Leading article: Page-turners

With the sound of fanfares and the clash of arms, history has made a noisy comeback in this year's Man Booker prize, which will be awarded tonight. Critics and readers have both cheered and cursed the idea that our most prominent prize for fiction should be fought for by a company of books whose settings stretch from the 1530s (Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall) to the 1970s (JM Coetzee's Summertime).

But another feature of the final six has gone little noticed. Genre fiction, so often the Cinderella of the literary prize scene, has mobbed the Booker shortlist – but in posh disguises. Wolf Hall revitalises the Tudor epic; Simon Mawer's The Glass Room revamps the multi-generational family saga; Sarah Waters's The Little Stranger perms the ghostly yarn and the country-house mystery; AS Byatt's The Children's Book is steeped in classic fables for the young. Only science fiction misses out: but Margaret Atwood, with The Year of the Flood, should have stayed in contention anyway.

Comments