Man Booker prize 2018 longlist includes graphic novel for the first time
Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina, which explores the disappearance of a young woman, ‘does just what good fiction should do’ – and will compete with Michael Ondaatje’s WarlighT
Tue 24 Jul 2018 00.01 BSTLast modified on Tue 24 Jul 201816.38 BST
A graphic novel about a vanished young woman and a thriller about a vanished mother have elbowed their way on to a giant-slaying Man Booker prize longlist that “capture[s] something about a world on the brink”.
Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina, the first graphic novel ever to reach the Booker longlist, explores the chilling effect of 24-hour news after a girl has disappeared. Judges picked it as a contender for the £50,000 prize ahead of titles from former winners including Pat Barker, Julian Barnes, Peter Carey and Alan Hollinghurst, describing it as “oblique, subtle [and] minimal” and saying the “changing shape of fiction” meant it was only a matter of time before a graphic novel made the cut.
“We all read it and were blown away by it,” said the judge and bestselling crime novelist Val McDermid. “The graphic novel has increasingly become front and centre in terms of storytelling [and] we felt [Sabrina] does just what good fiction should do.”
Also in the running for the UK’s most prestigious literary award is a thriller from the crime writer Belinda Bauer. Snap opens with a mother abandoning her three children in a broken-down car and plays out as they struggle to deal with her disappearance. The judges called it an “acute, stylish, intelligent novel about how we survive trauma”, which “undermines the tropes of its own genre and leaves us with something that lingers”.
Sophie Mackintosh takes the reader to a house on an island, where three girls live with their mother and King. But their world is upended when King vanishes and three men are washed up on the beach. Writing in the Guardian, Cal Revely-Calder said the novel is written ‘in the way that Sofia Coppola would shoot the end of the world: everything is luminous, precise, slow to the point of dread’.
Photograph: Penguin Random House, Hamish Hamilton
“I’d read it even before I knew I would be a Booker judge and it seemed to me to be an outstanding novel,” said McDermid. “My fellow judges read it and one said, ‘This transcends genre’, and someone else said, ‘This shows what genre can do at its best’ ... It is an extremely clever piece of storytelling with characters you care about, and that’s what we were looking for – something well written that engages with mind and heart.”
A longlist that stands out for its “willingness to take risks with form”, according to chair of judges Kwame Anthony Appiah, also features debuts from Sophie Mackintosh and Guy Gunaratne. Mackintosh’s The Water Cure “unpicks patriarchy at its core”, according to the panel, while Gunaratne’s In Our Mad and Furious City is “an inner city novel for our times”. The poet Robin Robertson mixes verse and prose in his first novel, The Long Take, while Daisy Johnson’s first novel, Everything Under, is enough to put the 27-year-old alongside Sally Rooney, picked for Normal People, as the youngest authors on this year’s list. Johnson and Rooney are “looking at the world from the perspective of their age and their books have a very different flavour”, McDermid explained, “but they’re there because they impressed us”.
|Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight has made this year’s Booker longlist.|
Only one former winner made this year’s Booker longlist: Michael Ondaatje, for Warlight, which opens in 1945 with London still reeling from the blitz. The other major name in the running for the Booker is the Pulitzer-winning novelist Richard Powers, selected for his novel The Overstory. With US writers having won the last two Man Booker prizes after the award was opened up to authors from outside the UK and Commonwealth – a decision that Julian Barnes described as “daft” earlier this month – naysayers will be celebrating the fact that just three US writers were longlisted this year: Powers, Drnaso and Rachel Kushner, chosen for The Mars Room. Called “terrifyingly authentic” by judges, The Mars Room follows the story of a woman beginning two consecutive life sentences, plus six years, at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility.
The Guardian first book award-winner Donal Ryan makes this list with his story of a Syrian refugee, a care worker and a crooked accountant, From a Low and Quiet Sea. Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black, the story of a slave who becomes the personal servant to an eccentric scientist, and Anna Burns’Milkman, a look at Ireland during the Troubles through the perspective of a young girl, complete a 13-strong longlist assembled from 171 submissions – the highest number of books ever entered for the prize.
Anna Burns pitches the reader into the heart of the Troubles in this story of a young woman pursued by a senior paramilitary figure. Writing in the Guardian, Claire Kilroy saluted the novel’s ‘digressive, batty narrative voice’ and its Beckettian ability to ‘trace the logical within the absurd’.
Photograph: Faber & Faber
“We tried to read blind as much as we could,” said McDermid. “We didn’t care where the writers came from or whether it was their first book or their 40th. I read most on my iPad so I really was reading blind, with no author bio or publisher information.”
Appiah said that he and his fellow judges had been struck by the way the novels on the longlist “disrupted the way we thought about things we knew about, and made us think about things we didn’t know about”.
Belinda Bauer won the CWA gold dagger in 2010 with Blacklands and the Theakston prize in 2014 with Rubbernecker. Her latest thriller returns to 1998 and is set in motion when Catherine disappears on the M5, leaving 11-year-old Jack in charge of his younger sisters.Writing in the Guardian, Laura Wilson called it ‘an intelligent mystery, written with razor-sharp observation and wry humour’.
Photograph: Penguin Random House, Bantam Press
“Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the times,” he said, “there were many dystopian fictions on our bookshelf – and many novels we found inspirational as well as disturbing. Some of those we have chosen for this longlist feel urgent and topical; others might have been admired and enjoyed in any year. All of these books – which take in slavery, ecology, missing persons, inner-city violence, young love, prisons, trauma, race – capture something about a world on the brink.”
Appiah is joined on the panel by McDermid, the critic Leo Robson, the feminist academic Jacqueline Rose and the artist and graphic novelist Leanne Shapton.
The shortlist for the Booker will be announced on 20 September, and the winner on 16 October.