Ed Wood's picks for the Man Booker longlist
The editor of We Love This Book chooses the best of this year's literary bunch
NW by Zadie Smith
I’m lucky enough to have read this already, and it is really something – in fact, I predict that this could win the whole thing. Smith’s novel comes in several parts and is told from three characters' viewpoints, portraying the lives of characters from an inner-London estate. The voices are completely authentic but, vitally, it sees her daring to push her prose as far as it will go.
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Being the sequel to previous champion Wolf Hall, there’s not a chance this could win, but the positive critical reception was deafening as Mantel proved she could pull off the same trick twice. Historical events have never been so immediate and mind-altering; the past is still occurring right now through her narrative.
Ancient Light by John Banville
Banville, one of the big beasts of the Booker, hit all his favoured notes with the continuing story of Alex Cleave for a tale of love and lust in 1950s Ireland. It may not exactly be pushing the boundaries of fiction, but it’s immaculate stuff and very awards friendly.
Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding
I’ve had my eye on Georgina Harding since reviewing her wonderful, even slightly schlocky book The Solitude of Thomas Cave (which has many parallels to Michelle Paver’s spooky Dark Matter) years ago. After an Orange Prize-shortlisting for this Romanian tale, 2012 could be her year.
Capital by John Lanchester
When Lanchester’s tale of a London street, portraying the lives of its varied inhabitants, was published, I thought it a) finally represented a stab at the Great British Novel (in the American mode) and b) was a Booker shoo-in. Now I’ve read Zadie Smith’s similarly GBN story, I’m not so sure about either, but it’s still a likely longlistee.
Merivel by Rose Tremain
I’ve not read this yet, but the word of mouth is that her Restoration follow-up is incredibly strong; although what of the odds of both this and Mantel – historical fiction sequels based in royal courts – getting longlisted? Restoration was shortlisted for the Booker; this could go further.
Umbrella by Will Self
Self’s high-concept fiction, which owes a debt to the world-gone-wrong peculiarity of J.G. Ballard and something of the linguistic exuberance of William Burroughs, has divided reviewers in the past. The talk is that Umbrella is Self’s most complete anti-naturalist work.
The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman
Is Beauman the new Will Self? His first novel Boxer, Beetle, was a crazed, psychosexual novel suffused with the atmosphere of Nazi Germany; The Teleportation Accident is a crazed, psychosexual novel suffused with the atmosphere of Nazi Germany – and beyond. It’s genre-busting stuff and highly imaginative. The novel might not be quite sustained enough to make this Beauman’s year, but he’s without question one to watch.