Man Booker Prize for Fiction

Man Booker Prize logo

Man Booker Prize for Fiction

Man Booker Prize logo

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language and published in the UK. Originally open to citizens of the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe, in 2014 eligibility was widened to any novel published in English. For more info, check out the official site.

Here are the winners from 1969-present. Enjoy!

2016
The Sellout – Paul Beatty

A biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. Born in Dickens on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, the narrator of The Sellout spent his childhood as the subject in his father’s racially charged psychological studies. He is told that his father’s work will lead to a memoir that will solve their financial woes. But when his father is killed in a drive-by shooting, he discovers there never was a memoir. All that’s left is a bill for a drive-through funeral. What’s more, Dickens has literally been wiped off the map to save California from further embarrassment. Fuelled by despair, the narrator sets out to right this wrong with the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court. In his trademark absurdist style, which has the uncanny ability to make readers want to both laugh and cry, The Sellout is an outrageous and outrageously entertaining indictment of our time.

2015
A Brief History of Seven Killings – Marlon James

1976. Seven gunmen storm Bob Marley’s house, machine guns blazing. The reggae superstar survives, but the gunmen are never caught. From the acclaimed author of The Book of Night Women comes a dazzling display of masterful storytelling exploring this near-mythic event. Spanning three decades and crossing continents, A Brief History of Seven Killings chronicles the lives of a host of unforgettable characters – slum kids, one-night stands, drug lords, girlfriends, gunmen, journalists, and even the CIA. Gripping and inventive, ambitious and mesmerising, A Brief History of Seven Killings is one of the most remarkable and extraordinary novels of the twenty-first century.

2014
The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Richard Flanagan

Forever after, there were for them only two sorts of men: the men who were on the Line, and the rest of humanity, who were not. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Burma Death Railway, surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.

2013
The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.

2012
Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel

‘My boy Thomas, give him a dirty look and he’ll gouge your eye out. Trip him, and he’ll cut off your leg,’ says Walter Cromwell in the year 1500. ‘But if you don’t cut across him he’s a very gentleman. And he’ll stand anyone a drink.’ By 1535 Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith’s son, is far from his humble origins. Chief Minister to Henry VIII, his fortunes have risen with those of Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife, for whose sake Henry has broken with Rome and created his own church. But Henry’s actions have forced England into dangerous isolation, and Anne has failed to do what she promised: bear a son to secure the Tudor line. When Henry visits Wolf Hall, Cromwell watches as Henry falls in love with the silent, plain Jane Seymour. The minister sees what is at stake: not just the king’s pleasure, but the safety of the nation. As he eases a way through the sexual politics of the court, its miasma of gossip, he must negotiate a ‘truth’ that will satisfy Henry and secure his own career. But neither minister nor king will emerge undamaged from the bloody theatre of Anne’s final days. In ‘Bring up the Bodies’, sequel to the Man Booker Prize-winning ‘Wolf Hall’, Hilary Mantel explores one of the most mystifying and frightening episodes in English history: the destruction of Anne Boleyn. This Man Booker-longlisted novel is a speaking picture, an audacious vision of Tudor England that sheds its light on the modern world. It is the work of one of our great writers at the height of her powers.

2011
The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes

Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life. Now Tony is in middle age. He’s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove. “The Sense of an Ending” is the story of one man coming to terms with the mutable past. Laced with trademark precision, dexterity and insight, it is the work of one of the world’s most distinguished writers.

2010
The Finkler Question – Howard Jacobson

Julian Treslove, a professionally unspectacular former BBC radio producer, and Sam Finkler, a popular Jewish philosopher, writer and television personality, are old school friends. Despite very different lives, they’ve never quite lost touch with each other – or with their former teacher, Libor Sevcik. Both Libor and Finkler are recently widowed, and together with Treslove they share a sweetly painful evening revisiting a time before they had loved and lost. It is that very evening, when Treslove hesitates a moment as he walks home, that he is attacked – and his whole sense of who and what he is slowly and ineluctably changes.

2009
Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel

‘Lock Cromwell in a deep dungeon in the morning,’ says Thomas More, ‘and when you come back that night he’ll be sitting on a plush cushion eating larks’ tongues, and all the gaolers will owe him money.’ England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey’s clerk, and later his successor. Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages. From one of our finest living writers, ‘Wolf Hall’ is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion, suffering and courage.

2008
The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

Meet Balram Halwai, the ‘White Tiger’: servant, philosopher, entrepreneur and murderer. Balram, the White Tiger, was born in a backwater village on the River Ganges, the son of a rickshaw-puller. He works in a teashop, crushing coal and wiping tables, but nurses a dream of escape. When he learns that a rich village landlord needs a chauffeur, he takes his opportunity, and is soon on his way to Delhi behind the wheel of a Honda. Amid the cockroaches and call-centres, the 36,000,004 gods, the slums, the shopping malls, and the crippling traffic jams, Balram learns of a new morality at the heart of a new India. Driven by desire to better himself, he comes to see how the Tiger might escape his cage…

2007
The Gathering – Anne Enright

The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan gather in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother Liam. It wasn’t the drink that killed him – although that certainly helped – it was what happened to him as a boy in his grandmother’s house, in the winter of 1968. “The Gathering” is a novel about love and disappointment, about thwarted lust and limitless desire, and how our fate is written in the body, not in the stars.

2006
The Inheritance of Loss – Kiran Desai

In the foothills of the Himalayas sits a once grand, now crumbling house – home to three people and a dog. There is the retired judge dreaming of colonial yesterdays; his orphaned granddaughter Sai who has fallen for her clever maths tutor; the cook, whose son Biju writes untruthful letters home from New York City; and Mutt, the judge’s beloved dog. Around the house swirls mountain mist – but also the forces of revolution and change. For a new world is clashing with the old, and the future offers both hope and betrayal …

2005
The Sea – John Banville

When art historian Max Morden returns to the seaside village where he once spent a childhood holiday, he is both escaping from a recent loss and confronting a distant trauma. The Grace family had appeared that long-ago summer as if from another world. Mr and Mrs Grace, with their worldly ease and candour, were unlike any adults he had met before. But it was his contemporaries, the Grace twins Myles and Chloe, who most fascinated Max. He grew to know them intricately, even intimately, and what ensued would haunt him for the rest of his years and shape everything that was to follow.

2004
The Line of Beauty – Alan Hollinghurst

It is the summer of 1983, and young Nick Guest, an innocent in the matters of politics and money, has moved into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the Feddens: Gerald, an ambitious new Tory MP, his wealthy wife Rachel, and their children Toby and Catherine. As the boom years of the mid-80s unfold, Nick becomes caught up in the Feddens’ world, while pursuing his own private obsession, with beauty — a prize as compelling to him as power and riches are to his friends.

2003
Vernon God Little – DBC Pierre

Fifteen-year-old Vernon Gregory Little is in trouble, and it has something to do with the recent massacre of 16 students at his high school. Soon, the quirky backwater of Martirio, barbecue capital of Texas, is flooded with wannabe CNN hacks, eager for a scapegoat.

2002
Life of Pi – Yann Martel

After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, one solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific. The crew of the surviving vessel consists of a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan, a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger and Pi – a 16-year-old Indian boy. The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary pieces of literary fiction of recent years. Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi” is a transformative novel, a dazzling work of imagination that will delight and astound readers in equal measure. It is a triumph of storytelling and a tale that will, as one character puts it, make you believe in God.

2001
True History of the Kelly Gang – Peter Carey

‘I lost my own father at 12 yrs of age and know what it is to be raised on lies and silences my dear daughter you are presently too young to understand a word I write but this history is for you and will contain no single lie may I burn in hell if I speak false.’ In a dazzling act of ventriloquism, Peter Carey gives the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly a voice so wild, passionate and original that it is impossible not to believe that the famous bush ranger himself is speaking from beyond the grave. Carey gives us Ned Kelly as orphan, as Oedipus, as horse thief, farmer, bush ranger, reformer, bank-robber, police-killer and, finally, as his country’s beloved Robin Hood. In 1878 Francis Harty, a poor farmer, said, ‘Ned Kelly is the best bloody man that has ever been in Benalla, I would fight up to my knees in blood for him – I have known him for years, I would take his word sooner than another man’s oath’. By the time of his hanging in 1880 a whole country would seem to agree – and it is a measure of Peter Carey’s achievement that he has not only made art from his country’s great story but that he persuades us all to understand the true measure of that ‘best bloody man’.

2000
The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood

Laura Chase’s older sister Iris, married at eighteen to a politically prominent industrialist but now poor and eighty-two, is living in Port Ticonderoga, a town dominated by their once-prosperous family before the First War. While coping with her unreliable body, Iris reflects on her far from exemplary life, in particular the events surrounding her sister’s tragic death. Chief among these was the publication of The Blind Assassin, a novel which earned the dead Laura Chase not only notoriety but also a devoted cult following. Sexually explicit for its time, The Blind Assassin describes a risky affair in the turbulent thirties between a wealthy young woman and a man on the run. During their secret meetings in rented rooms, the lovers concoct a pulp fantasy set on Planet Zycron. As the invented story twists through love and sacrifice and betrayal, so does the real one; while events in both move closer to war and catastrophe. By turns lyrical, outrageous, formidable, compelling and funny, this is a novel filled with deep humour and dark drama.

1999
Disgrace – J. M. Coetzee

After years teaching Romantic poetry at the Technical University of Cape Town, David Lurie, middle-aged and twice divorced, has an impulsive affair with a student. The affair sours; he is denounced and summoned before a committee of inquiry. Willing to admit his guilt, but refusing to yield to pressure to repent publicly, he resigns and retreats to his daughter Lucy’s isolated smallholding. For a time, his daughter’s influence and the natural rhythms of the farm promise to harmonise his discordant life. But the balance of power in the country is shifting. He and Lucy become victims of a savage and disturbing attack which brings into relief all the faultlines in their relationship.

1998
Amsterdam – Ian McEwan

On a chilly February day two old friends meet in the throng outside a crematorium to pay their last respects to Molly Lane. Both Clive Linleyand Vernon Halliday had been Molly’s lovers in the days before they reached their current eminence, Clive as Britain’s most successful modern composer, Vernon as editor of the quality broadsheet, The Judge.Gorgeous, feisty Molly had had other lovers too, notably Julian Garmony, Foreign Secretary, a notorious right-winger tipped to be the next prime minister. In the days that follow Molly’s funeral Clive and Vernon will make a pact that will have consequences neither has foreseen. Each will make a disastrous moral decision, their friendship will be tested to its limits and Julian Garmony will be fighting for his political life.

1997
The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy

‘They all broke the rules. They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much.’ This is the story of Rahel and Estha, twins growing up among the banana vats and peppercorns of their blind grandmother’s factory, and amid scenes of political turbulence in Kerala. Armed only with the innocence of youth, they fashion a childhood in the shade of the wreck that is their family: their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko (pickle baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher) and their sworn enemy, Baby Kochamma (ex-nun, incumbent grand-aunt). Arundhati Roy’s Booker Prize-winning novel was the literary sensation of the 1990s: a story anchored to anguish but fuelled by wit and magic.

1996
Last Orders – Graham Swift

Four men gather in a London pub. They have taken it upon themselves to carry out the last orders of Jack Dodds, master butcher, and deliver his ashes to the sea. As they drive towards the fulfillment of their mission, their errand becomes an extraordinary journey into their collective and individual pasts. Braiding these men’s voices, and that of Jack’s widow, into a choir of sorrow and resentment, passion and regret, Swift creates a testament to a changing England and to enduring mortality.

1995
The Ghost Road – Pat Barker

1918, the closing months of the war, and army psychiatrist William Rivers is increasingly concerned for the men who have been in his care – particularly Billy Prior, who is about to return to combat in France with young poet Wilfred Owen. Pat Barker’s “The Ghost Road” is an account of the devastating final months of the First World War.

1994
How Late it Was, How Late – James Kelman

Sammy’s had a bad week – his wallet’s gone, along with his new shoes, he’s been arrested then beaten up by the police and thrown out on the street – and he’s just gone blind. He remembers a row with his girlfriend, but she seems to have disappeared. Things aren’t looking too good for Sammy and his problems have hardly begun.

1993
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha – Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle’s Booker Prize-winning novel describes the world of ten-year-old Paddy Clarke, growing up in Barrytown, north Dublin. From fun and adventure on the streets, boredom in the classroom to increasing isolation at home, “Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha” is the story of a boy who sees everything but understands less and less.

1992
Sacred Hunger – Barry Unsworth

Sacred Hunger covers a period between 1752 and 1765…it concerns the entangled and conflicted fortunes of two cousins: Erasmus Kemp, the son of a Lancashire merchant, and Matthew Paris, a scholar and surgeon just released from prison for ‘denying Holy Writ’…the Liverpool Merchant is the vessel on which the whole of the novel hinges, and it carries the reader deep into the history of man’s iniquitous greed…As regards its dramatic breadth and energy, no recent domestic novel has come within a mile of it’ – Anthony Quinn in the “Independent”.

The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje

The final curtain is closing on the Second World War, and Hana, a nurse, stays behind in an abandoned Italian villa to tend to her only remaining patient. Rescued by Bedouins from a burning plane, he is English, anonymous, damaged beyond recognition and haunted by his memories of passion and betrayal. The only clue Hana has to his past is the one thing he clung on to through the fire – a copy of The Histories by Herodotus, covered with hand-written notes describing a painful and ultimately tragic love affair.

1991
The Famished Road – Ben Okri

Azaro is a spirit child who is born only to live for a short while before returning to the idyllic world of his spirit companions. Now he has chosen to stay in the world of the living. This is his story.

1990
Possession – A. S. Byatt

Possession is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once a literary detective novel and a triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars investigating the lives of two Victorian poets. Following a trail of letters, journals and poems they uncover a web of passion, deceit and tragedy, and their quest becomes a battle against time.

1989
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

In the summer of 1956, Stevens, the ageing butler of Darlington Hall, embarks on a leisurely holiday that will take him deep into the countryside and into his past …A contemporary classic, “The Remains of the Day” is Kazuo Ishiguro’s beautiful and haunting evocation of life between the wars in a Great English House, of lost causes and lost love.

1988
Oscar and Lucinda – Peter Carey

Oscar Hopkins is an Oxford seminarian with a passion for gambling. Lucinda Leplastrier is a Sydney heiress with a fascination for glass. The year is 1864. When they meet on the boat to Australia their lives will be forever changed …Daring, rich, intense and bizarre, Peter Carey’s Booker prize-winning novel is a brilliant achievement – a moving love story and a historical tour de force that is also powerfully contemporary.

1987
Moon Tiger – Penelope Lively

Claudia Hampton is beautiful, famous, independent, and dying. But she remains defiant to the last, telling her nurses that she will write a ‘history of the world …and in the process, my own’. And it is her story from a childhood just after the First World War through the Second and beyond. But Claudia’s life is entwined with others and she must allow those who knew her, loved her, the chance to speak, to put across their point of view. There is Gordon, brother and adversary; Jasper, her untrustworthy lover and father of Lisa, her cool conventional daughter; and, then there is Tom, her one great love, found and lost in wartime Egypt. “Moon Tiger” is a haunting story of loss and desire.

1986
The Old Devils – Kingsley Amis

Malcolm, Peter and Charlie and their Soave-sodden wives have one main ambition left in life: to drink Wales dry. But their routine is both shaken and stirred when they are joined by professional Welshman Alun Weaver (CBE) and his wife, Rhiannon.

1985
The Bone People – Keri Hulme

‘The Bone People’ is the story of Kerewin, a despairing part-Maori artist who is convinced that her solitary life is the only way to face the world. Her cocoon is rudely blown away by the sudden arrival during a rainstorm of Simon, a mute six-year-old whose past seems to hold some terrible trauma. In his wake comes his foster-father Joe, a Maori factory worker with a nasty temper. The narrative unravels to reveal the truths that lie behind these three characters, and in so doing displays itself as a huge, ambitious work that tackles the clash between Maori and European characters in beautiful prose of a heartrending poignancy.

1984
Hotel du Lac – Anita Brookner

Into the rarefied atmosphere of the Hotel du Lac timidly walks Edith Hope, romantic novelist and holder of modest dreams. Edith has been exiled from home after embarrassing herself and her friends. She has refused to sacrifice her ideals and remains stubbornly single. But among the pampered women and minor nobility Edith finds Mr Neville, and her chance to escape from a life of humiliating spinsterhood is renewed…

1983
The Life and Times of Michael K – J. M. Coetzee

In a South Africa torn by civil war, Michael K sets out to take his mother back to her rural home. On the way there she dies, leaving him alone in an anarchic world of brutal roving armies. Imprisoned, Michael is unable to bear confinement and escapes, determined to live with dignity. Life and Times of Michael K goes to the centre of human experience – the need for an interior, spiritual life, for some connections to the world in which we live, and for purity of vision.

1982
Schindler’s Ark – Thomas Keneally

In the shadow of Auschwitz, a flamboyant German industrialist grew into a living legend to the Jews of Cracow. He was a womaniser, a heavy drinker and a bon viveur, but to them he became a saviour. This is the extraordinary story of Oskar Schindler, who risked his life to protect Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland and who was transformed by the war into a man with a mission, a compassionate angel of mercy.

1981
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

Saleem Sinai was born at midnight, the midnight of India’s independence, and found himself mysteriously ‘handcuffed to history’ by the coincidence. He is one of 1,001 children born at the midnight hour, each of them endowed with an extraordinary talent – and whose privilege and curse it is to be both master and victims of their times. Through Saleem’s gifts – inner ear and wildly sensitive sense of smell – we are drawn into a fascinating family saga set against the vast, colourful background of the India of the 20th century.

1980
Rites of Passage – William Golding

In the cabin of an ancient, stinking warship bound for Australia, a man writes a journal to entertain his godfather back in England. With wit and disdain he records mounting tensions on board, as an obsequious clergyman attracts the animosity of the tyrannical captain and surly crew.

1979
Offshore – Penelope Fitzgerald

‘Offshore’ is a dry, genuinely funny novel, set among the houseboat community who rise and fall with the tide of the Thames on Battersea Reach. Living between land and water, they feel as if they belong to neither…Maurice, a male prostitute, is the sympathetic friend to whom all the others turn. Nenna loves her husband but can’t get him back; her children run wild on the muddy foreshore. She feels drawn to Richard, the ex-RNVR city man whose converted minesweeper dominates the Reach. Is he sexually attractive because he can fold maps the right way? With this and other questions waiting to be answered, ‘Offshore’ offers a delightful glimpse of the workings of an eccentric community.

1978
The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch

When Charles Arrowby retires from his glittering career in the London theatre, he buys a remote house on the rocks by the sea. He hopes to escape from his tumultuous love affairs but unexpectedly bumps into his childhood sweetheart and sets his heart on destroying her marriage. His equilibrium is further disturbed when his friends all decide to come and keep him company and Charles finds his seaside idyll severely threatened by his obsessions.

1977
Staying On – Paul Scott

Tusker and Lily Smalley stayed on in India. Given the chance to return ‘home’ when Tusker, once a Colonel in the British Army, retired, they chose instead to remain in the small hill town of Pangkot, with its eccentric inhabitants and archaic rituals left over from the days of the Empire. Only the tyranny of their landlady, the imposing Mrs Bhoolabhoy, threatens to upset the quiet rhythm of their days. Both funny and deeply moving, “Staying On” is a unique, engrossing portrait of the end of an empire and of a forty-year love affair.

1976
Saville – David Storey

Set in South Yorkshire, this is the story of Colin’s struggle to come to terms with his family – his mercurial, ambitious father, his deep-feeling, long-suffering mother – and to escape the stifling heritage of the raw mining community into which he was born.

1975
Heat and Dust – Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

The beautiful, spoiled and bored Olivia, married to a civil servant, outrages society in the tiny, suffocating town of Satipur by eloping with an Indian prince. Fifty years later, her step-granddaughter goes back to the heat, the dust and the squalor of the bazaars to solve the enigma of Olivia’s scandal.

1974
Holiday – Stanley Middleton

Edwin Fisher is on holiday at the English seaside – but this revisiting of childhood haunts is no ordinary holiday. Edwin is seeking to understand the failure of his marriage to Meg, but it turns out that her parents are staying at the same resort – whether by accident or design – and are keen to patch up the relationship. As the past and his enigmatic wife loom larger, deeper truths emerge and the perspective shifts in unexpected ways. This is an extremely subtle story, a consummate portrait of English provincial life told with all Stanley Middleton’s artistry and depth of feeling.

The Conservationist – Nadine Gordimer

Mehring is rich. He has all the privileges and possessions that South Africa has to offer, but his possessions refuse to remain objects. His wife, son and mistress leave him; his foreman and workers become increasingly indifferent to his stewardship; even the land rises up, as drought, then flood, destroy his farm. As the upheaval in Mehring’s world increasingly resembles that in the country as a whole, it becomes clear that only a seismic shift in ideas and concrete action can avert annihilation.

1973
The Siege of Krishnapur – J. G. Farrell

In the Spring of 1857, with India on the brink of a violent and bloody mutiny, Krishnapur is a remote town on the vast North Indian plain. For the British there, life is orderly and genteel. Then the sepoys at the nearest military cantonment rise in revolt and the British community retreats with shock into the Residency. They prepare to fight for their lives with what weapons they can muster. As food and ammunition grow short, the Residency, its defences battered by shot and shell and eroded by the rains, becomes ever more vulnerable. The Siege of Krishnapur is a modern classic of narrative excitement that also digs deep to explore some fundamental questions of civilisation and life.

1972
G. – John Berger

In this luminous novel about a modern Don Juan, John Berger relates the story of G., a young man forging an energetic sexual career in Europe during the early years of the last century as Europe teeters on the brink of war. With profound compassion, Berger explores the hearts and minds of both men and women, and what happens during sex, to reveal the conditions of the libertine’s success: his essential loneliness, the quiet cumulation in each of his sexual experiences of all of those that precede it, the tenderness that infuses even the briefest of his encounters, and the way women experience their own extraordinariness through their liaisons with him. Set against the turbulent backdrop of Garibaldi’s attempt to unite Italy, the failed revolution of Milanese workers in 1898, the Boer War and the dramatic first flight across the Alps, G. is a brilliant novel about the search for intimacy in the turmoil of history.

1971
In a Free State – V. S. Naipaul

The theme is displacement, the yearning for the good place in someone else’s land, the attendant heartache. In a Free State tells first of an Indian servant in Washington, who becomes an American citizen but feels he has ceased to be a part of the flow. Then of a disturbed Asian West Indian in London who, in jail for murder, has never really known where he is. Then the central novel moves to Africa, to a fictional country something like Uganda or Rwanda. Its two main characters are English. They once found Africa liberating, but now it has gone sour on them. The land is no longer safe, and at a time of tribal conflict they have to make the long drive to the safety of their compound. At the end of this drive — the narrative tight, wonderfully constructed, the formal and precise language always instilled with violence and rage — we know everything about the English characters, the African country and the Idi Amin-like future awaiting it. This is one of V. S. Naipaul’s greatest novels, hard but full of pity.

1970
The Troubles – J. G. Farrell

Major Brendan Archer travels to Ireland – to the Majestic Hotel and to the fiancee he acquired on a rash afternoon’s leave three years ago. Despite her many letters, the lady herself proves elusive, and the Major’s engagement is short-lived. But he is unable to detach himself from the alluring discomforts of the crumbling hotel. Ensconced in the dim and shabby splendour of the Palm Court, surrounded by gently decaying old ladies and proliferating cats, the Major passes the summer. So hypnotic are the faded charms of the Majestic, the Major is almost unaware of the gathering storm. But this is Ireland in 1919 – and the struggle for independence is about to explode with brutal force.

The Elected Member – Bernice Rubens

Norman is the clever one of a close-knit Jewish family in the East End of London. Infant prodigy; brilliant barrister; the apple of his parents’ eyes…until at forty-one he becomes a drug addict, confined to his bedroom, at the mercy of his hallucinations and paranoia. For Norman, his committal to a mental hospital represents the ultimate act of betrayal. For Rbbi Zweck, Norman’s father, his son’s deterioration is a bitter reminder of his own guilt and failure. Only Bella, the unmarried sister, still in her childhood white ankle socks, can reach across the abyss of pain to bring father and son the elusive peace which they both desperately crave.

1969
Something to Answer For – P. H. Newby

It was 1956 and he was in Port Said. About these two facts Townrow was reasonably certain. He had been summoned there, to Egypt, by the widow of his deceased friend, Elie Khoury. Having been found dead in the street, she is convinced he was murdered, but nobody seems to agree with her. What of Leah Strauss, the mistress? And of the invading British paratroops? Only an Englishman, surely, would take for granted that the British would have behaved themselves. In this weirdly disorientating world, Townrow is forced towards a re-examination of the basic rules by which he has been living his life; and into a realization that he too may have something to answer for.

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