Margaret Atwood is longlisted for this year’s £50,000 Booker Prize for her “terrifying and exhilarating” sequel The Testaments (Chatto & Windus) alongside fellow former winner Salman Rushdie, in the first year the prize has been sponsored by charitable foundation Crankstart.
Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, The Serial Killer (Atlantic) is the sole debut to make the 13-strong longlist while former Granta publisher Max Porter is also in the running for the award, previously known as the Man Booker Prize with his second book, Lanny (Faber) along with the Goldsmiths Prize-winning author Kevin Barry for Night Boat to Tangier (Canongate Books). The line-up also features Jeanette Winterson, Elif Shafak and Deborah Levy, meanwhile Mexican/Italian author Valeria Luiselli has made the list with her first novel written in English.
Atwood’s nomination for her hotly anticipated sequel to her classic The Handmaid’s Tale comes 19 years after her win for The Blind Assassin (Vintage). The judges said: “Spoiler discretion and a ferocious non-disclosure agreement prevent any description of who, how, why and even where. So this: it’s terrifying and exhilarating.” The Testaments, which begins 15 years after Offred’s final scene in The Handmaid’s Tale, is due to be published by the Vintage imprint in September.
Rushdie’s long-anticipated reworking of Don Quixote, Quichotte (to be published by Jonathan Cape on 29th August), is nominated 38 years after he won for Midnight’s Children (Vintage). “A picaresque tour-de-force of contemporary America, with all its alarms and craziness,” the judges said of the Indian-born author’s upcoming novel. Jonathan Cape scores a second nod with Winterson’s exploration of the Artificial Intelligence revolution, Frankissstein, in her first Booker longlisting.
Of the two Hamish Hamilton titles, Levy’s The Man Who Saw Everything offers “a masterfully controlled novel about old and new Europe and how people move through political landscapes, personal histories and memories,” according to the judges. The London-based playwright, novelist and poet has also been shortlisted for the prize for Hot Milk (2016) and Swimming Home (2011). Hamish Hamilton stablemate Bernardine Evaristo, an Anglo-Nigerian author is nominated for the “wonderful verse novel about the lives of black British women, their struggles, laughter, longings and loves,” Girl, Woman, Other . Completing the Penguin Random House offering is British-Turkish novelist Shafak’s “work of fearless imagination” 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking).
Another international offering on the “Booker Dozen” comes in the form of Mexican novelist Luiselli’s first novel in English, Lost Children Archive (4th Estate), which was also longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Billed by Booker judges as an “intriguing and innovative novel” it follows a family in New York packs the car and sets out on a road trip, contrasted against a group of Mexican children is trying to cross the border into the US. Meanwhile Nigerian novelist Chigozie Obioma has been recognised for his “magnificent, original and revelatory novel” An Orchestra of Minorities (Little Brown).
Braithwaite flies the flag for Nigeria and is the youngest nominee on the list aged 31. Her Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlisted debut My Sister, The Serial Killer (Atlantic Books) “is as skilful, sharp and engaging a debut as any first novelist can produce,” judges said. The Nigerian-born author’s novel has sold the second highest number of copies on the list at 13,052 units, according to Nielsen BookScan. This is topped only by Max Porter’s “poetic and beautifully-crafted book” Lanny (Faber) which has shifted a significant 14,040 copies altogether. The nomination comes months after Porter left his day-job at Granta to concentrate on writing. Fellow Faber author John Lanchester has been recognised for his take on climate change, populism and immigration in The Wall, which he “crafts into a compelling story that is chillingly familiar and imaginatively dystopian”.
Barry is nominated for “rogue gem of a novel” Night Boat to Tangier three years on from taking the Goldsmith Prize for Beatlebone (both published by Canongate). Completing the longlist is Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar Press) by author Lucy Ellmann, which grapples with the “detritus of domesticity as well as Trump’s America”. The 1,000-page, single-sentence monologue is the fifth novel by Illinois-born Ellmann who now resides in Edinburgh. As a UK and US author she is the only representative from America on the list – the 2018 longlist featured three US authors following pressure earlier that year on the Booker Prize Committee to reverse its decision on inclusion of US authors.
Of the 13-strong longlist, Penguin Random House imprints scored six nominations altogether with a pair each from Hamish Hamilton and Jonathan Cape as well as nods for Chatto & Windus and Viking while five from indies also made the cut. Faber has two books nominated while Atlantic Books, Canongate Books and Galley Beggar Press are also featured. HarperCollins imprint 4th Estate is also in the running with Little Brown flying the flag for Hachette.
Chair of judges Peter Florence urged people to read all 13 nominations and emphasised the eclectic nature of the list. “There are Nobel candidates and debutants on this list,” he said. “They imagine our world, familiar from news cycle disaster and grievance, with wild humour, deep insight and a keen humanity. These writers offer joy and hope. They celebrate the rich complexity of English as a global language. They are exacting, enlightening and entertaining.”
Also judging the 151 entries were former fiction publisher and editor Liz Calder; novelist, essayist and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo; writer, broadcaster and former barrister Afua Hirsch and concert pianist, conductor and composer Joanna MacGregor.
Gaby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, said the panel considered entries extensively across genres rather than just literary fiction. She revealed that “they reached far and wide in their search for the best fiction of the year, calling in (among others) Young Adult novels and books that are sometimes dismissed as ‘commercial’”. She added: “There are familiar names here writing at the height of their powers, there are young writers of exceptional imagination and daring, there is wit, incisive political thought, stillness and thrill. And there is a plurality that shows the making of literature in English to be a global endeavour. The 2019 longlist is a testament to its extremely good health.”
The Bookseller’s books editor Alice O’Keeffe welcomed Atwood’s inclusion on the longlist along with Porter and Braithwaite, but questioned the omission of Ocean Vuong’s debut On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (Jonathan Cape). O’Keefe said: “The one title I am genuinely surprised not to see is poet Ocean Vuong’s extraordinary debut On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (Jonathan Cape) which explores immigration, race and masculinity to devastating effect…Former Booker winner Ian McEwan misses out on a place for his alternative 80’s-set AI love story Machines Like Me (Cape) and I’m always sorry not to see Tessa Hadley, for Late in the Day (Cape) as she well deserves the global recognition that the Booker brings.
“Of those that did make the cut, I’m very pleased and not in the least surprised to see Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments (Chatto) and am green with envy that the judges have been able to read it. John Lanchester’s The Wall (Faber) is set terrifyingly convincing world, recognisably ours, yet irredeemably broken due to climate change and incendiary anti-immigration politics. It was a Book of the Month for me back in January and remains one of my most recommended books to anyone who asks so fingers crossed for the shortlist.”
Bea Carvalho, Waterstones fiction buyer, told The Bookseller she was pleased with the calibre of the nominations. “The longlist is propped up by some absolute giants of literary fiction, including Margaret Atwood, whose sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale is surely the publishing event of the year,” she said. “We expected The Testaments to make the list and are so thrilled to see it there.
“I’m especially delighted too to see Lanny on the longlist as it has been a real favourite amongst our booksellers this year. It’s a beautiful book which has captured the hearts of so many of us and its longlisting presents a chance to press it in the hands of many more of our customers.
“Last year, the judges inclusion of a graphic novel was a notable first – there were no huge surprises this time, but Lucy Ellmann’s epic single-sentence novel is sure to be a talking point. It’s fantastic that its inclusion on the longlist should encourage a whole host of new readers to pick it up who might otherwise have found it a challenging prospect.”
The longlisting announcement comes five months after it was revealed that the Man Group would be replaced as sponsor by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Sir Michael Moritz’s charitable foundation Crankstart in a five-year deal. The new funding arrangement began on 1st June. The new arrangement began on 1 June 2019 and saw the original prize return to being known as The Booker Prize.
The shortlist of six books will be announced on 3rd September at a morning press conference. The shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. The 2019 winner will be announced on 14th October at an awards ceremony at London’s Guildhall, where they will be awarded £50,000. Last year’s prize went to Anna Burns’ Milkman (Faber).