The Booker Prize shortlist of six books was announced on Tuesday afternoon. It includes two major names—Margaret Atwood for her much-awaited The Testaments, the sequel to her dystopian classic The Handmaid’s Tale, and Salman Rushdie for Quichotte, a retelling of Don Quixote.
The rest of the shortlist includes Chigozie Obioma’s An Orchestra of Minorities, which our reviewer called “a compelling read”, and Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann, which has received a lot of attention for its unusual structure—it’s a 1,000 page novel made up of just one sentence.
Turkish writer Elif Shafak’s 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World and Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other are the other two books on the list.
The winner of the £50,000 prize (around Rs43 lakh) will be announced on October 14 in London.
Last year’s prize was won by Irish writer Anna Burns for The Milkman, a coming-of-age story of a bookish girl in Northern Ireland during the bloody ‘Troubles’.
There’s no doubt that the biggest draw on the shortlist is Atwood’s sequel to her 1985 book, which has gone on to become a cult classic in the years since its publication.
Details of The Testaments have been kept under wraps ahead of its publication on 10 September, and no reviews have been published yet. Its inclusion on the Booker Prize longlist in July had helped whip up more excitement around its release.
The book, set 15 years after the final scene in The Handmaid’s Tale, will have a midnight release next week, à la the Harry Potter phenomenon. The Guardian reported that fans have been invited to attend wearing the cloaks and bonnets worn by the women in Gilead, the fictional totalitarian state from the book. The costumes are familiar to non-readers as well, from the TV show which just finished three seasons. Political protesters have also worn the costume to protest abortion bans in many states in the US.
A surprise exclusion from the longlist is reader favourite Lanny by Max Porter, which had widely been expected to make the cut. In her review for The Guardian, Alexandra Harris had described the book as “a fable, a collage, a dramatic chorus, a joyously stirred cauldron of words”.
Rushdie’s Quichotte released in August to mixed reviews. Reviewing it for The New York Times, Parul Sehgal said that “the flamboyance that once felt so free now seems strenuous and grating”. Kirkus, however, had some positive words for the book, calling it a “splendid mess that, in the end, becomes a meditation on storytelling, memory, truth, and other hallmarks of a disappearing civilization”.
Some readers on Twitter have been expressing their disappointment at the addition of Rushdie to the list at the cost of their favourites.
When the longlist of 13 books was published in July, The Guardian’s Justine Jordan wrote that there were few surprises in the line-up “dominated by established authors”.