much loved city in its infancy, a sheer delight.
Graham Swift – Mothering Sunday, a short, plangent and jewel-like love story set between the two world wars, truly a gem.
Any or all of these might be missed out, this is merely my selection from the books I have read, there are others yet to reach the bookshops that the judges have seen and they will certainly have as much of a chance as any of these; there are no debut novels here either, so at least one or two of these must be displaced by a new voice, one which I may not have heard.
Any or all of these are worth trying, even if they are not on the Man Booker Longlist.