The six books shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction were announced this morning. Ranging from a domestic study set in 1970s Belfast, the story of an escaped slave, a muddy retelling of a classical myth, to a work exploring the personhood of trees, the shortlist is varied and contemporary. You can read the New Statesman’s reviews of the each book below.
Milkman – Anna Burns
“This novel may be set in a republican-controlled zone of Belfast in the late 1970s, but as a brilliantly realised extended metaphor for a totalitarian state it could be anywhere from Stasi-riddled East Germany, to Chile under Pinochet’s dictatorship to Salazar’s Portugal. While Milkman is a work of timely universality, it is also a distinctly Irish novel, a darkly mirthful satire with a twist of Beckettian melancholy and an anarchic touch of Swift.” Read Catherine Taylor’s review in full.
Washington Black – Esi Edugyan
“This is a gripping tale, made vivid by Esi Edugyan’s gifts for language and character, and by the strength of her story. Though in truth it would be better to say “stories”, for escaped slave Washington Black’s adventures over the course of this 400-page novel are strikingly various. The book ranges from Barbados to Nova Scotia, from the Arctic to Amsterdam; from England to Morocco. Wash – as he is known to those close to him – is blown by fate all over the surface of the globe.” Read Erica Wagner’s review in full.
You can also read our Q&A with Esi Edugyan.
Everything Under – Daisy Johnson
“Gretel is a lexicographer, spending her days alone examining the various meanings for words such as “break” and “dread”. She often returns to thoughts of her childhood spent on a canal boat with her impulsive, reclusive mother Sarah. With a plot that relies on ancient myth for its scaffolding, this story of how “the places we are born come back” is a triumph: a novel that feels inexorable, messy and profound all at once.” Read Anna Leszkiewicz’s review in full.
You can also read our Q&A with Daisy Johnson.
The Mars Room – Rachel Kushner
“The Mars Room, Kushner’s third novel, brings us to her native California. Its protagonist, Romy Hall, is 29 years old and embarking on two life sentences (plus six years) at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility. Kushner’s investigation into female incarceration takes it as a given, then asks: what next?” Read Philip Maughan’s review in full.
The Overstory – Richard Powers
“Richard Powers collapses the idea that human consciousness is paramount in nature. The novel opens up questions about the “personhood” of plants, how ecology has shaped our minds, and the potential for digital life to shift our consciousness again. It also challenges preconceptions about hippy tree-huggers.” Read India Bourke’s review in full.
The Long Take – Robin Robertson
“The Long Take sees pages of verse interspersed with fragments of diary entries, letters, and italicised, bloody flashbacks. We meet D-Day veteran Walker in New York City in 1946. As he moves from the east coast to LA, the noise of the city frequently sends him shuddering back to memories of war: a ‘car/backfiring, and he’s in France again,/that taste in his mouth. Coins. Cordite. Blood.’” Read Anna Leszkiewicz’s review in full.