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.