A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Most critics don’t see the Japanese-Canadian Ozeki as being in real contention, but we loved this mystery that begins when a lunch box containing a diary is found washed up on the shore – by a writer also called Ruth.
We Need New Names by No-Violet Bulawayo
Bulawayo is the only first-time novelist to be shortlisted this year, and the first Zimbabwean. The tale of an African girl dreaming of, and then actually experiencing, America buzzes with energy – even if familiar themes of injustice probably preclude the first debut-novel victory since Aravind Adiga in 2008.
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Certainly the dark horse in the list, this is an enjoyably sweeping epic spanning the period of Indian independence to the present day, featuring two brothers from Kolkata whose lives go in very different directions.
Harvest by Jim Crace
The clear favourite, if only because Crace’s fine body of work has previously gone unrewarded and the 67-year-old has said that Harvest will be his final novel. An intriguing, parable-like story of an English village destroyed when sheep owners dispossess peasants from their land.
The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín
At just 101 pages, this is the slimmest novel ever to be in Booker Prize contention – but then Julian Barnes’ similarly brief The Sense of an Ending won in 2011. A beautiful re-imagining of the mourning of the mother of Jesus after his crucifixion.
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
From the slimmest to the lengthiest: the New Zealander’s 832-page journey into 19th century gold prospecting in her home country is an absolute doorstop of a novel, but a pleasure to become immersed in. She’s the joint-second favourite with Tóibín.