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Man Booker shortlist: the verdict
The exclusion of Alan Hollinghurst from the Man Booker Shortlist is not so surprising, argues Anthony Cummins, as he assesses the six nominated books

It is no real shock that Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child (Picador) is not among the six titles shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. True, Hollinghurst was the only longlisted author already to have won the award, but his new book, which traces the fortunes of a fictional war poet, is more esoteric than the Thatcher-era sex-and-drugs novel The Line of Beauty – and at 576 pages, it’s also very long, which recent winners tend not to be.

Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape) at 150pp was always a safer bet: you can read it in a couple of commutes, and its territory is everyday disappointment. The book’s unreliable narrator, Tony, is a cynical divorcee who mulls over his sexual failure and the suicide of an old friend. It rewards readers for spotting its layers of irony, not least the fact that Tony, a history graduate, gets his own past wrong.

The task of whittling down a thirteen-strong longlist generally entails comparing apples and oranges, but this year’s jury made it easier by longlisting pairs of novels set in Nazi-era Europe and Victorian London. Esi Edugyan’s Half Blood Blues (Serpent's Tail) – a clever, entertaining tale about a black jazz band in 1930s Paris – is better than Alison Pick’s Far to Go, and warrants its place. Of the Victorian-set titles, the shortlist retains Jamrach’s Menagerie (Canongate), by Carol Birch, and omits DJ Taylor’s Derby Day. Taylor, reviewing the former in the Independent, took issue with its anachronisms, but most readers won’t care: crossing Dickens with Moby-Dick, Birch tells the story of a street urchin who is eaten by a tiger.

Stephen Kelman’s slangy debut Pigeon English (Bloomsbury) may be the first Booker-shortlisted novel aimed explicitly at younger readers. It is narrated by an 11-year-old who leaves Ghana for inner-city London, and contains a guide with exam-style questions that imply its target audience is a lot better off than its protagonist (“Has the novel in any way changed the way you think about youth gangs, knife crime or urban poverty?”). It is an unlikely winner, as is AD Miller’s Snowdrops (Atlantic), a clichéd thriller set in Putin’s Russia. “The idea of it being on the Booker longlist was not remotely on my radar,” Miller has said.

For the full article

The Telegraph

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