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Bookmarked Blog
The 2021 Booker Prize longlist has been announced, featuring a diverse range of authors from America to Sri Lanka. 13 books were chosen from 158 novels published in the UK and Ireland from 1 October 2020 to 30 September 2021. The 2021 judging panel included a former Archbishop and actor Natascha McElhone. Debut novelists sit alongside previous Booker prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro, offering a rich tapestry of storytelling.

 

A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam

A Passage North
by Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books, Granta Publications)

It begins with a message: a telephone call informing Krishan that his grandmother's former care-giver, Rani, has died in unexpected circumstances, at the bottom of a well in her village in the north, her neck broken by the fall. The news arrives on the heels of an email from Anjum, an activist he fell in love with four years earlier while living in Delhi, bringing with it the stirring of distant memories and desires.

As Krishan makes the long journey by train from Colombo into the war-torn Northern Province for the funeral, so begins a passage into the soul of an island devastated by violence. Written with precision and grace, A Passage North is a poignant memorial for the missing and the dead, and a luminous meditation on time, consciousness, and the lasting imprint of the connections we make with others.

Second Place by Rachel Cusk

Second Place
by Rachel Cusk (Faber)

A woman invites a famed artist to visit the remote coastal region where she lives, in the belief that his vision will penetrate the mystery of her life and landscape. Over the course of one hot summer, his provocative presence provides the frame for a study of female fate and male privilege, of the geometries of human relationships, and of the struggle to live morally between our internal and external worlds.

With its examination of the possibility that art can both save and destroy us, Second Place is deeply affirming of the human soul, while grappling with its darkest demons.

The Promise by Damon Galgut

The Promise
by Damon Galgut, (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)

A taut and menacing novel that charts the crash and burn of an Afrikaans family, the Swarts. Punctuated by funerals that bring the ever-diminishing family together, each of the four parts opens with a death and a new decade.

The characterisations are razor sharp, the dialogue dramatic, the action gripping. As we traverse the decades, Damon interweaves the story of a disappointed nation from apartheid to Jacob Zuma.

The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris

The Sweetness of Water
by Nathan Harris (Tinder Press, Headline, Hachette Book Group

In the dying days of the American Civil War, newly freed brothers Landry and Prentiss find themselves cast into the world without a penny to their names. Forced to hide out in the woods near their former Georgia plantation, they're soon discovered by the land's owner, George Walker, a man still reeling from the loss of his son in the war.

When the brothers begin to live and work on George's farm, the tentative bonds of trust and union begin to blossom between the strangers. But this sanctuary survives on a knife's edge, and it isn't long before the inhabitants of the nearby town of Old Ox react with fury at the alliances being formed only a few miles away.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun
by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)

This is the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass in the street outside. She remains hopeful a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change for ever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.

An Island by Karen Jennings

An Island
by Karen Jennings (Holland House Books)

A young refugee washes up unconscious on the beach of a small island inhabited by no one but Samuel, an old lighthouse keeper. Unsettled, Samuel is soon swept up in memories of his former life on the mainland: a life that saw his country suffer, then fight for independence, only to fall to a cruel dictator; he recalls his own part in its history.

A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson

A Town Called Solace
by Mary Lawson (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)

Clara's sister is missing. Angry, rebellious Rose, had a row with their mother, stormed out of the house and simply disappeared. Eight-year-old Clara, isolated by her distraught parents' efforts to protect her from the truth, is grief-stricken and bewildered.

Liam Kane, newly divorced, newly unemployed, newly arrived in this small northern town, moves into the house next door, a house left to him by an old woman he can barely remember and within hours gets a visit from the police. It seems he's suspected of a crime.

At the end of her life Elizabeth Orchard is thinking about a crime too, one committed thirty years ago that had tragic consequences for two families and in particular for one small child. She desperately wants to make amends before she dies.

No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

No One is Talking About This
by Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)

A woman known for her viral social media posts travels the world speaking to her adoring fans, her entire existence overwhelmed by the internet or what she terms 'the portal'. Are we in hell? the people of the portal ask themselves. Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die?

Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray - 'Something has gone wrong,' and 'How soon can you get here?' As real life and its stakes collide with the increasing absurdity of the portal, the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary.

Irreverent and sincere, poignant and delightfully profane, No One Is Talking About This is at once a love letter to the infinite scroll and a meditation on love, language and human connection from one of the most original voices of our time.

The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed

The Fortune Men
by Nadifa Mohamed (Viking, Penguin General, PRH)

Mahmood Mattan is a fixture in Cardiff's Tiger Bay, 1952, which bustles with Somali and West Indian sailors, Maltese businessmen and Jewish families. He is a father, chancer, some-time petty thief. He is many things, in fact, but he is not a murderer.

So when a shopkeeper is brutally killed and all eyes fall on him, Mahmood isn't too worried. It is true that he has been getting into trouble more often since his Welsh wife Laura left him. But Mahmood is secure in his innocence in a country where, he thinks, justice is served.

It is only in the run-up to the trial, as the prospect of freedom dwindles, that it will dawn on Mahmood that he is in a terrifying fight for his life - against conspiracy, prejudice and the inhumanity of the state. And, under the shadow of the hangman's noose, he begins to realise that the truth may not be enough to save him.

Bewilderment by Richard Powers

Bewilderment
by Richard Powers (Hutchinson Heinemann, PRH)

Theo Byrne is a promising young astrobiologist who has found a way to search for life on other planets dozens of light years away. He is also the widowed father of a most unusual nine-year-old. His son Robin is funny, loving, and filled with plans. He thinks and feels deeply, adores animals, and can spend hours painting elaborate pictures. He is also on the verge of being expelled from third grade, for smashing his friend's face with a metal thermos.

What can a father do, when the only solution offered to his rare and troubled boy is to put him on psychoactive drugs? What can he say when his boy comes to him wanting an explanation for a world that is clearly in love with its own destruction? The only thing for it is to take the boy to other planets, while all the while fostering his son's desperate campaign to help save this one.

China Room by Sunjeev Sahota

China Room
by Sunjeev Sahota (Harvill Secker, Vintage, PRH)

Mehar, a young bride in rural 1929 Punjab, is trying to discover the identity of her new husband. She and her sisters-in-law, married to three brothers in a single ceremony, spend their days hard at work in the family's 'china room', sequestered from contact with the men. When Mehar develops a theory as to which of them is hers, a passion is ignited that will put more than one life at risk.

Spiralling around Mehar's story is that of a young man who in 1999 travels from England to the now-deserted farm, its 'china room' locked and barred. In enforced flight from the traumas of his adolescence - his experiences of addiction, racism, and estrangement from the culture of his birth - he spends a summer in painful contemplation and recovery, before finally finding the strength to return 'home'.

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

Great Circle
by Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers, PRH)

From the night she is rescued as a baby out of the flames of a sinking ship; to the day she joins a pair of daredevil pilots looping and diving over the rugged forests of her childhood, to the thrill of flying Spitfires during the war, the life of Marian Graves has always been marked by a lust for freedom and danger.

In 1950, she embarks on her life's dream - to fly a Great Circle around the globe, pole to pole. But after a crash landing she finds herself stranded on the Antarctic ice without enough fuel. With one fearsome piece of water separating her from completion of the Circle, she writes one last entry in her logbook.

She is ready for her final journey.

Half a century later, Hadley Baxter, a brilliant, troubled Hollywood starlet is irresistibly drawn to play Marian Graves, a role that will lead her to probe the deepest mysteries of the vanished pilot's life.

Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford

Light Perpetual
by Francis Spufford (Faber)

1944. It's a Saturday lunchtime on Bexford High Street. The Woolworths has a new delivery of aluminum saucepans, and a crowd has gathered to see the first new metal in a long time. Everything else has been melted down for the war effort.

An instant later, the crowd is gone. Incinerated. Atomised.

Among that crowd were five little children. What future did they lose? The only way to know is 'to let run some other version of the reel of time, where might-be and could-be and would-be. still may be'.
 


Books in the Booker Prize Longlist are available in store and online now.

 
 

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