Well, here we are! I’ve read 10/13 so far and the shortlist was announced this morning.
Anna Burns (UK) Milkman (Faber & Faber)
Esi Edugyan (Canada) Washington Black (Serpent’s Tail)
Daisy Johnson (UK) Everything Under (Jonathan Cape)
Rachel Kushner (USA) The Mars Room (Jonathan Cape)
Richard Powers (USA) The Overstory (William Heinemann)
Robin Robertson (UK) The Long Take (Picador)
I posted my predictions on Twitter yesterday: In Our Mad and Furious City, From a Low and Quiet Sea, The Overstory, Everything Under, Normal People, Milkman, so, I only got 3/6. And I find it crazy that having read 10/13, all 3 that I haven’t read yet made the shortlist (Washington Black, The Long Take, and The Overstory which I started last night). 4/6 of the shortlisters are women; are we going to finally see another woman win?? Hopefully.
The one I’m most excited to see on this list is Milkman, which I thought was simply brilliant, if a bit niche, so I didn’t think it was likely that it was going to make the shortlist over some more conventional choices, but I ultimately did add it to my predictions list at the last second as I thought it was so deserving. And, unless I end up really loving one of the three I haven’t read yet, it’s the one I’m rooting for to win.
The other two I’ve read, Everything Under and The Mars Room, I also really enjoyed – I gave 4 stars to both – but they’re not the ones I had been most hoping to see on the list. Which brings me to what I consider the three major snubs:
In Our Mad and Furious City is literally the only one I’ve read so far where I’ve thought ‘yes, this is a winner.’ It’s a flawlessly written, unapologetic account of working class London told through the eyes of five different characters, and it’s fierce and frenetic and utterly unforgettable. Its exclusion from the shortlist baffles me.
From a Low and Quiet Sea has the best sentence-by-sentence writing of any of the longlisters I’ve read, by a landslide, and while that alone shouldn’t guarantee a book a spot on the shortlist, it’s also a highly moving and intelligent work. Ryan has been longlisted before but never shortlisted, and I really thought this was going to be his time. This is actually the one I would have bet on to win, if I’d had to put money on one of them. So, I’m glad I’m not the betting type.
Normal People was largely considered the favorite to win, if you’re interested in odds and all that, so its exclusion was probably the most surprising. The hype is a bit extreme with this one, but even so, I ended up loving it, and thought it was one of the more emotionally complex things I’ve read in ages. I’d been really warming up to the idea of this winning, so to not see it on the shortlist is rather odd.
Very relieved to see that Snap and Warlight were passed over. And probably Sabrina as well… I finished it last night and I’m still working out how I felt about it; I did really enjoy it but ultimately don’t think it was shortlist material. Also, while I enjoyed The Water Cure, I don’t particularly think that was shortlist material either, so I’m fine with the exclusion of that one.
But anyway, all things considered, I’m a little underwhelmed, but it’s also a little tricky to have a decisive opinion on the shortlist when I’ve only read half of it. Which I still can’t believe. 10/13 of the longlist and I’ve only read half the shortlist. Just my luck. I’m going to keep at it though, I’ve got The Overstory out from the library right now, a hold on Washington Black, and I ordered The Long Take online. Hoping one of them ends up being 5 stars for me.
What are everyone’s thoughts on the shortlist? Comment and let me know!