The Booker Prize 2021 Longlist Revealed
By Emma Carey, Caitlin Evans and Hannah Davenport
It’s that time of year again. When all bookworms, from those who read 100 books a year to those who read nothing more than blurbs, come together to discuss novels from the contemporary literary landscape. The Booker Prize is arguably the most widely followed literary award. Every book in this longlist can be sure to expect an influx of reviews and boosted sales from their Booker endorsement, along with a chance to make it onto the shortlist (to be announced 14 September) and potentially be crowned the winner. For those wishing to update their ever-growing TBRs, here is a look into the 2021 Booker Prize Longlist.
A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books) – Arudpragasam’s second novel is a detailed and precise work set during a journey through the northern landscape of Sri Lanka. This novel explores themes of memory and grief against a backdrop of national trauma and violence.
Second Place, Rachel Cusk (Faber and Faber) – Famous for her Outline trilogy, Cusk’s new novel takes a different artistic direction. When the protagonist connects with a young artist’s paintings as a means of expressing her marriage complications, she invites the artist to her coastal town to explore the possibility of healing.
The Promise, Damon Galgut (Chatto & Windus) – Famous for his previously shortlisted debuts, The Good Doctor and In a Strange Room, Galgut is back on the Booker longlist with his latest release. The Promise follows the declining years of a white family in South Africa. Spanning four decades from 1986, Galgut expertly unravels the secrets and unkept promises of the Swart family.
The Sweetness of Water, Nathan Harris (Hachette Book Group) – A stunning historical fiction debut, this novel is set in the Reconstruction period after the American Civil War. It explores two stories in parallel: a forbidden romance between two Confederate soldiers and the special bond between two freedmen, who are brothers and a humble Georgia farmer.
Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber and Faber) – Klara and the Sun is Ishiguro's first published novel since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. This dystopian tale is narrated from the observing eyes of Klara, a robot designed to be an artificial friend for children. As Klara is perched on the shelf waiting to be chosen, she takes the reader on a journey to explore the question, "what does it really mean to be human?"
An Island, Karren Jennings (Holland House Books) – An unforgettable novella spanning only four days but unleashing a lifetime of memories for its seventy-year-old protagonist. Samuel lives alone on a secluded island in Africa, until one day a young refugee washes ashore. Samuel, sharing no common language with the young man, feels threatened and unsettled as he fights to protect what's his.
A Town Called Solace, Mary Lawson (Chatto & Windus) – A previous Booker longlistee and acclaimed Canadian author Mary Lawson returns with another beautiful yet simply written story. Lawson’s fourth novel is set in her native Canada and explores themes of loss and grief through the intertwined lives of three people at different stages of life, living in a small town as they attempt to uncover truths from the past and present.
No One is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus) – Shortlisted for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction, Lockwood’s debut is an unsurprising addition to the Booker longlist. No One is Talking About This explores our connection to social media, its pitfalls and overwhelmingly insistent presence in our lives. Lockwood’s uniquely humorous voice asks us to ponder life and love in the modern world.
The Fortune Man, Nadifa Mohamed (Viking Books) – Mohamed is the author of Black Mamba Boy and The Orchard of Lost Souls. Her fourth novel The Fortune Man is set in 1950s Cardiff. We follow Mahmood and his plight for justice after being wrongfully accused of murder. The novel is a riveting meditation on prejudice, the search for truth and cruelty of the state.
Bewilderment, Richard Powers (Hutchinson) – Author of Pulitzer prize-winning The Overstory, Powers returns with this captivating novel. The intimate, heart-wrenching story follows a young astrobiologist and widowed father in his desperate attempts to keep his ill son safe on a planet intent on its own destruction.
China Room, Sunjeev Sahota (Harvill Secker) – Sahota’s comeback novel tells an inter-generational and cross-border story of family history. Two stories are told, one of a young bride’s new marriage and one within the rural farmlands of India, both attempting to discover the roots of identity.
Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday) – From this award-winning author comes a new tale interweaving the lives of two women who find a bond and connection through time, a famous female pilot and a rebellious Hollywood actress who stars in the aviator’s biopic years later.
Light Perpetual, Francis Spufford (Faber and Faber) – The Guardian noted Light Perpetual as “an exercise in gratitude”, speaking perfectly to the mindful zeitgeist of our time. In this striking and powerful novel, Spufford imagines the detailed lives that might have been lived by five working-class children had they not been killed by a wartime bomb.