I read and hear on the news that the Booker shortlist announced today is ‘grimmer’ with choices which explore or relate ‘harrowing passages’, ‘a tremendous amount of violence’ with themes of abuse, brutality and the futility of life. As someone who might well be put off reading this ‘extraordinary range of approaches to fiction’, I am disappointed by these descriptions and feel a certain amount of desolation. Serious, I like, and I agree that comedy is incredibly difficult to pull off in a novel. I am pleased that only one writer made the shortlist previously as well as allowing the opportunity for Jamaican, Nigerian as well as UK and US authors to be selected. The youngest is 28, the oldest 78. An unequal number of men to women are honoured and I am sad that Marilynne Robinson’s ‘Lila’ has been excluded. I am about to buy Anne Tyler’s ‘A Spool of Blue Thread’.
However last year’s winner, Richard Flanagan’s ‘A Narrow to the Deep North’ contained harrowing scenes of violence and abuse, hideous accounts of torture and death in obscene circumstances and yet was utterly compelling. So despite this negative reporting I hope that I’ll find this year’s winner a similarly important read. Roll on 13th October 2015.