The Man Booker Shortlist


Yesterday the shortlist for the prestigious Man Booker Prize 2016 was announced.  My aim was to get reading the longlist so that when the shortlist was announced I would not be overladen with unread books.  I am currently reading my 9th book on the longlist of 13 (“Serious Sweet” by A.L Kennedy- which did not make the shortlist- I’ll let you know my opinion soon) and have actually now already read 4 of the 6 on the shortlist.

So huge congratulations to the final six, one of which will be scooping the £50,000 top prize and will be a guaranteed best-seller.  The six who made the cut are

sellout The Sellout – Paul Beatty – The rather wonderful Oneworld Publications are aiming to make it two years in a row with this.  I concluded  “It deserves a place on the Booker shortlist but the jury might opt for something very different from last year so would be an outside chance to scoop the prize.”  Read my review of this  book here

hotmilkHot Milk – Deborah Levy -Published by Hamish Hamilton and the Bookies Favourite to win the prize.  I still haven’t managed to get my hands on a copy yet but I’ve scheduled it into the reading list.  I’ll let you know what I think.

bloodyproject His Bloody Project – Graeme McRae Burnet-Published by Contraband, a very small Scottish Publishing house I am absolutely delighted to see this on the shortlist.  I said  “This is a book which will be strongly competing for my Book Of The Year and will hopefully win over the Man Booker judges much in the same way as it has won me over. “.  Read my review of this book here

eileenEileen- Otessa Moshfegh- Published by Vintage.  I said  “It is undoubtedly well-written and Moshfegh keeps us guessing throughout…………I would be very happy to see this on the shortlist.”.  Read my review of this book here

szalay All That Man Is – David Szalay – The second book on the shortlist for Vintage.  I really enjoyed this but had some reservations about the structure of the book, saying; But is it a novel?  This obviously did not worry the judges too much.  Read my review of this book here

madelinethienDo Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien – Published by Granta and the second of the two not to make it yet onto my reading pile.  I’ll let you know what I think, hopefully, before the announcement of the result on 25th October.

Obviously, I still have two to read but at the moment the book I will be championing is “His Bloody Project”.  The book I am most disappointed by it not reaching the shortlist was “Work Like Any Other” by Virginia Reeves (Scribner 2016).  I have read this but not yet posted my review so look out for it soon.  It’s a good one.

All That Man Is – David Szalay (Vintage 2016) – A Man Booker Shortlist Review



When is a novel a novel?  The Man Booker Prize is traditionally awarded for the best original novel written in English and published in the UK.  Yet reading British author David Szalay’s “All That Man Is” I couldn’t help but think that what I was reading was a selection of short stories linked by a common theme and that might just hamper its chances to go all the way.

This, his fourth novel. is in nine parts, each being a self-contained tale of a man at a different stage of his life, beginning with 17 year old Simon backpacking  in Germany  and ending with his 73 year old grandfather, Tony, (the most explicit link between any of the stories) in Italy and contemplating his demise.

In each of the stories the main character is away from home, in a place where he feels, to some extent, an outsider, be it on holiday, work-related or an escape.  Each one of Szalay’s nine men views their life with something bordering on disappointment, whatever they are searching for in their travels doesn’t really materialise in the way that they hoped.  Murray, in his mid 50’s, relocated to Croatia, really has little to do and few friends to do it with, the much younger Bernard, a French man, expects to discover real life on a package holiday to Cyprus.  Perhaps the least disappointed is journalist Kristian, a Dane on the scent of a grubby news story and the most disappointed Aleksandr, a wealthy Russian oligarch contemplating suicide on his yacht.

If this all sounds downbeat, it is not.  In fact, the second section, Bernard’s holiday was one of the most laugh-out loud funny tales I’ve read in a long time.  I think Szalay hits the nail on the head with many aspects of the male experience.  His younger characters are motivated by sex (or lack of it) the middle aged by their careers and the elderly by impending doom.  The final tale of a Knight of the Realm, whose important government job is behind him attempting to function alone in his holiday home in Italy is beautifully written and feels very poignant.

The nine stories all feel authentic and whereas I warmed to some more than others overall it is an impressive read.  But is it a novel?  And do I even need to worry about that too much?  This would certainly be a discussion the Man Booker judges would be likely to be having.  If it proves to be an important factor then it may very well be missing from the shortlist.  If not….then it will deserve its place.

Update – Sept 13th – Congratulations to David Szalay for making the shortlist.


All That Man Is was published by Vintage in 2016.  Many thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for the review copy.