Jim Crace’s Harvest has firmed as Bookie’s favourite to take the Booker Prize announced later today and having now completed all six finalists I’m placing my $5 on him as well. If I was going for a Trifecta ( if indeed I was completely sure what a Trifecta actually was) I’d have The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton in second with Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary as a very close third. Toibin’s slim volume has apparently been the biggest seller of all six during the lead-up to the announcement as well as fuelling heated religious debate in Ireland.
But the truth is, this year’s competition has been the best yet with all six short listed books entertaining and thought-provoking. I am grateful to the Booker judges for introducing me to two new writers, Catton and No Violet Bulawayo whose We Need New Names was a powerful coming of age book set in a Zimbabwean shanty town. My favourite though was Canadian-Japanese Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For The Time Being, a splendid book which has at its heart a deliberation on the meaning of time but catches the reader in a gyre spinning with bullying and buddhism (she is a buddhist nun), environmentalism, Japanese spirits and even Schrodinger’s cat.
Because the Booker is, essentially, a cultural lottery, it probably means the book which I haven’t mentioned yet, The Lowlands, the tale of two Bengali brothers who choose very different journeys in life, by Jhumpa Lahiri, will romp home (to stay with the racing metaphor). Whatever the result tonight, this year the reader was definitely the real winner of the Booker Prize.