The Man Booker Prize is one of the biggest literary events of the year, and with the winner of this year’s prize being announced tomorrow (Tuesday 13th October), we thought we’d take a closer look at the prize.
Launched in 1969, the Man Booker Prize is perhaps the pinnacle of the literary year – the A-Level results day for literature, if you will. The long-listed, short-listed, and winning books are exalted as the best of the best – they are, to take the academic metaphor further, the Oxbridge candidates of the book world.
According to the late Ion Trewin, Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation from 2006 until 2015, the aim of the Man Booker Prize was, and is, to ‘increase the reading of quality fiction and to attract “the intelligent general audience”…’
It has certainly done that. Past winners of the prize have included Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, and Ian McEwan – all of whom, it can be agreed, are fantastic authors with fantastic books. We have talked before about what makes a book great, but if you want a shining example of greatness then look no further than the Man Booker Prize.
And yet, whilst the standard of reading that the Man Booker Prize promotes is undoubtedly high, it is not snobbish – the nominees are great, but accessible. At the heart of them all is a good story.
This year’s short-list is the perfect example of this. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler, for example, is an impeccably crafted book – well written, well structured, innovative enough to be interesting, but traditional enough to be comforting. At the heart of the book, however, is simply a really nice story. It is a book that you continue reading not just because it is well written, but because you feel attached to the characters; because you want to know where they end up.
It may seem strange to heap praise on a book for simply having a good plot, but when literary snobs continually stress the importance of style, often neglecting the substance, it is an important point to make. Thankfully, it is a point that the Man Booker judges seem to value as well.
If you’ve read any of this year’s short-list, do let us know in the comments. If not, let us know your favourite past winner or nominee!