Man Booker Prize Longlist

With the announcement of the 2006 Man Booker Prize longlist about a week away (August 14th to be precise), I thought it time to have a look at a few contenders. Over the past few years I've been collecting a list of those works which seem to be gathering enough interest and "good" reviews to indicate they might be included. This year I've got to 30 novels, and that's just the ones I know about. Each year publishers hold off some of their possible contenders until the last minute, submitting the book to the judging panel before the publication date, and hence before any reviews appear. These tend to slip through my net. I'm not on publishers' lists of press release recipients so I am restricted to checking out their websites or trawling through the bowels of
looking for gems. This is not always a fruitful exercise. Anyway, it's usually possible to get a feeling for how the novels are being received in the UK by the "buzz" they generate in newspapers and on various weblogs.

One method I use is to check out the Metacritic website. I've mentioned this site before but it was a while back so a brief overview might be in order here. Metacritic examines book reviews published in major newspapers and magazines from the USA and the UK. To each of these reviews it allocates a rating, either Outstanding, Favorable, Mixed or Unfavorable, and from those rankings comes up with a final score out of 100. The site takes a while to come up with a final score which probably says more about the time-spread of book review appearances than about its efficiency. In any event, the longer they wait the more reviews they rate, and, hopefully, the better their final score becomes. Given that the site is based in the US, most of the books it examines are by North American authors but enough books of interest from the other side of the water turn up to make it a useful resource in this discussion.

A quick search through the site reveals the following books on Metacritic that overlap with my list of shortlist possibles (I've appended the Metacritic rating to each novel):
Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali - 46
In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant - 78
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell - 80
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters - 82

By way of comparison, the latest Updike received a score of 44, the latest Roth got 80, and Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky was allocated an all-time high figure of 95. I am of the view that the four novels listed above will make the Man Booker Longlist this year. The Ali might be the only contentious one (given its poor rating and unenthusiastic reviews), but I believe it will prevail. I would suspect it only needs one judge to be passionate about a book for it to be listed, and it seems that Monica Ali - a bit like Zadie Smith - seems to bring out that emotion in some readers.

So that's four. Then I reckon you can include Peter Carey as a major front-runner. I've been expecting his novel to appear on the Metacritic site for some time now, as it has been available in the US for a while and has been receiving some pretty favourable reviews. And beyond that: maybe Kate Grenville's The Secret River, though Commonwealth Writers' Prize winners don't seem to do well in the Booker, and Will Self's The Book of Dave. After those it's anyone's guess. It's a completely pointless exercise when all is said and done. Nothing I write here is going to influence any judge's decision: it's already too late for that. But who cares? Sometimes just having a bit of fun is all that matters.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on August 9, 2006 9:46 AM.

Literary Reflections #6 by Will Dyson was the previous entry in this blog.

Great Australian Authors #31 - Will Ogilvie is the next entry in this blog.

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