The annual Booker Prize longlist is a “holiday” read: there is a glamour about this prize. It is more alluring than the didactic International Booker, whose motto seems to be “LITERATURE IN TRANSLATION IS UNDER-READ,” (but is it?) or the more relaxed, where-are-all- the-women Women’s Prize, formerly known as the Orange Prize. (That said, I have best luck with the longlisted books for the Women’s Prize.)
The 2022 Booker longlist was announced today.
I love the Booker. I became obsessed with it when I discovered Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s Booker-winning novel, Heat and Dust. I read a review in the Chicago Tribune, and when I found the book at a local store, it came with a Booker Prize sticker.
But you want to know about this year’s longlist! There are many fascinating titles, but the list is heavily weighted by Americans: six Americans, three Britons, two Irish, one from Zimbabwe, and one Sri Lankan. (Source: The Guardian.)
The inclusion of so many Americans is disappointing to us Anglophiles, because we use the list to learn about British and (formerly)”Colonial” literature. We have our own American prizes.
I have read one novel on the longlist, Oh William!, by the American Pulitzer Prize winner, Elizabeth Strout, who writes so gracefully she is like a prose ballerina. I loved My Name Is Lucy Barton, a piercingly lyrical novel about a complicated mother-daughter relationship, and Lucy’s escape to New York, where she reinvents herself as a writer. Her latest novel, Oh William!, is a sequel. Lucy pities her ex-husband, William, whose second wife has just left him, taking their daughter with her. Lucy, his first wife, left him years ago, taking their two daughters, and seems to have set a precedent.
I enjoy the eclectic work of the American writer, Karen Joy Fowler, who has experimented with genre over the years, including science fiction/historical fiction (Sarah Canary) and women’s fiction (The Jane Austen Book Club). Her masterpiece, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2013 and and won the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2014 – a family novel, about a psychologist’s daughter who is raised with a chimp, Fern, whom she regards as her sister – and then Fern disappears. Fowler is nominated this year for her historical novel, Booth, apparently an unusual take on the story of Lincoln’s assassin, which is described at Goodreads as “an epic and intimate novel about the family behind one of the most infamous figures in American history.”
As a child, I was a fan of the award-winning British children’s author, Alan Garner. My favorite was The Owl Service (I still have my copy), though I’m a little vague about the others. Garner has been longlisted for his new adult book, Treacle Walker, which is published by a small press in the UK. I would love to read this novel, but alas! it is not available in the U.S.
I would like to read Selby Wynn Schwartz’s After Sappho. (I have never heard of this author but am a fan of all the Greek lyric poets.) According to The Guardian, this novel “is a fragmented collective biography of female artists and writers in the late 19th and early 20th century – women pushing at the bounds of an oppressive society and asserting their desire to study, create, and love other women. It’s lyrical, scholarly, passionate and entirely unique.” Again, there is the small press problem. This book is not available in the U.S.
Below is the complete Booker prize 2022 longlist! Let me know if you’ve read any of these.
Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo
Trust by Hernan Diaz
The Trees by Percival Everett
Booth by Karen Joy Fowler
Treacle Walker by Alan Garner
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shahan Karunatilaka
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet
The Colony by Audrey Magee
Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer
Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley
After Sappho by Selby Lynn Schwartz
Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout