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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: October 14, 2008 @ 12:00 pm

    Booker watch

    Fiona McCann

    A quick reminder to all you on the edges of yizzer seats since the Booker shortlist was announced. The winner will be revealed tonight at a dinner in London, with the announcement broadcast live on BBC One’s 10 o’clock news. Last minute predictions, anyone, for a notoriously unpredictable contest? I fancy Philip Hensher for The Northern Clemency, not because I’ve read it, mind, but it seems the sort of thing that Booker judges might compromise on, especially if they’ve put in the time reading all 738 pages of it. Wouldn’t want all that thumb licking to go to waste.  Others are saying it’s Grant’s year, while Paddy Power had our man Sebastian Barry as the 2-1 favourite before betting closed. Anyone out there got a better psychic signal?

    • Sinéad says:

      It better not be Grant – that book bugged the hell out of me. And Hensher’s effort, though worthy in many respects, is too detailed, smacks of laborious research and as another journalist succinctly put it: “has too many troughs and not enough crests”.

      I’d love to see Barry win it, not because of any Irish bias, simply because it’s the best written book on the shortlist. If he doesn’t nab it, it’ll be either The White Tiger or A Fraction of the Whole.

    • Fiona says:

      A Fraction of the Whole sounds like a pretty good bet (also comes in over 700 pages – more is more this year, clearly), though if you really think The White Tiger has a chance, Sinéad, you should put money on it – Paddy Power had it at 7/1 this morning.

    • Sinéad says:

      Fiona, it’s a very funny book – not without its flaws, mind, and I could do without the inaccurate comparisions to A Confederacy of Dunces – but I think Toltz has a huge future in front of him.

      I went looking for the PP Booker page this morning and couldn’t find it – am I just blind?

    • Fiona says:

      I have some serious reading catch up to do – think I’ll start with Barry and move onto Toltz, though I may just skip off the shortlist entirely and dip into Netherland next instead. Is http://www.themanbookerprize.com the page you’re after? I (hanging head in anticipation of great shame) don’t get the PP reference. . .

    • Sinéad says:

      Apologies! Paddy Power – I’ll have to give in to my flutter temptation, but can’t find the Booker page over there…

      Any other Irish bookies running odds on the prize?

    • Fiona says:

      Ah! Paddy Power! I geddit! Alas, they told me that they’ve closed the bets given the proximity of the event (seems odd, considering how close to a horserace they run it). Here’s how the odds looked when they closed this morning:
      Here’s how the odds looked when they closed this morning:

      2/1 The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (was as big as 10/1)
      3/1 Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (was 8/1 months ago then went 7/4 Fav when it was shortlisted)
      3/1 A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz (was 14/1 at one point , then went 6/1 before settling at 3/1)
      5/1 The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher
      6/1 The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant
      7/1 The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

      Shame, I wish I had placed a bet myself, but apparently Sea of Poppies was Paddy Power’s initial tip to win, and they were offering 7/4 in September “but punters weren’t too impressed with that price and it wasn’t well backed.”

    • Conor says:

      Yeah, I reckon it’ll be the Northern Clemency, which is a shame as I have a signed first edition of the Secret Scripture in my drawer that is about to plummet in value.

    • Fiona says:

      Yegods! I hope you got to a bookies, Sinéad.

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