The Man Booker Prize Shortlist 2015

The Man Booker Prize Shortlist 2015

A Brief History of Seven Killings – Marlon James

Based around the assassination attempt on Bob Marley in 1976 and the aftermath, A Brief History of Seven Killings offers a violent portrait of Jamaica in the 1970’s and 80’s. A defining period of Jamaica’s history, guns, violence and fear became rife during this time, as economic and political uncertainty grew and the presence of the CIA became more problematic. In the fictional ghetto of Copenhagen city, Marlon James introduces us to an ambitious array of characters, including drug lords, gun men, CIA agents and slum kids, to provide various experiences of Jamaica.

Receiving many comparisons to Quentin Tarantino, A Brief History of Seven Killings is both vivid and brutal, with depictions of violence that will make you flinch. Although a challenging read at times, it is also rewarding and eye-opening, leaving the reader thinking long after the last page.

“It’s like a Tarantino remake of “The Harder They Come” but with a soundtrack by Bob Marley and a script by Oliver Stone and William Faulkner, with maybe a little creative boost from some primo ganja. It’s epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex. It’s also raw, dense, violent, scalding, darkly comic, exhilarating and exhausting ― a testament to Mr. James’s vaulting ambition and prodigious talent.”

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

Read if you loved: The Book of Night Women  /  No Country for Old Me  /  The Black Dahlia

Satin Island – Tom McCarthy

Avant-garde writer Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island is difficult to categorise or compare. With a minimal to non-existent plot and a narrator known simply as U, this book is structured more as a writer’s musings than a story. Our narrator is a consultant ethnographer gathering data for a Great Report that looks to find patterns and connections in our world. Intelligent and thought-provoking, U’s scrutiny is provocative in its lack of resolution but there is also a sense of futility to the project. A difficult and challenging read, it’s the structure and underlying themes of this book that make it stand out in recent fiction.

“A dizzying take on possible conspiracies, corporate philosophies and one man’s idle thoughts…. […] There are moments of devastation here, and the way McCarthy reveals them are among the novel’s highlights….the effort to follow its surprising routes pays off.”

Kirkus Reviews

Read if you loved: Inherent Vice  /  Ulysses  /  White Noise

The Fishermen – Chigozie Obioma

Set against an atmosphere of political unrest in Nigeria, Chigozie Obioma’s debut novel about four young brothers tells a spellbinding story with rich characters it’s impossible not to emotionally invest in. Told with control and pace, youngest brother Benjamin narrates the story as an adult, explaining the events that took place when he was 9 years old. After their father moves to the city for work, the four brothers start to skip school and go down to a nearby forbidden river to fish. There they meet a locally known mad man who prophesises that the eldest brother Ikenna will be killed by one of his brothers. Though the brothers try their best to reassure Ikenna, the prophecy places a heavy weight on the family and Ikenna soon starts to break under the constant fear of and love for his brothers. Emotional, direct and engrossing, Obioma’s four brothers pull you into their story from the very beginning, refusing to let you leave even when things begin to spiral out of control.

“In his exploration of the mysterious and the murderous, of the terrors that can take hold of the human mind, of the colors of life in Africa… and most of all in his ability to create dramatic tension in this most human of African stories, Chigozie Obioma truly is the heir to Chinua Achebe”

The New York Times

Read if you loved: No Longer at Ease  /  A Grain of Wheat  /  The Luminaries

The Year of the Runaways – Sunjeev Sahota

Bringing a human perspective to one of the most poignant political issues that the world faces today, The Year of the Runaways tells the story of 3 young men – Tochi, Avtar and Randeep – who have left India in search of a better life in England. The three end up sharing a house with ten additional migrants in Sheffield, and the story shifts between their difficult survival in Sheffield and the past events in India that drove each of them to flee. Injustice, love and shame each play a part in this book, but it is the notion of true humanity and moral responsibility that is depicted so well in additional character Narindar. A visa wife for Randeep, Narindar’s own moral compass is often at conflict with the norm and even the law. Her feelings of responsibility to help as someone placed in a more fortunate position than others are emotional and eye-opening. This is truly an intimate book that contests the broad and emotionally-removed debates around immigration.

“A brilliant political novel, deeply felt, told in the most intimate of ways…Sahota knows how to turn a phrase, how to light up a scene, how to make you stay up late to learn what happens next. This is a novel that takes on the largest questions and still shines in its smallest details…a brilliant and beautiful novel.”

Kamila Shamsie, The Guardian

Read if you loved: A Fine Balance  /  Ours are the Streets  /  Down and Out in Paris and London

A Spool of Blue Thread – Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread is told with quiet authority, as we’re introduced to the domestic life of the Whitshank family. Tender and unassuming, Tyler’s characters are made to be as important as our own relatives to keep us invested in a family that is imperfect, authentic and as elusive as the characters in our own lives. A beautiful snapshot of several generations, the essence of family life has been captured in this story, told with harmless wit and Tyler’s well established charm to truly sweep us up in the Whitshank’s world. A compelling and honest read.

“Modern family life, eh? Oh yes, Tyler gets it perfectly. This is a wise, humorous and loving book. A joy, in fact.”

Richard Madeley

Read if you loved: The Golden Apples  /  Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman  /  The Accidental Tourist

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

An exploration of the impact of the past and the limitations of human redemption, A Little Life is dramatic and sentimental, graphic and subtle, demanding emotion of the reader at every turn. The story begins with four university friends as they find professional success in New York. Eventually it becomes clear that Jude is our protagonist, and although life seems almost implausibly good in his adulthood, his past is filled with dark secrets of crippling abuse that continue to hamper his ability to be happy. Hanya Yanagihara tackles heartbreaking themes of trauma and endurance but with a sensitivity that will repulse at the right moments but also cause you to reflect and think at the perfect moments too.

“This is a novel that values the everyday over the extraordinary, the push and pull of human relationships—and the book’s effect is cumulative. There is real pleasure in following characters over such a long period, as they react to setbacks and successes, and, in some cases, change. By the time the characters reach their 50s and the story arrives at its moving conclusion, readers will be attached and find them very hard to forget.”

Publishers Weekly

Read if you loved: The Group  /  A Child Called It  /  The Secret History