Arts: Booker list continues an Indian love affair

The shortlist for the Booker Prize, fiction's premier award, was announced yesterday. Big-name novelists such as Ian McEwan and Jeanette Winterson have failed to make the last six, but, as David Lister reports, for debut novelist Arundhati Roy, it is a dream come true.

The love affair between Britain and the narrative sweep of novels from the Indian sub-continent continues with the inclusion of first-time novelist Arundhati Roy on the Booker Prize shortlist.

But Ms Roy's book, a sharp and witty story of a family tragedy resulting from caste conflicts, has a different tone from novelists such as Salman Rushdie and Vikram Seth, and its journey on to the shortlist is the stuff of a novel itself.

The shortlist for the pounds 20,000 prize announced yesterday has surprising omissions of big names, including Ian McEwan, Jeanette Winterson and Carole Shields. It contains Grace Notes by Bernard MacLaverty, Quarantine by Jim Crace, The Underground by Mick Jackson, Europa by Tim Parks, The Essence Of Things by Madelaine St John and The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

A former achitectural student and screen writer, Ms Roy was the child of a mixed marriage and the victim of caste prejudice. She spent years living among lepers and social outcasts before achieving sudden fame when she gave a copy of her manuscript to the agent Pankaj Mishra, then a HarperCollins editor in India. He was so excited that he rang her in the middle of the night.

He then sent a copy to literary agent David Godwin in London and Mr Godwin turned up on Ms Roy's doorstep in India, asking to be her agent. Flamingo, an imprint of HarperCollins, won the auction with an advance of pounds 150,000.

Bookmakers William Hill said last night: "It looks a wide open list and the omission of Ian McEwan is the most interesting one since Martin Amis."

Chairwoman of the judges, Professor Gillian Beer, said the panel had read 106 books. "We don't read every word of every book," she said, " but there are only a few where I've been skipping pages."

Discussing the secret of a successful Booker title, she said: "You must want to read on. You must have some sense of a challenge and a distinctive voice should come through. There must be something that engages you and evokes some form of human life ... Whatever it is, it should be intensely there."

Last year's winner was Graham Swift with Last Orders, narrowly and surprisingly beating Margaret Atwood's engaging and intensely there novel, Alias Grace.

William Hill's Booker odds: 2/1 Bernard MacLaverty "Grace Notes"; 3/1 Jim Crace "Quarantine"; 7/2 Arundhati Roy "The God of Small Things"; 9/2 Madelaine St John "The Essence of the Thing"; 5/1 Tim Parks "Europa"; 6/1 Mick Jackson "The Underground Man"

the BOOKER PRIZE shortlist - what the critics said

Grace Notes, by Bernard MacLaverty (Cape)

A young Northern Irish composer's revolt against her family, with hints at the province's traumatic history. In The Independent, Patricia Craig praised "a very subtle novel which gains its riches from sources far removed from plentiful activity".

Quarantine, by Jim Crace (Viking)

In the Judean wilderness, 2,000 years ago, the young Jesus fasts and watches as, around him, a band of rogues and peasants work through their conflicts. Michael Arditti marvelled at "powers of description as awesome as the landscape he evokes".

Europa, by Tim Parks (Secker & Warburg)

An English language teacher in Italy, who has achieved nothing in love or work, reflects on the spiritual ruins of his life. Nicholas Wroe enjoyed "a thoughtfully realised book that pushes its humour into ever deeper shades of black".

The Underground Man, by Mick Jackson (Picador)

Based on the true story of a 19th-century Duke of Portland, Jackson's first novel explores the weird inner world of an eccentric aristocrat. Francis Spufford called it "a romance of containers" set in "a malleable region of fantastic events".

The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy (Flamingo)

Lyrical, tragi-comic novel unfolds against the lush South Indian landscape, where twins come to terms with their mother's doomed cross-cultural love match. Maya Jaggi acclaimed "a remarkably assured debut ... both moving and compelling".

The Essence of the Thing, by Madeleine St John (Fourth Estate)

Dark horse of the shortlist. An ostensibly happy Notting Hill menage suddenly falls apart. With a sardonic eye and fierce humour, St John traces a woman's struggle to rebuild her life.

- Boyd Tonkin, Literary Editor

News
peopleChildren leave in tears as Santa is caught smoking and drinking
Arts and Entertainment
A host of big name acts recorded 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' in London on Saturday
musicCharity single tops chart
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall has become the eighth celebrity to leave Strictly Come Dancing
tv
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
News
i100
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Sport
Dwight Gayle (left) celebrates making it 1-1 with Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak
premier leagueReds falter to humbling defeat
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin