A bumper year, a face-off between old rivals, and a decision settled by the chair of judges’ casting vote. After much wrangling, the tide swept John Banville’s The Sea to victory.

The shortlist saw a reprise of the 1989 match-up when Banville and Kazuo Ishiguro were both contenders. Other heavyweight nominees – Julian Barnes, Sebastian Barry, and the Smiths Ali and Zadie – added to the judges’ headache.

A win for The Sea, both stylish and thoughtful, was not universally heralded, leaving Banville to muse: ‘If they give me the bloody prize, why can’t they say nice things about me?’ The film of Ishiguro’s pipped-at-the-post Never Let Me Go went on to great success.

John Banville
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A man attempts to escape a recent loss while confronting a trauma from a long lost summer, in John Banville’s haunting and evocative novel.

The Shortlist

The Sea
Prize winner
Arthur & George
A Long Long Way
Never Let Me Go
The Accidental
On Beauty

The Longlist

The 2005 judges