Usual Booker suspects fall at first hurdle

Rather like the Grand National, the Man Booker reliably delivers a cull of firm favourites and fancied outsiders. A swathe of heavily backed steeds fall at early or late fences, leaving the final stretch occupied by several runners of unknown form and uncertain colours.

In that respect, this year's shortlist keeps up a long tradition. Kiran Desai had, before her Himlayan epic The Inheritance of Loss, published only a relatively slight debut novel. M J Hyland had also had one outing (How the Light Gets In) before the troubled Irish childhood of Carry Me Down thrust her onto this list. And Hisham Matar had written nothing before his compelling story of love, fear and survival inside and outside Gaddafi's Libya, In the Country of Men.

Edward St Aubyn, a singular stylist who inspires both adoration and annoyance, returns after a period of silence with Mother's Milk, and Kate Grenville - although an Orange and Commonwealth prize victor - has not yet achieved a profile here to match her Australian renown. The tersely epic outback conflicts of The Secret River deserve to change all that. Only Sarah Waters stands out as a totally familiar name to infrequent readers of fiction. Even here, The Night Watch daringly departs from her well-loved Victorian terrain to tell its tale of love and loss in wartime London backwards.

In their quest for the "distinctive original voice" and the "audacious imagination", Hermione Lee and the other judges have also sprung different surprises. Most obviously, the majority of women writers is a Booker rarity, last seen in 2003.

The panel proved resistant to the lure of favourites such as double winner Peter Carey (with Theft) and young master David Mitchell (with his recreated 1980s childhood, Black Swan Green). Equally, they turned away from the urgent timeliness of Claire Messud's New York novel set on the eve of 11 September 2001, The Emperor's Children; of Barry Unsworth's dramatisation of Muslim-Christian amity and tension in medieval Sicily, The Ruby in her Navel; and Andrew O'Hagan's depiction of a priest in Scotland dragged down by a paedophilia scandal, Be Near Me. All three would have made powerful contenders.

In the parallel publishers' gallop the big winner this year, with two shortlisted titles, is Canongate - Jamie Byng's charmed Edinburgh independent, which won in 2002 with The Life of Pi. And the big loser, yet again, is the Random House group, with no titles on the short list.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
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.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'