Will it be fourth time lucky for Julian Barnes?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Perennial literary bridesmaid makes Booker list – but bookies' favourite misses out

His latest novel is epic in its subject matter – the life and death of a First World War poet – and in its size but The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst appeared to lack the heft to impress judges, who dropped the former bookies' favourite from the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

Hollinghurst's book, described as "a classic" by reviewers and originally the favourite to win after it was longlisted in July, was the surprise omission from this year's shortlist for the £50,000 award, announced yesterday.

Julian Barnes, who has previously been shortlisted three times but never won, is now front-runner to pick up the accolade, for his "short novel" The Sense of an Ending, about a middle-aged man reassessing his early life.

"We had a long discussion about all the books but eventually we agreed on these six," said judging chair Dame Stella Rimington. "The Hollinghurst we took very seriously but it lost." She said there were "no hidden agendas".

Fellow judge, journalist Matthew d'Ancona, said: "The congratulations we extended to the entire longlist still hold. It wasn't the exclusion of a particular book, we had to narrow the longlist."

There are two first-time novelists on the six-strong list of finalists, Stephen Kelman, for Pigeon English, and A. D. Miller, for Snowdrops. D'Ancona said that Kelman's book, whose characters inhabit Peckham gangland culture, was "a form of grim prophecy". "There was an accidental topicality about it," he added. "It has the capacity to endure. It's a very significant book". Snowdrops, meanwhile, is a psychological thriller set in Moscow. "He's created characters which typify an aspect of Moscow today," said Dame Stella.

Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers, the off-beat story of two outlaw siblings wreaking havoc during the 1850s Californian Gold Rush, is the first "Western" ever shortlisted for the award. Also making the cut were Carol Birch, for Jamrach's Menagerie, based on the true story of the sinking of the whaleship the Essex in 1820, and Esi Edugyan for Half Blood Blues, revolving around a mixed-race jazz trumpeter in 1930s Berlin.

DeWitt's publisher, Granta, joins three other small independent publishers on the list: Canongate, Atlantic and Serpent's Tail. Jonathan Cape is the only "conglomerate publisher" represented, for The Sense of an Ending.

The judges emphasised that their assessment was "subjective". "For goodness sake, don't think these are the only books to read this year. There were 138 books submitted. It's our own judgement," said author and judge Susan Hill."We were sad to leave some excellent books behind," added Dame Stella. The winner will be announced on 18 October.

Six of the best: The Booker shortlist

Carol Birch Jamrach's Menagerie (Canongate Books)

Author of nine previous novels including Scapegallows and Turn Again Home – longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2003. Jamrach's Menagerie was inspired by the real-life sinking of a whale ship in 19th-century England and charts the fortunes of the charismatic Charles Jamrach, a leading wild animal dealer.

Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape – Random House)

The fourth novel by Barnes to be shortlisted for the Booker prize, yet he has never taken home the award. Focusing on a group of old school friends, this novella is a meditation on the themes of ageing, memory and regret.

AD Miller Snowdrops (Atlantic)

The debut novel by one-time Moscow correspondent of The Economist, Snowdrops is a tense psychological thriller that unfolds over the course of a brutal Moscow winter. The book tells the story of a young Englishman caught up in a corrupt property deal in new Russia.

Esi Edugyan Half Blood Blues (Serpent's Tail)

The second Canadian on the shortlist. Esi Edugyan's second novel is partly set in the aftermath of the fall of Paris in 1940, following the fate of an arrested German, a black jazz trumpeter called Hieronymous Falk, and in Berlin 50 years later as his bandmates retrace his steps.

Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers (Granta)

The second novel by the Canadian-born, Oregan-based author. The Sisters Brothers is a darkly comic western about two outlaw brothers who are hired killers – one reluctant, the other more gung-ho – as they reconcile their relationship during the west coast gold rush in 1851.

Stephen Kelman Pigeon English (Bloomsbury)

After finishing his degree, Stephen Kelman worked as a warehouse operative, a careworker, and in marketing and local government administration, until finally deciding to write in 2005. His first novel is written from the perspective of a seven-year-old Ghanaian boy caught up in Peckham's gangland.

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'