How the Man Booker short-list contenders shape up

Sat Oct 11, 2014 7:06pm EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - The winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize, considered one of the world's most prestigious literary awards, will be announced on Tuesday in London. Here are capsule reviews by Reuters correspondents of the six short-listed contenders.


Howard Jacobson’s “J” shifts from the contemporary London Jewish world of “The Finkler Question”, which won the Booker Prize in 2010, to a dystopian setting around 60 years in the future. But the questions of identity and assimilation remain.

Ailinn Solomons and Kevern “Coco” Cohen are having a slightly on-off love affair in the bleak coastal town of Port Reuben. Kevern was brought up there but has never felt at home in a place where men are routinely violent to their women, and the only entertainment is to get drunk in the “Friendly Fisherman.” At home, he has carried on his father’s puzzling habit of putting two fingers across his lips whenever he says the letter ‘J’.

Ailinn is an orphan from another part of this country, where everyone has surnames like theirs or with endings like –kind or –berg, and the population, lacking in culture or much sign of industry, is required to say sorry for "what happened, if it happened". It seems like the two of them are destined to be together. Or is that just part of somebody else’s plan?

It’s a slow-burning novel, with some brutal humor as an escape from a landscape of ugliness and despair, in which secondary characters have few redeeming qualities. But the plot gains twists as the story progresses, and it’s not all grim – Jacobson captures tenderness and love too, alongside a dissection of the feelings that lead to hatred.

(Carolyn Cohn, Insurance and Fund Management Correspondent)


New Zealand writer Eleanor Catton, winner of the Man Booker Prize 2013, poses for photographs at the Guildhall in central London, October 15, 2013.  REUTERS/Olivia Harris