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2019 longlist

2019 longlist

The 2019 longlist, or ‘Booker Dozen’, of 13 novels, is:

  • Margaret Atwood (Canada), The Testaments (Vintage, Chatto & Windus)
  • Kevin Barry (Ireland), Night Boat to Tangier (Canongate Books)
  • Oyinkan Braithwaite (UK/Nigeria), My Sister, The Serial Killer (Atlantic Books)
  • Lucy Ellmann (USA/UK), Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar Press)
  • Bernardine Evaristo (UK), Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton)
  • John Lanchester (UK), The Wall (Faber & Faber)
  • Deborah Levy (UK), The Man Who Saw Everything (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Valeria Luiselli (Mexico/Italy), Lost Children Archive (4th Estate)
  • Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria), An Orchestra of Minorities (Little Brown)
  • Max Porter (UK), Lanny (Faber & Faber)
  • Salman Rushdie (UK/India), Quichotte (Jonathan Cape)
  • Elif Shafak (UK/Turkey), 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking)
  • Jeanette Winterson (UK), Frankissstein (Jonathan Cape)


The 2019 Booker Prize judges, under the aegis of Peter Florence, have come up with a startling 13-book “Booker Dozen”: startling because of the number of big names the longlist includes. It is sometimes suspected that prize judges back away from including too many established names for fear of being too “obvious” or denying less-established authors their place in the sun. Not this year. Florence and his colleagues – Liz Calder,  Xiaolu Guo, Afua Hirsch and Joanna MacGregor – have been brave and picked a longlist of largely familiar names, each writer with a solid and sometimes spectacular track record of success.


The biggest beasts on the list are, of course, two former winners who have both transcended mere literary fame: Salman Rushdie with Quichotte, his yet-to-be published modern retelling of Don Quixote, and Margaret Atwood with The Testaments, a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale another book the eager reader will be forced to wait for (one of the perks of being a Booker Prize judge is that you get an early sighting of many novels).


Then there are former shortlistees in the form of Deborah Levy (The Man Who Saw Everything) and Chigozie Obioma (An Orchestra of Minorities); a former Man Booker International Prize judge in Elif Shafak (10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World); a woman so entrenched in the literary world that she was awarded an OBE for services to literature, Jeanette Winterson; old hands and regular prize-winners such as John Lanchester (The Wall), Bernardine Evaristo (Girl, Woman, Other) and Kevin Barry (Night Boat to Tangier).


Meanwhile, Lucy Ellmann (Ducks, Newburyport) is the author of six previous books; Valeria Luiselli (Lost Children Archive) has written seven other works (she is Mexican-born so has written mainly in Spanish: this, amazingly, is her first book written in English); Max Porter (Lanny) whose previous book, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, was a literary world must-read; which leaves Oyinkan Braithwaite (My Sister, The Serial Killer) as the sole debutant on the list, even she comes draped in garlands and a nomination for this year’s Women’s Prize for fiction.


The authors also represent a global mix: there are nationalities from Ireland, South Africa, Canada, Nigeria, Mexico, America and Turkey, as well as London and Yorkshire. For good measure this year is another female-dominated list, with eight women and five men. Meanwhile a list of largely established names has also resulted in a list of established publishers, with two nominations each for Jonathan Cape, Faber & Faber and Hamish Hamilton, and the sole small independent being the estimable Galley Beggar Press.


There are too some established themes in that Atwood’s novel is a sequel (Atwood’s television partners will be rubbing their hands at the prospect of more Gilead) while Rushdie’s and Winterson’s novels are retellings of famous books – Don Quixote and Frankenstein. But there are entirely novel novels too: Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, The Serial Killer, for example, is a thriller that mixes family, love and murder (by a woman who has killed at least three boyfriends “in self-defence”). Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive is a response in fiction to the Trump administration’s policy of separating parents and children at the US-Mexican border. Elif Shafak’s 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World describes what’s going on in the mind of a woman in the moments between her physical death and the point, after a time lag, at which her brain dies too. John Lanchester’s The Wall focuses on a broken other-world, the cold, a wall and a growing sense of menace. These are not then novels that are easy to stereotype. They are testament too to the self-renewing gift that means that even long-established writers find new stories to tell.


So now listen out for the booksellers who in the past have been heard to complain that some lists will be difficult to sell because “no one has heard of the writers”. The sound you should hear is of hands being rubbed in glee.