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6 September 2011

Man Booker Prize shortlist announced

No Hollinghurst; Barnes the early favourite.

By Jonathan Derbyshire

At a press conference held this morning at the London headquarters of the Man Group, Stella Rimington, chair of the judges for this year’s Man Booker Prize, announced the six shortlisted novels. They are:

Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape)

Carol Birch, Jamrach’s Menagerie (Canongate)

Patrick deWitt, The Sisters Brothers (Granta)

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Esi Edugyan, Half Blood Blues (Serpent’s Tail)

Stephen Kelman, Pigeon English (Bloomsbury)

A D Miller, Snowdrops (Atlantic)

The most notable absentee from that list is, of course, Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child, tipped by many observers as a shoo-in, not just for the shortlist but for the prize itself – though it should be said that Leo Robson’s review of the novel for the NS sounded a note of scepticism largely absent from the other, mostly gushing notices it received. Robson was ambivalent, too, about Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending (installed by the bookmakers Ladbroke’s as the early favourite to win the prize, which will be awarded on 18 October), described by one of the judges, Gaby Wood, as “the most masterful thing Barnes has ever written”:

Yet you don’t need [Gabriel] Josipovici’s allegiances and antipathies to feel enervated by Barnes’s “smartness”. Like [Martin] Amis, especially in The Information and The Pregnant Widow, and Craig Raine in Heartbreak, Barnes possesses not just an ironic but an almost post-novelistic sensibility. I say almost: theirs is a form of scepticism about artifice and stories – but with a strain of sentimentalism, a taste for the plaintive and dewy-eyed when it comes to sex, fading vitality and death. But knowingness predominates.