Does Anyone Care About the Man Booker Prize?

I don’t really know what to think of The Man Booker Prize. It seems to be hailed as the most important accolade in contemporary fiction and a stagnant, restricted, waste of time in equal measure. I guess I fall somewhere between the two. I’m always intrigued to see which books have been nominated, but then I’m always confused as to why I’ve never heard of most of the books. This year is no exception.

The longlist, comprising of 13 books was announced last week. 5 of the books haven’t even been published yet. How does that work? I don’t understand how a book can be in the running for what is essentially Book of the Year but not even be published yet. But, I guess it’s all down to the judges so sales or feedback from the general public is moot anyway.

This year, I haven’t heard of a single one of these books and the only authors I’m familiar with are Jim Crace and Colm Toibin. But, I am happy there are some indie books in there, and the list does seem to be pretty eclectic in themes and styles.

The longlist 2013: See The Website for more details.

~ Five Star Billionaire, Tash Aw (Fourth Estate)

~ We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo (Chatto & Windus)

~ The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton (Granta)

~ Harvest, Jim Crace (Picador)

~ The Marrying of Chani Kaufman, Eve Harris (Sandstone Press)

~ The Kills, Richard House (Picador)

~ The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri (Bloomsbury)

~ Unexploded, Alison MacLeod (Hamish Hamilton)

~ Transatlantic, Colum McCann (Bloomsbury)

~ Almost English, Charlotte Mendelson (Mantle)

~ A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki (Canongate)

~ The Spinning Heart, Donal Ryan (Doubleday)

~ The Testament of Mary, Colm Tóibín (Viking)

Here are the ones I like the sound of:

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
Ten-year-old Darling has a choice: it’s down, or out…

We Need New Names tells the story of Darling and her friends Stina, Chipo, Godknows, Sbho and Bastard. They all used to have proper houses, with real rooms and furniture, but now they all live in a shanty called Paradise. They spend their days stealing guavas, playing games and wondering how to get the baby out of young Chipo’s stomach. They dream of escaping to other paradises – America, Dubai, Europe. But if they do escape, will these new lands bring everything they wish for?

Unexploded by Alison MacLeod
May 1940, Brighton. On Park Crescent, Geoffrey and Evelyn Beaumont and their eight-year-old son, Philip, anxiously await news of the expected enemy landing on their beaches.

It is a year of tension and change. Geoffrey becomes Superintendent of the enemy alien camp at the far reaches of town, while Philip is gripped by the rumour that Hitler will make Brighton’s Royal Pavilion his English HQ. As the rumours continue to fly and the days tick on, Evelyn struggles to fall in with the war effort and the constraints of her role in life, and her thoughts become tinged with a mounting, indefinable desperation.

Then she meets Otto Gottlieb, a ‘degenerate’ German-Jewish painter and prisoner in her husband’s internment camp. As Europe crumbles, Evelyn’s and Otto’s mutual distrust slowly begins to change into something else, which will shatter the structures on which her life, her family and her community rest.Love collides with fear, the power of art with the forces of war, and the lives of Evelyn, Otto and Geoffrey are changed irrevocably.

Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson.
The air stinks of tuberose, caraway and garlic: the universal scent of central European hospitality. But Marina is not hospitable. After only an hour her skin is tender with cheek pinchings; she has been matchmade, prodded and instructed beyond endurance, and the night is young. Soon they will come to find her, to admire the shape of her fingernails, the thickness of her lashes, their eyes peeling back her clothes, weighing her like fruit. This is not new. She has been brought up to accept the questions and kisses as if nothing could please her more, however much lava is boiling inside. The problem is that Marina has changed. She can bear their scrutiny no longer because her life is a disaster, and it is her fault. She betrayed them and escaped them, and now she wants to come back.

In a tiny flat in West London, sixteen-year-old Marina lives with her emotionally-delicate mother, Laura, and three ancient Hungarian relatives. Imprisoned by her family’s crushing expectations and their fierce unEnglish pride, by their strange traditions and stranger foods, she knows she must escape. But the place she runs to makes her feel even more of an outsider.

At Combe Abbey, a traditional English public school for which her family have sacrificed everything, Marina realises she has made a terrible mistake. She is the awkward half-foreign girl who doesn’t know how to fit in, flirt or even be. And as a semi-Hungarian Londoner, who is she? In the meantime, her mother, Laura – an alien in this strange universe -, has her own painful secrets to deal with, especially the return of the last man she’d expect back in her life. She isn’t noticing that, at Combe Abbey, things are starting to go terribly wrong.

Have you read any of the books on the list/ are you rooting for any in particular?