Man Booker shortlist: What the reviews say

 

The winner of the Man Booker prize will be revealed at 10 pm tonight from a shortlist of six.

Here's what The Independent reviewers think of the books on offer:

Bring Up The Bodies, By Hilary Mantel

In this, her sequel to Wolf Hall, Mantel has no truck with the feminised Tudor history denounced by David Starkey, but sticks firmly to her agenda - male point-of-view, Cromwell's point-of-view, a political point-of-view, with no lust in the Tudor shrubbery. Her historical fiction might be called the squeezed middlebrow, refusing bodice-ripping bestseller-land, but also rejecting wildly experimental writers of historical fiction like OrhanPamuk.

As all historical novelists must, Mantel forces us to recognise ourselves in people whose different minds could easily alienate us. Her Cromwell is practical, as we are, a battler, as we are, with no religion or love of the monarch, because we have none.

Review by Diane Purkiss click here to read in full

Umbrella, By Will Self

Self is not the only novelist this autumn to respond to commercially uncertain times by returning to Modernism, but he has been the most explicit about this strategy. His blurb not only suggests "he is taking up the challenge of Modernism", but states that only Modernism alone "can unravel new and unsettling truths about our world". He opens the novel with an epigraph borrowed from James Joyce. It's a bold claim, but Self has never lacked ambition.

Umbrella ranges from 1918 to 2010, but Self writes more in the manner of a writer from the former age than the latter. By following in a digested tradition, he does something different than the Modernist writer: not so much following Ezra Pound's instruction to "make it new", but instead making the old new.

Review by Matt Thorne click here to read in full

The Garden of Evening Mists, By Tan Twan Eng

Our narrator here is Teoh Yun Ling, a Girton-educated retired judge in independent Malaysia, born in 1923 and brought up among the loyal colonial elite (“the King’s Chinese”) of Penang. After the Japanese invasion, she suffered almost-unspeakable hardship as a “Guest of the Emperor” in a remote jungle prison camp, where her beloved sister Yun Hong died. Tan’s fictional garden moves between three levels, which never quite coincide.

In the present – given the chronology, the late 1980s – Yun Ling writes her memoirs before the aphasic dementia that has begun to afflict her reduces language and memory to trackless jungle. In the early 1950s, as a rebellious young prosecutor furious that the British rulers of Malaya have done so little to help victims of Japanese war crimes, she fled to the highlands to learn garden design from the shape-shifting Aritomo. Somehow – and for what dark purpose? – the imperial gardener has returned to postwar Malaya to exercise his talent for the visual feints and ruses of shakkei – “borrowed scenery”.

Review by Boyd Tonkin click here to read in full

Narcopolis, By Jeet Thayil

The ingenuity of Thayil's novel lies in how he has squeezed this entire universe into an opium pipe. And when the narrative dissipates into smoke, it leaves a deceptively addictive odour, with memorable characters at the margins of society. There is Dimple, the eunuch keen to read and learn; the Bengali who pretends to know more than he does (or maybe he does); and Rashid himself, who runs the opium den with disdain that's at once sardonic and laconic.

There are others too, given peculiar names drawn from Bombay slang, but most try to do no harm, and often show heartwarming humanity. The unobtrusive narrator is Dom, whose soul-killing job is as a proof-reader of publicity material in a pharmaceutical company (with easy access to chemical substances). Just alongside the den are other vices - prostitution and crime.

Review by Salil Tripathi click here to read in full

Swimming Home, By Deborah Levy

Levy's sense of place is never romantic, rather a means of isolating the English in France to examine them forensically. She exposes how actions rebound on future generations and how damaged individuals are attracted to their mirror image, leading only to mutual destruction. Levy takes us into this subconscious world with delicacy and without judgment.

Her touch is gentle, often funny and always acute. The prose style is spare and fresh. Swimming Home is told from multiple viewpoints and several generations. At the centre is poet Joe/Jozef Jacobs, whose sketchy, hidden history, as a Jewish child in the Polish woods, throbs dangerously. Levy's characters, from Joe's daughter Nina, whose menstruation catapults her into the world of sexuality, to the 80-year-old doctor Madeleine, offer a wide range of female experience which is painfully authentic. What is particularly strong is the way Levy upends expectation. The cuckolded wife, Isabel, is no victim. She is a war correspondent who perhaps colludes in her husband's infidelity to make her own escape.

Review by Julia Pascal click here to read in full

The Lighthouse, By Alison Moore

A debut novel from a high-achieving independent publisher, The Lighthouse has surprised some observers with its place on the Man Booker Prize shortlist. Disquieting, deceptive, crafted with a sly and measured expertise, Alison Moore's story could certainly deliver a masterclass in slow-burn storytelling to those splashier literary celebs who take more pains over a pyrotechnic paragraph than a watertight plot. But it may also feed a long-standing Booker quarrel: the one that sets so-called "literary" against "genre" fiction.

From a technical point-of-view, the peculiar achievement of The Lighthouse lies in the nervelessly skilful fusion of its emotions and its actions: the "literary" dimension of Futh's nostalgia and obsession, and the "genre" machine that, notch by notch, cranks up foreboding and suspense. Because of who he is, because of how he feels, the monster stalks him. The finale delivers a neat (perhaps overly neat) QED. A novel that opens with an epigraph by Muriel Spark may close by reminding you not just of Roald Dahl, but Stephen King.

Review by Boyd Tonkin click here to read in full

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee