The recently released longlist for the 2020 Booker Prize has been markedly different from previous years. From Covid-19 changing the ways in which the judges have interacted with each other, to the unusually high number of debut novels, this year’s Booker Prize winner is likely to have a great impact on the literary world.
In previous years the number of first-time authors has been fairly low (only one in 2019, and three in 2018), but this year they make up over half of those on the list. Avni Doshi’s Burnt Sugar is one of these debut novels, telling the story of a complex mother-daughter relationship. Having previously gained recognition from winning UEA’s Charles Pick Fellowship in 2014, Doshi’s debut novel would be an exciting addition to the Booker Prize winner list. Other debuts include Brandon Taylor’s Real Life and Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Brain. With only three debut novelists having taken the prize before, it would be refreshing to see this year’s prize being awarded to a fourth.
More established authors such as Hilary Mantel (with The Mirror & The Light) also feature on the list, having won the Booker Prize two times previously she now has the opportunity to win for an unprecedented third time. But with increasing competition from debut novelists this record win is not guaranteed.
The longlist also features authors such as Anne Tyler with her novel Redhead by the Side of the Road. Tyler was previously nominated for her novel A Spool of Blue Thread in 2015 but is yet to be awarded the prize.
This year’s longlist has shown a definite shift away from high-profile authors and is giving more attention to lesser told stories. Novels that can reflect cultural changes and bring greater visibility to a range of minority experiences are particularly poignant in today’s political climate, such as Gabriel Krauze’s Who They Was, C Pam Zhang’s How Much of These Hills is Gold and Tsitsi Dangarembga’s This Mournable Body.
The rest of the books featured on the longlist are as follows: Diane Cook’s New Wilderness, Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age, Colum McCann’s Apeirogon, Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King, and Sophie Ward’s Love and Other Thought Experiments.
The shortlist is to be announced on the 15th September, with the final prize winner to be awarded in November.