Books Corner | A time of books and prizes

Autumn is not only the season for lots of exciting new titles, it is also the season for one of the world’s most recognised literary prizes, the Man Booker Prize.The shortlist, consisting of six books, was recently announced and the winner will be announced on October 15.
With all the amazing ?ction out there, one can always debate the merits of awards, but it is nevertheless fascinating that the ?ve impassioned (to say the very least) judges have read 151 books.

And then, once they’d decided on the final six, they read the shortlisted books twice just to make sure that they could live up to a re-read. Now that’s what I call commitment!

The shortlisted titles are as diverse as their authors – in background, culture and gender – and a ?tting representation of the diversity in great world ?ction today.

I was pleased to see that one of my personal favourites, Jhumpa Lahiri, made the cut with her new novel, The Lowland, which follows two brothers’ diverging lives from Calcutta – through revolutionary times – to the United States.

The youngest writer represented is Eleanor Catton from New Zealand. Her novel, The Luminaries (the longest on the list with 832 pages), is set in her home country in 1866 and deals with an unsolved crime, secrets, mysteries, murder and wealth.

Harvest by Jim Crace is next on the list. With its story of the arrival of three strangers in a small village, the ensuing ?re at the manor house, a blackened harvest and suspicions of witchcraft, the book has an equally eerie and unsettling quality.

We Need New Names follows a young girl, Darling, and her friends as they struggle through their lives in a Zimbabwean shanty town dreaming of better times in faraway places, such as the United States, where the author herself, NoViolet Bulawayo, moved to in 1999. The title of the book is derived from how immigrant children are given American names to be accepted in a different world.

Far from Zimbabwe, in Tokyo, we ?nd another young girl, 16-year-old Nao Yasutani, in Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being – a teenager trying to ?nd her way through the maze of messages delivered by friends, family and a mysterious diary she ?nds washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunch box, which she suspects has come in on the debris from the 2011 Tsunami.

The last book on the list is The Testament of Mary by Irish writer Colm Toibin, the most familiar and proli?c of the nominees with 15 books to his name. Testament of Mary tells the story of Mary, the mother of Christ. It’s her account of her son’s life and death and her own struggle, suffering and, ?nally, mourning.

We wish all the authors good luck and look forward to finding out the winner on 15 October 2013!