Entertainment & Arts

Man Booker prize: Deborah Levy makes shortlist

Deborah Levy and Hot Milk book cover Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Deborah Levy's book Hot Milk is set in Andalucia

Previous Man Booker prize nominee Deborah Levy has made it on to this year's shortlist for novel Hot Milk.

Levy is joined on the list by debut US novelist Ottessa Moshfegh, recognised for her book Eileen.

Paul Beatty, Graeme Macrae Burnet, David Szalay and Madeleine Thien also make the cut.

The winner will be announced on 25 October at London's Guildhall. British novelist Levy was shortlisted for Swimming Home in 2012.

The 2016 Man Booker Prize shortlist

  • Paul Beatty - The Sellout
  • Deborah Levy - Hot Milk
  • Graeme Macrae Burnet - His Bloody Project
  • Ottessa Moshfegh - Eileen
  • David Szalay - All That Man Is
  • Madeleine Thien - Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Chair of judges Amanda Foreman said: "The Man Booker Prize subjects novels to a level of scrutiny that few books can survive.

"In re-reading our incredibly diverse and challenging longlist, it was both agonising and exhilarating to be confronted by the sheer power of the writing."

Image copyright Booker
Image caption Ottessa Moshfegh has had short stories published in The Paris Review and The New Yorker

In the third year that the prize has been open to writers of any nationality, the shortlist is split between two British, two US and two Canadian writers.

Foreman added: "As a group we were excited by the willingness of so many authors to take risks with language and form.

"The final six reflect the centrality of the novel in modern culture - in its ability to champion the unconventional, to explore the unfamiliar, and to tackle difficult subjects."


Analysis by arts correspondent Rebecca Jones

This is a solid if slightly underwhelming list. Three men, three women, two Britons, two Americans, two Canadians. No room for Indian or African writers this year though.

Crime novels are often overlooked by Man Booker Judges, so the inclusion of His Bloody Project is not only a coup for Graeme Macrae Burnet, but also for Contraband, the tiny independent Scottish imprint that published it. It is run by just two full time staff.

The books cover a diverse range of subjects although many feature dark humour. The relationship between difficult parents and their damaged children emerges as a key theme.

Although Deborah Levy has made the shortlist for a second time, yet again the judges have turned their backs on established literary figures in favour of newer voices.

Clearly there is no place for a prize that simply rubber stamps the successful, the lucky, the rich and the famous. But there is a risk, that with so little "name recognition" the prize ends up simply talking to itself or to a small circle of friends and admirers.


Previous double-Booker winner JM Coetzee failed to make the cut with The Schooldays of Jesus.

AL Kennedy, a previous Costa Book Award winner, was also widely expected to feature on the shortlist with Serious Sweet but missed out.

Image copyright Booker
Image caption The Sellout, by Paul Beatty, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 2016

Other authors who did not make it on to the shortlist from the longlist were Elizabeth Strout for My Name Is Lucy Barton, Virginia Reeves for Work Like Any Other, Wyl Menmuir's The Many, David Means' Hystopia and Ian McGuire's The North Water.

According to William Hill, the favourite to win is Levy at 2-1.

Levy's novel sees the protagonist, Sofia, forced to confront her difficult relationship with her mother when the pair travel to Spain to try to find a cure for the latter's mystery paralysis.

The other British author in the running, Graeme Macrae Burnet, is recognised for his crime drama based in the Scottish Highlands.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The 2015 prize was won by Marlon James for A Brief History of Seven Killings

Boston-born Moshfegh's Eileen is about a disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father's carer in his squalid home and her day job as a secretary at a youth prison.

Eileen has already won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction.

US author Paul Beatty's satire The Sellout explores the topics of race and violence against a backdrop of family deceit and a fatal police shooting.

Canadian Madeleine Thien's book Do Not Say We Have Nothing brings to life one of the most significant political regimes of the 20th century - China's Cultural Revolution. The story is told through the eyes of a young Chinese woman who has fled to Canada from Tiananmen Square.

Rounding out the shortlist is fellow Canadian David Szalay's All That Man Is, which tracks nine men at different stages of their life.

'Wide-open shortlist'

A spokesperson for Waterstones said: "Once again, the Man Booker prize fulfils its promise to surprise, the shortlist announcement taking out several principle contenders and as a result blasting the field wide open."

Frances Gertler, head of web content at Foyles bookshops said: "The recent Man Booker trend towards new faces continues with this excitingly wide-open shortlist, with Deborah Levy the only well-known author left.

"Burnet's historical crime thriller His Bloody Project, would be a popular and accessible win for a genre that is often overlooked for this prize.

"Thien's sweeping intergenerational account of China's cultural revolution, Do Not Say We Have Nothing, has an impressive depth and breadth, but the time might just be right for David Szalay's thoughtful portrait of masculinity."

The shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. The winner will receive a further £50,000.


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