x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Six of the best: the Man Booker Prize contenders in full Ben East weighs up the odds for those on the shortlist ...

Weighing the odds of the contenders on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize.

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.