“Contemporary, diverse” and female-dominated, the Booker Prize short-list is revealed

Four of the six books announced as the Booker Prize’s 2019 short-list are penned by female authors, with previous winners Margaret Atwood (2000, The Blind Assassin) jostling for attention against Salman Rushdie (1981, Midnight’s Children).

Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie Image Credit: Andrew Lih, Wikimedia

Atwood, now perhaps best known in Britain for her stunningly dystopian work, The Handmaid’s Tale, written in 1985, has penned a hotly anticipated sequel. It’s little surprise that the work is already being developed for TV by Hulu. Atwood revisits Gilead for this novel, The Testaments and you can read the first, exclusive extract on The Guardian.

Rushdie, who authored the now infamous Satanic Verses, has been nominated for his new book, Quichotte. A contemporary reworking of the tale of Don Quixote, beyond its nomination for this prestigious award, it has struggled to strike a chord with several critics. The Observer said it wasn’t nearly as hilarious as Rushdie believed and the New York Times was absolutely damning, calling his writing “bloated”.

Most interestingly, for this writer at least, is the appearance of the 1,000 page, single sentence monologue, published by a little-known, independent outfit (Galley Beggar Press) in Norwich. Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann was lauded by Booker Prize judge Joanne MacGregor as “radical” and “dazzling[ly] light”, despite the considerable length of the work. Focusing on the life and drudgery of an Ohio housewife, should the novel win, it would break the record for the longest book (currently held by Eleanor Catton for The Luminaries, in 2013).

Celebrated and prolific Turkish Author, Elif Shafak, has been nominated for her work 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in This Strange World, the first time in her career, spanning 17 books. Published and translated into 49 languages, Shafak is also an academic, public speaker and women’s rights activist, when she’s not writing. The time period of the title relates to the final, dying moments of a murdered sex worker. “Audacious and original”, according to the panel, the book is set in Elif’s home country, within capital city Istanbul.

Described by Judge Afua Hirsch as a “crucial journey into a heartache that is both mythical and real”, An Orchestra of Minorities is narrated from the perspective of a guardian spirit, who looks after Nigerian graduate and main protagonist, Nonso. Written by Chigozie Obioma, the second and last male writer featured in the Booker Prize’s Short list.

Bernardine Evaristo is the sixth and final Booker Prize nomination, with her book, Girl, Woman, Other. Following the stories of 12 characters, with a heavy emphasis on female, British, BAME protagonists, Judge Xiaolu Guo praised the work highly. “Fierce” and “impressive”, the book does not contain “even a single moment of dullness”.

With the nominees set to win prestige along with the grand sum of £50,000, we’ll find out on 14 October who has scooped 2019’s top literary prize. Which is your favourite? Let us know @sszeemedia

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