If the longlist was too all encompassing to feasibly tackle, the Booker Prize has just announced its 2015 shortlist to condense the award down to its finalists once again. The six authors were named as Marlon James, Tom McCarthy, Chigozie Obioma, Sunjeev Sahota, Anne Tyler and Hanya Yanagihara by the chair of the judging panel, Michael Wood, at a press conference at the offices of sponsor Man Group.
If you look at the announcement in the cold, hard glare of numbers and facts, this year’s shortlist is a 4:2 split male vs. female; includes 2 authors from the US, 2 from the UK, 1 from Jamaica and 1 from Nigeria; has 1 debut novelist; and 1 previously shortlisted writer, but then when have numbers had all that much to do with great literature. With such a strong shortlist it’s going to be interesting to see who picks up the prize, as they’ll have the somewhat significant challenge of living up to last year’s winner, Richard Flannigan, with his wartime epic, The Narrow Road To The Deep North.
It’s only the second year in the history of the prize, which began in 1969, that the award has been open to authors of any nationality for books written originally in English and published in the UK. Before the 2014 Booker Prize, it was only open to writers from the UK & Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe. Though the fact that the shortlist includes two authors from the US adds a little weight to the criticism that the change simply adds American writers to the list, reducing overall diversity, it’s countered slightly when you take into account Hanya Yanagihara’s Hawaiian ancestry.
Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, John Burnside, Sam Leith and Frances Osborne complete the judging panel alongside English historian and broadcaster, Michael Wood. The final six authors that made it through to the shortlist from the thirteen selected in the 2015 longlist were whittled down from a total of 156 books that were reviewed.
The Booker Prize 2015 shortlist:
Marlon James (Jamaica) – A Brief History of Seven Killings – (Oneworld Publications)
Marlon James, the first Jamaican-born writer to make it through to both the Booker Prize longlist and shortlist, has been included on the back of his third novel, A Brief History Of Seven Killings. It tells the story of the dark history of his homeland and spans a broad timeline that takes it from the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the 1970s, to the drug wars in New York in the 1980s and on to the resurgence of Jamaica in the 1990s.
Tom McCarthy (UK) – Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)
Tom McCarthy is the only previously shortlisted nominees to make it through to the second round, following up on his 2010 inclusion for C. His latest novel dissects how we make sense of reality and our place within it through the life of U, a “corporate anthropologist” who has been tasked with writing the Great Report to sum up modern day society and its recent past society.
Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) – The Fishermen – (ONE, Pushkin Press)
Chigozie Obioma is the only debut author to make it through from the three that were names in the longlist. Nominated for his book, The Fishermen, it takes place in 1990s Nigeria where four brothers are given a prophesy that one of the brothers will kill another.
Sunjeev Sahota (UK) – The Year of the Runaways – (Picador)
Sunjeev Sahota’s second novel centres on the turbulent past and slightly cramped present day of a group of thirteen Indian men who live in a house together in Sheffield. It follows up his 2011 debut, Ours Are The Streets, which tells the story of a young British Pakistani man who becomes a suicide bomber.
Anne Tyler (US) – A Spool of Blue Thread – (Chatto & Windus)
Pulizer-prize winning writer, Anne Tyler, continues her prolific career with A Pool Of Blue Thread, which already featured in the 2015 Women’s Prize For Fiction shortlist. It tells the story of the Whitshank family, who come together to work out how to protect their family home and its inhabitants as the past starts to have ramifications for them to deal with.
Hanya Yanagihara (US) – A Little Life – (Picador)
Hawaii-born Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life is a moving story of love and friendship in New York City. It trails four friends as they move to the Big Apple and try to make the best for themselves, despite the troubles of the past.