Let award season begin! If you are looking for a list of the brightest stars in the 2017 firmament (or bookshelf), this is a pretty great one. On July 17, the Man Booker Prize Longlist was announced, featuring 13 novels including THE MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS, LINCOLN IN THE BARDO and THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD.
Save the Date
- The Shortlist will be announced Sept. 13th
- Winner announced October 17th
The following book descriptions are from the Man Booker Prize Group.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
by Arundhati Roy
In a city graveyard, a resident unrolls a threadbare Persian carpet between two graves. On a concrete sidewalk, a baby appears quite suddenly, a little after midnight, in a crib of litter. In a snowy valley, a father writes to his five-year-old daughter about the number of people who attended her funeral. And in the Jannat Guest House, two people who’ve known each other all their lives sleep with their arms wrapped around one another as though they have only just met.
Here is a cast of unforgettable characters caught up in the tide of history. Told with a whisper, with a shout, with tears and with laughter, it is a love story and a provocation. Its heroes, present and departed, human and animal, have been broken by the world we live in and then mended by love – and for this reason, they will never surrender.
Lincoln in the Bardo
by George Saunders
On 22 February 1862, two days after his death, Willie Lincoln is laid to rest in a marble crypt in a Georgetown cemetery. That very night, shattered by grief, his father Abraham arrives at the cemetery, alone, under cover of darkness.
Over the course of that evening, Abraham Lincoln paces the graveyard unsettled by the death of his beloved boy, and by the grim shadow of a war that feels as though it is without end. Meanwhile Willie is trapped in a state of limbo between the dead and the living – drawn to his father with whom he can no longer communicate, existing in a ghostly world populated by the recently passed and the long dead.
Unfolding in the graveyard over a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is a thrilling exploration of death, grief and the deeper meaning and possibilities of life.
by Zadie Smith
Dazzlingly energetic and deeply human, Swing Time is a story about friendship and music and true identity, how they shape us and how we can survive them. Moving from north-west London to West Africa, it is an exuberant dance to the music of time.
Two brown girls dream of being dancers – but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early 20s, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either…
by Colson Whitehead
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. All the slaves lead a hellish existence, but Cora has it worse than most; she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans and she is approaching womanhood, where it is clear even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they take the perilous decision to escape to the North.
In Whitehead’s razor-sharp imagining of the antebellum South, the Underground Railroad has assumed a physical form: a dilapidated box car pulled along subterranean tracks by a steam locomotive, picking up fugitives wherever it can. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
At each stop on her journey, Cora encounters a different world. As Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America, from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once the story of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shatteringly powerful meditation on history.
by Mohsin Hamid
In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, Saeed and Nadia lock eyes across their classroom. After a while, they talk, he makes her smile and they start to fall in love. They try not to notice the sound of bombs getting closer every night, the radio announcing new laws, the curfews and the public executions.
Eventually the problem is too big to ignore: it’s not safe for Nadia to live alone and she must move in with Saeed, even though they are not married, and that too is a problem. Meanwhile, rumours are spreading of strange black doors in secret places across the city, doors that lead to London or San Francisco, Greece or Dubai. One day soon the time will come for Nadia and Saeed to seek out one such door, joining the great outpouring of those fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world.
4 3 2 1
by Paul Auster (US)
On March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths.
Four Fergusons made of the same genetic material, four boys who are the same boy, will go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Loves and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Chapter by chapter, the rotating narratives evolve into an elaborate dance of inner worlds enfolded within the outer forces of history as, one by one, the intimate plots of the four Fergusons’ stories rush on across the tumultuous and fractured terrain of mid-20th century America. A boy grows up – again and again and again.
by Sebastian Barry (Ireland)
After signing up for the US army in the 1850s, aged barely 17, Thomas McNulty and his brother-in-arms, John Cole, go on to fight in the Indian wars and, ultimately, the Civil War. Having fled terrible hardships themselves, they find these days to be vivid and filled with wonder, despite the horrors they both witness and are complicit in. Their lives are further enriched and endangered when a young Indian girl crosses their path, and the possibility of lasting happiness emerges, if only they can survive.
by Emily Fridlund (US)
Linda, age 14, lives on a dying commune on the edge of a lake in the Midwest of America. She and her parents are the last remaining inhabitants, the others having long since left amid bitter acrimony. She has grown up isolated both by geography and her understanding of the world, and is an outsider at school, regarded as a freak.
One day she notices the arrival of a young family in a cabin on the opposite side of the lake. She starts to befriend them, first their four-year-old son Paul, and then his young mother Patra, who is also lonely and isolated. For the first time she feels a sense of belonging that has been missing from her life.
Leo, the father, is a university professor and an enigmatic figure, perpetually absent. When he returns home, Linda is shunned by the family unit. Desperate to be accepted again, she struggles to resume her place in their home and fails to see the terrible warning signals, which have such devastating consequences.
by Mike McCormack
Marcus Conway has come a long way to stand in the kitchen of his home and remember the rhythms and routines of his life. Considering with his engineer’s mind how things – bridges, banking systems, marriages – are constructed – and how they may come apart.
by Jon McGregor
Midwinter in the early years of this century a teenage girl on holiday has gone missing in the hills at the heart of England. The villagers are called up to join the search, fanning out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on their usually quiet home. Meanwhile, there is work that must still be done: cows milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured, beds made, sermons written, a pantomime rehearsed. The search for the missing girl goes on, but so does everyday life. As it must. As the seasons unfold there are those who leave the village and those who are pulled back; those who come together or break apart. There are births and deaths; secrets kept and exposed; livelihoods made and lost; small kindnesses and unanticipated betrayals. Bats hang in the eaves of the church and herons stand sentry in the river; fieldfares flock in the hawthorn trees and badgers and foxes prowl deep in the woods – mating and fighting, hunting and dying.
by Fiona Mozley
Daniel is heading north. He is looking for someone. The simplicity of his early life with Daddy and Cathy has turned sour and fearful. They lived apart in the house that Daddy built for them with his bare hands. They foraged and hunted. When they were younger, Daniel and Cathy had gone to school. But they were not like the other children then, and they were even less like them now. Sometimes Daddy disappeared, and would return with a rage in his eyes. But when he was at home he was at peace. He told them that the little copse in Elmet was theirs alone. But that wasn’t true. Local men, greedy and watchful, began to circle like vultures. All the while, the terrible violence in Daddy grew.
Elmet is a lyrical commentary on contemporary English society and one family’s precarious place in it, as well as an exploration of how deep the bond between father and child can go.
Currently unavailable in the U.S.
by Kamila Shamsie
Isma is free. After years spent raising her twin siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she is finally studying in America. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London – or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew.
Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. The son of a powerful British Muslim politician, Eamonn has his own birth right to live up to – or defy. Two families’ fates are devastatingly entwined in this searing novel that asks: what sacrifices will we make in the name of love?
by Ali Smith
Autumn 2016? Daniel is a century old. Elisabeth, born in 1984, has her eye on the future. The United Kingdom is in pieces, divided by a historic once-in-a-generation summer.
Autumn is a meditation on a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, on what harvest means. This first in a seasonal quartet casts an eye over our own time. Who are we? What are we made of? Shakespearian jeu d’esprit, Keatsian melancholy, the sheer bright energy of 1960s Pop art: the centuries cast their eyes over our own history-making.
From the imagination of Ali Smith comes a shape-shifting series, wide-ranging in timescale and light-footed through histories, and a story about aging and time and love and stories themselves.