(Faber & Faber)
In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes ‘interesting’. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous…
Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences.
Lincoln in the Bardo
On 22 February 1862, two days after his death, Willie Lincoln is laid to rest in a marble crypt in a Georgetown cemetery. That very night, shattered by grief, his father Abraham arrives at the cemetery, alone, under cover of darkness.
Over the course of that evening, Abraham Lincoln paces the graveyard unsettled by the death of his beloved boy, and by the grim shadow of a war that feels as though it is without end. Meanwhile Willie is trapped in a state of limbo between the dead and the living – drawn to his father with whom he can no longer communicate, existing in a ghostly world populated by the recently passed and the long dead.
Unfolding in the graveyard over a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is a thrilling exploration of death, grief and the deeper meaning and possibilities of life.
By Paul Beatty
Published by Oneworld
Born in the ‘agrarian ghetto’ of Dickens on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles and raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, the narrator of The Sellout spent his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. He is led to believe his father’s pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family's financial woes. But when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, he realises there never was a memoir. All that’s left is the bill for a drive-through funeral.
Fuelled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town’s most famous resident – Hominy Jenkins – he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school which lands him in the Supreme Court.
What follows is a remarkable journey that challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement and the holy grail of racial equality – the black Chinese restaurant.
A Brief History of Seven Killings
By Marlon James
Published by Oneworld Publications
On 3 December 1976, just weeks before the general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica concert to ease political tensions, seven men from West Kingston stormed his house with machine guns. Marley survived and went on to perform at the free concert. But the next day he left the country and didn’t return for two years.
Inspired by this near-mythic event, A Brief History of Seven Killings takes the form of an imagined oral biography, told by ghosts, witnesses, killers, members of parliament, drug dealers, conmen, beauty queens, FBI and CIA agents, reporters, journalists, and even Keith Richards' drug dealer. The story traverses strange landscapes and shady characters, as motivations are examined – and questions asked.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
By Richard Flanagan
Published by Chatto & Windus
The Narrow Road to the Deep North is a love story unfolding over half a century between a doctor and his uncle’s wife.
Taking its title from one of the most famous books in Japanese literature, written by the great haiku poet Basho, Flanagan’s novel has as its heart one of the most infamous episodes of Japanese history, the construction of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in World War II.
In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Death Railway, surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.
By Eleanor Catton
Published by Granta
It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.
Bring up the Bodies
By Hilary Mantel
Published by Fourth Estate
The year is 1535 and Thomas Cromwell, chief Minister to Henry VIII, must work both to please the king and keep the nation safe. Anne Boleyn, for whose sake Henry has broken with Rome and created his own church, has failed to do what she promised: bear a son to secure the Tudor line. As Henry develops a dangerous attraction to Wolf Hall’s Jane Seymour, Thomas must negotiate a ‘truth’ that will satisfy Henry and secure his own career. But neither minister nor king will emerge undamaged from the bloody theatre of Anne’s final days.
The Sense of an Ending
By Julian Barnes
Published by Jonathan Cape
A truly wonderful novel that will have the reader immersed in the story from the very first page, and all the while marvelling at the precision of Barnes’ prose.
Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life. Now Tony is in middle age. He’s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove.
The Sense of an Ending is the story of one man coming to terms with the mutable past. Laced with trademark precision, dexterity and insight, it is the work of one of the world’s most distinguished writers.
The Finkler Question
By Howard Jacobson
Published by Bloomsbury
'He should have seen it coming. His life had been one mishap after another. So he should have been prepared for this one…’
Julian Treslove, a professionally unspectacular former BBC radio producer, and Sam Finkler, a popular Jewish philosopher, writer and television personality, are old school friends. Despite a prickly relationship and very different lives, they’ve never quite lost touch with each other - or with their former teacher, Libor Sevcik, a Czech always more concerned with the wider world than with exam results.
Now, both Libor and Sam are recently widowed, and with Treslove, his chequered and unsuccessful record with women rendering him an honorary third widower, they dine at Libor’s grand, central London apartment.
It’s a sweetly painful evening of reminiscence in which all three remove themselves to a time before they had loved and lost; a time before they had fathered children, before the devastation of separations, before they had prized anything greatly enough to fear the loss of it. Better, perhaps, to go through life without knowing happiness at all because that way you have less to mourn? Treslove finds he has tears enough for the unbearable sadness of both his friends’ losses.
And it’s that very evening, at exactly 11:30, as Treslove, walking home, hesitates a moment outside the window of the oldest violin dealer in the country, that he is attacked. And after this, his whole sense of who and what he is will slowly and ineluctably change.
The Finkler Question is a scorching story of friendship and loss, exclusion and belonging, and of the wisdom and humanity of maturity. Funny, furious, unflinching, this extraordinary novel shows one of our finest writers at his brilliant best.
By Hilary Mantel
Published by Fourth Estate
England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn.
The pope and most of Europe oppose him. The quest for the petulant king’s freedom destroys his advisor, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum and a deadlock.
Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a bully and a charmer, Cromwell has broken all the rules of a rigid society in his rise to power, and is prepared to break some more. Rising from the ashes of personal disaster - the loss of his young family and of Wolsley, his beloved patron - he picks his way deftly through a court where ‘man is wolf to man’. Pitting himself against parliament, the political establishment and the papacy, he is prepared to reshape England to his own and Henry’s desires.
From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion and suffering and courage.
The White Tiger
By Aravind Adiga
Published by Atlantic
Born in a village in heartland India, the son of a rickshaw puller, Balram is taken out of school by his family and put to work in a teashop. As he crushes coals and wipes tables, he nurses a dream of escape - of breaking away from the banks of Mother Ganga, into whose depths have seeped the remains of a hundred generations.
The White Tiger is a tale of two Indias. Balram’s journey from darkness of village life to the light of entrepreneurial success is utterly amoral, brilliantly irreverent, deeply endearing and altogether unforgettable.
By Anne Enright
Published by Cape
The Gathering is a family epic. It is also a sexual history: tracing the line of hurt and redemption through three generations - starting with the grandmother, Ada Merriman - showing how memories warp and family secrets fester.
This is a novel about love and disappointment, about thwarted lust and limitless desire, and how our fate is written in the body, not in the stars.
The Inheritance of Loss
By Kiran Desai
Published by Penguin
In the north-eastern Himalayas, at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga, in an isolated and crumbling house, there lives an embittered old judge, who wants nothing more than to retire in peace.
But with the arrival of his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, and the son of his chatty cook trying to stay a step ahead of US immigration services, this is far from easy.
By John Banville
Published by Picador
Led back to Ballyless by a dream, Max Morden is both escaping from a recent loss and confronting a distant trauma in the coastal town where he spent a holiday in his youth.
The Grace family appeared that long-ago summer as if from another world. Drawn to the Grace twins, Chloe and Myles, Max soon found himself entangled in their lives which were as seductive as they were unsettling.
What ensued haunts him for the rest of his years and shapes everything that is to follow.
2004 Alan Hollinghurst The Line of Beauty
2003 DBC Pierre Vernon God Little
2002 Yann Martel Life of Pi
2001 Peter Carey True History of the Kelly Gang
2000 Margaret Atwood The Blind Assassin
1999 J. M. Coetzee Disgrace
1998 Ian McEwan Amsterdam
1997 Arundhati Roy The God of Small Things
1996 Graham Swift Last Orders
1995 Pat Barker The Ghost Road
1994 James Kelman How late it was, how late
1993 Roddy Doyle Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
1992 Michael Ondaatje The English Patient
Barry Unsworth Sacred Hunger
1991 Ben Okri The Famished Road
1990 A. S. Byatt Possession: A Romance
1989 Kazuo Ishiguro The Remains of the Day
1988 Peter Carey Oscar and Lucinda
1987 Penelope Lively Moon Tiger
1986 Kingsley Amis The Old Devils
1985 Keri Hulme The Bone People
1984 Anita Brookner Hotel du Lac
1983 J. M. Coetzee Life & Times of Michael K
1982 Thomas Keneally Schindler's Ark
1981 Salman Rushdie Midnight's Children
1980 William Golding Rites of Passage
1979 Penelope Fitzgerald Offshore
1978 Iris Murdoch The Sea, the Sea
1977 Paul Scott Staying On
1976 David Storey Saville
1975 Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Heat and Dust
1974 Nadine Gordimer The Conservationist
Stanley Middleton Holiday
1973 J. G. Farrell The Siege of Krishnapur
1972 John Berger G.
1971 V. S. Naipaul In a Free State
1970 Bernice Rubens The Elected Member
J. G. Farrell Troubles - awarded as The Lost Man Booker Prize
1969 P. H. Newby Something to Answer For
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