Arts Illustrated

July 29, 2020

The Longlist to Success

The 2020 Booker Prize longlist was released recently, and we couldn’t contain our excitement

Team AI

Picked out of 162 English books published in the United Kingdom and Ireland and selected by a panel of five judges, the 2020 Booker prize longlist is a pleasing mix of debut works and established authors. The selection of 13 books, with 8 of them being debuts, all carried an element of surprise in them. While Gaby Wood, the Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, was surprised by the ‘unusual amount’ debut works, author Lee Child, one of the judges, was not. ‘First novels have got the passion and the energy, and they tend to be things that people have thought about for years’, he said.

Since its inception 51 years ago, the Booker Prize, with its £50,000 cash prize and unparalleled international recognition, remains one of the biggest literary prizes to be awarded. It has been showcasing a wide variety of literary talent from across the world. Last year, the judges broke the rules and declared two winners – Margaret Atwood (for The Testaments) and Bernardine Evaristo (for Girl, Woman, Other). And this year, is promising to be just as exciting.

Booker prize longlist
The 2020 Booker Prize Longlist


If a debut novel winning the Booker Prize doesn’t quite perk up the curiosity, then this year’s longlist also sets the stage for an unprecedented win the history of Booker Prize winners. Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, the third book in the trilogy that began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, is also in the longlist. The previous two books had won the Booker Prize in 2009 and 2012; and with The Mirror and the Light, she stands to become the first author to win the Booker Prize three times!

Besides this, the other titles, too, are powerful books on their own. ‘Included are novels carried by the sweep of history with memorable characters brought to life and given visibility; novels that represent a moment of cultural change, or the pressures an individual faces in pre- and post-dystopian society. Some of the books focus on interpersonal relationships that are complex, nuanced, emotionally charged. There are voices from minorities often unheard, stories that are fresh, bold and absorbing’, said Margaret Busby, chair of 2020 judges panel in a statement.

Also noteworthy is Burnt Sugar, the debut novel by Indian-origin American author Anvi Doshi. The book talks about the straining relationship between an elderly mother and her daughter, as the daughter takes on the role of a caregiver, for a parent who hadn’t. Asian author C Pam Zhang’s debut novel How Much of these Hills is Gold, which talks about two poor Chinese children and their struggles to survive in 19th century America, has also made it to the longlist.

‘The longlist is a collection of very different, but absolutely fascinating and brilliantly written works that kept the judges absorbed in the long, lonely COVID nights’, said author and critic Sameer Rahim, one of the judges; while writer and broadcaster Lemn Sissay, another judge added, ‘We wanted to be surprised, inspired and challenged’. The 13 books certainly reflect those sentiments. The shortlist comes out the 15th of September and the winner is announced in October.


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