Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel and Umbrella by Will Self
Will Self and Hilary Mantel are the close favourites to walk off with this year’s Man Booker Prize.The Man Booker Prize 2012
Mantel is hotly tipped to be the first British author to win the prize twice, for Bring up the Bodies, the historical follow up to her 2009 Man Booker winner, Wolf Hall. Thomas Cromwell continues to pull the strings as the Machiavellian puppet master of Henry VII and his court. Catherine of Aragon is dead and the position of Anne Boleyn at the side of the King is also under threat. The King’s eyes are roaming, and settle on Jane Seymour, lady-in-waiting to both Catherine and Anne.
Umbrella by Will Self is an experimental work which pushes the boundaries of linear prose fiction, and features psychiatrist Zack Busner, a recurring character in Self’s novels since The Quantum Theory of Insanity in 1991. Busner is treating Audrey Death, who has been in a catatonic state for fifty years. He suspects that she may actually be suffering from sleeping sickness, and begins a radical new treatment. The storyline shifts between Audrey’s past and Busner’s future, in a radical approach to form and narrative.
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy and The Lighthouse by Alison Moore
Two books less than 200 pages in length - one from a debut novelist, the other published by a small, subscription-only firm - could be the dark horses in the race for the Man Booker Prize this year.
In Alison Moore’s melancholic debut novel The Lighthouse we meet Futh, a recently-separated middle-aged man returning to Germany for what he hopes will be a restorative walking holiday. However, he is still tormented by his mother’s abandonment of him as a boy, the subsequent ill-treatment he received at the hands of his father and their first trip together to Germany. Moore’s writing has earned comparisons ranging from Roald Dahl to Stephen King.
Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home was published by the barely year-old company And Other Stories, having been rejected by mainstream publishers as ‘too literary’. At first, the story of two families sharing a holiday villa in the south of France seems fairly straightforward, but when their supposed idyllic holiday is interrupted by the arrival of the mysterious, and very naked Kitty Finch, jealousies, tensions and secrets from the past come to the fore.
Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil and The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
While Mantel and Self are undoubtedly the frontrunners for this year’s prize, following the recent success of Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger in 2008, and Kiran Desai in 2006 with The Inheritance of Loss, could a book from a far-off land snatch a surprise victory? Kerala-born Jeet Thayil’s debut novel Narcopolis is a dreamscape of a novel set in the opium dens of 1970s Bombay, and features a cast of pimps, painters, poets, eunuchs and gangsters. While Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists is an exploration of memory, nature and survival, set in post-war Malaya, where a Yun-Ling, a former inmate of a Japanese labour camp, becomes apprentice to a Japanese gardener, in order to create a garden in memory of sister.
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