Longlisted for Booker, Barry hopes it is third time lucky


While the Irish writer may secure shortlisting for the third time, Alan Hollinghurst is expected to win again with his elegant work, The Stranger’s Child

IRISH WRITER Sebastian Barry last week likened his fictional territory to “a small subsistence farm”. Well, as small holdings go, it is proving highly efficient as his new novel, On Canaan’s Side, was named on this year’s Man Booker longlist.

It now has a good chance of securing Barry his third Booker shortlisting with consecutive novels.

Another shortlist veteran to feature among the 13 contenders competing for places among the final half dozen to be named next month is Britain’s Julian Barnes, previously shortlisted three times and now longlisted for his forthcoming novel, The Sense of an Ending.

Looking extremely strong at this point to take the prize for the second time is another Briton, Alan Hollinghurst, whose elegant narrative, The Stranger’s Child, is expected to win the prize now in its 44th year.

His novel The Line of Beautywon in 2004 and The Stranger’s Childhas taken seven years to complete. Hollinghurst was also shortlisted in 1994 with The Folding Star.

Influenced by English writer Ronald Firbank (1886-1926), Hollinghurst is a poised satirist with a feel for social nuance and England’s past as well as the contemporary state of the nation.

Also longlisted is a potential challenger in Canadian Patrick de Witt’s The Sisters Brothers, which is set in 19th-century California and brings all the viciousness of the old West to life with forceful abandon. Stephen Kelman looks to his Ghanaian heritage in Pigeon English, one of four debut novels included. It is a lively narrative in which Kelman has fun with language as spoken by a boy. His life is dramatically complicated when he becomes involved in a murder investigation.

Other first novels are Snowdropsby AD Miller, a thriller set in present-day Russia; Ywette Edwards’s A Cupboard Full of Coats; and poet Patrick McGuinness’s The Last Hundred Days.

Barry is the lone Irishman alongside eight British subjects and three Canadians – de Witt, Esi Edugyan with Half Blood Bluesand poet Alison Pick with Far to Go.

Hollinghurst, Barry and Barnes, who was first shortlisted in 1984 with Flaubert’s Parrot, are three established figures. Less widely known are Jane Rogers and Carol Birch, who is longlisted with Jamrach’s Menagerie, and was previously longlisted in 2003.

Several of the 12 have not been widely reviewed, although Snowdropwas well-received.

To date, the attention has been on Hollinghurst, while On Canaan’s Sideis about to be published, as is The Sense of an Ending.

As always, more attention tends to be focused on the exclusions. Surprise omissions this year amount to a literary Somme with the exclusion of fine works such as Hisham Matar’s Anatomy of a Disappearance. Previously shortlisted in 2006 for The Country of Men, Matar’s novel about Libya may have been considered too political.

Also overlooked was Mirza Waheed’s The Collaboratorset in Kashmir and expected to make the shortlist, never mind this initial selection; and former Booker contender Zanzibar-born Abdulrazak Gurnah’s The Last Gift.

South African master of the British satiric novel Justin Cartwright failed to make the cut for his intelligent and comic Other People’s Money, which sentence by sentence is as sharp as last year’s winner, Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question.

John Burnside’s A Summer of Drowninghad some support, while Edward St Aubyn’s At Last, the fifth and final novel in his Melrose series, seemed an obvious choice.

Canadian-born, London-based David Szalay impressed critics with his second novel The Innocentin 2009. His Springwas expected to convince this Man Booker panel yet didn’t. The Economist’s Africa correspondent JM Ledgard’s ambitious second novel Submergencedeserved at least longlist recognition but was passed over, as was South African-born, UK-based Alastair Bruce’s debut Wall of Guilt.

It is true that by leaving out big names such as AL Kennedy ( The Blue Book), Ali Smith ( There But For The) and former winner Michael Ondaatje ( The Cat’s Tabledue to be published next month), the judges are opening up the prize not only to less celebrated writers but to small, independent publishers. Three of the publishers involved have never before been contenders.

The shortlist will be announced on September 6th. By then, Hollinghurt’s The Stranger’s Childmay well have consolidated its pole position but the ever-reliable, consummately polite Sebastian Barry has a Midas touch with prizes, while Patrick de Witt’s maverick tale of life and mostly death in the Wild West could dramatically upset the odds.


Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending(Jonathan Cape)

Sebastian Barry On Canaan’s Side(Faber)

Carol Birch Jamrach’s Menagerie(Canongate Books)

Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers(Granta)

Esi Edugyan Half Blood Blues(Serpent’s Tail/Profile)

Yvvette Edwards A Cupboard Full of Coats(Oneworld)

Alan Hollinghurst The Stranger’s Child(Picador)

Stephen Kelman Pigeon English(Bloomsbury)

Patrick McGuinness The Last Hundred Days(Seren Books)

AD Miller Snowdrops(Atlantic)

A lison Pick Far to Go(Headline Review)

Jane Rogers The Testament of Jessie Lamb(Sandstone Press)

DJ Taylor Derby Day(Chatto Windus)