The Man Booker Prize: 2018 Shortlist

by Sunita

I woke up very early this morning and remembered that the Booker Shortlist was being announced. The six books chosen:
  • Milkman by Anna Burns
  • Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
  • Everything Under by Daisy Johnson
  • The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
  • The Overstory by Richard Powers
  • The Long Take by Robin Robertson
While I would have loved to see Donal Ryan make the shortlist, I didn’t really expect him to. It’s a wonderful book, but it drew mixed reviews from the readers in the Booker groups I frequent at Goodreads, and it had a couple of mixed to negative reviews in the professional critical press. There wasn’t a lot of buzz around it, which shouldn’t matter but seems to. I am not entirely surprised Warlight didn’t make it. Again, the fact that Ondaatje just won the Golden Booker shouldn’t matter, but it could, and it’s not a flashy book, although I think it’s beautifully written and interestingly constructed. I’ve also seen remarks to the effect that Ondaatje has written better books (and been recognized for them), so that could have weighed against inclusion if the judges agreed. I’m happiest about The Long Take and Milkman making the list. I haven’t posted a  review for Milkman yet but it is up there with the Robertson as my top choices, ahead even of the Ryan and Ondaatje. Milkman is funny, painfully true, and fascinating. I was afraid it was too under the radar to make it, so I’m thrilled. I’m equally thrilled about the Robertson, which I hoped would make it but thought might lose out to something more conventionally novel-shaped. Of the other four, I thought either Guy Gunaratne’s novel, In A Mad and Furious City or Washington Black would get a nod (if not both), and while I’m only halfway through the Gunaratne and like it slightly better, I’m happy to see Edugyan’s book on the list. As I said in my review, it doesn’t ultimately work for me, but it’s ambitious and unusual. Lots of people raved about Daisy Johnson’s debut. I was underwhelmed, although I can see why it was praised. Same with the Kushner. I DNF’d The Overstory but will now go back and gut my way through it. I like the concept and themes, I respect the writing although it’s not the type I enjoy much, but the characterizations are driving me around the bend. But it was consistently at the top of other readers’ rankings and it’s widely praised in the professional critical press, so I am completely unsurprised at its inclusion. The biggest surprise is the exclusion of Sally Rooney’s Normal People. It has to be the most hyped book of the year, certainly in the UK. I’ve now read both her novels (Conversations With Friends was published in 2017 in the UK) and I can see why people are so taken with her work. Her voice is distinctive and assured, and even as I registered the flaws I kept turning the pages. I’ll keep posting my reviews of the longlist, both the books that made the shortlist and the books that didn’t.