Booker Prize 2020: reviews of Shuggie Bain, Burnt Sugar and The Shadow King
A closer look at four varied contenders on this year’s longlist
No image strikes greater fear into me than the yearly publicity shot of the Booker longlist. Thirteen books standing upright and huddled together, some fat, some thin, gazing into my soul like I’m witness to a criminal line-up. There’s the don, Hilary Mantel, an obvious inclusion but surely her win would be the most boring possible conclusion. Anne Tyler, war-beaten like a trireme, appears on a purely honourary basis, the concept of literary awards surely an insult to her living legend status. Colum McCann, as always, is just happy to be there.
It is impossible, too, to ignore the sheer amount of unfamiliar names on this year’s longlist. Eight of the thirteen novels are debuts, which makes the list only more daunting as we feel we’re fending for ourselves in uncharted seas. Therefore I offer myself as a sort of literary Jane McDonald. This small selection is truly a credit to the diversity of this year’s longlist, taking us from Glasgow in the 1980s to Ethiopia in the 1940s, from late-00s Kilburn to present-day Pune in India. This diversity, however, also extends to their success.