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Find Your Next Fiction Read: The Booker Prize 2023 Longlist

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Find Your Next Fiction Read: The Booker Prize 2023 Longlist

booker prize 2023 list

The Booker Prize is the leading literary award in the English speaking world, and has brought recognition, reward and readership to outstanding fiction for over five decades.

Each year, the prize is awarded to what is, in the opinion of the judges, the best sustained work of fiction written in English and published in the UK and Ireland.

The longlist of 13 books – the ‘Booker Dozen’ – was announced on August 1, 2023 with the shortlist of six books to follow on September 21. The winner of the £50,000 prize will be announced at an event at Old Billingsgate, London, on November 26, 2023.

The longlist features books from four continents, four Irish writers, four debut novelists – and ten authors who are recognised by the Booker Prize for the first time

They explore universal and topical themes: from deeply moving personal dramas to tragi-comic family sagas; from the effects of climate change to the oppression of minorities; from scientific breakthroughs to competitive sport.  All 13 novels cast new light on what it means to exist in our time, and they do so in original and thrilling ways,’ according to Esi Edugyan, Chair of the judges

You are sure to find a great read in the following longlisted titles available or soon to be available to borrow with your Livingston Library card.  Please note few titles are yet to be released in the US.

all the little bird hearts

All The Little Bird-Hearts by Viktoria LLoyd-Barlow (not yet released in the US)

A lyrical and poignant debut novel offers a deft exploration of motherhood, vulnerability and the complexity of human relationships. 

 Sunday Forrester does things more carefully than most people. On quiet days, she must eat only white foods. Her etiquette handbook guides her through confusing social situations, and to escape, she turns to her treasury of Sicilian folklore. The one thing very much out of her control is Dolly – her clever, headstrong daughter, now on the cusp of leaving home.  Into this carefully ordered world step Vita and Rollo, a charming couple who move in next door and proceed to deliciously break just about every rule in Sunday’s book. Soon they are in and out of each other’s homes, and Sunday feels loved and accepted as never before. But beneath Vita and Rollo’s polish lies something else, something darker. For Sunday has precisely what Vita has always wanted for herself: a daughter of her own.  

The Bee Sting by Paul Murray

A patch of ice on the road, a casual favor to a charming stranger, a bee caught beneath a bridal veil – can a single moment of bad luck change the direction of a life?

Dickie’s once-lucrative car business is going under – but rather than face the music, he’s spending his days in the woods, building an apocalypse-proof bunker. His exasperated wife Imelda is selling off her jewelry on eBay while half-heartedly dodging the attentions of fast-talking cattle farmer Big Mike.  Meanwhile, teenage daughter Cass, formerly top of her class, seems determined to binge-drink her way to her final exams. And 12-year-old PJ, in debt to local sociopath ‘Ears’ Moran, is putting the final touches to his grand plan to run away. 

Yes, in Murray’s brilliant tragicomic saga, the Barnes family is definitely in trouble. So where did it all go wrong? And if the story has already been written – is there still time to find a happy ending? 

The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng (due for US release in October)

A masterful novel of public morality and private truth that examines love and betrayal under the shadow of Empire.  

It is 1921 and at Cassowary House in the Straits Settlements of Penang, Robert Hamlyn is a well-to-do lawyer, his steely wife Lesley a society hostess. Their lives are invigorated when Willie, an old friend of Robert’s, comes to stay.   Willie Somerset Maugham is one of the greatest writers of his day. But he is beleaguered by an unhappy marriage, ill-health and business interests that have gone badly awry. He is also struggling to write. The more Lesley’s friendship with Willie grows, the more clearly she sees him as he is – a man who has no choice but to mask his true self.  As Willie prepares to face his demons, Lesley confides secrets of her own, including her connection to the case of an Englishwoman charged with murder in the Kuala Lumpur courts – a tragedy drawn from fact, and worthy of fiction.  

How To Build A Boat by Elaine Feeney (due for US release in November)

Feeney tells the story of how one boy on a unique mission transforms the lives of his teachers, and brings together a community. 

 Jamie O’Neill loves the color red. He also loves tall trees, patterns, rain that comes with wind, the curvature of many objects, books with dust jackets, cats, rivers and Edgar Allan Poe.  At the age of 13, there are two things he especially wants in life: to build a Perpetual Motion Machine, and to connect with his mother Noelle, who died when he was born. In his mind, these things are intimately linked.  And at his new school, where all else is disorientating and overwhelming, he finds two people who might just be able to help him.

If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery

An exhilarating novel-in-stories that pulses with style, heart and barbed humor, while unraveling what it means to carve out an existence between cultures, homes and pay cheques.

In 1979, as political violence consumes their native Kingston, Topper and Sanya flee to Miami. But they soon learn that the welcome in America will be far from warm.    

Trelawny, their youngest son, comes of age in a society that regards him with suspicion and confusion. Their eldest son Delano’s longing for a better future for his own children is equalled only by his recklessness in trying to secure it.  As both brothers navigate the obstacles littered in their path – an unreliable father, racism, a financial crisis and Hurricane Andrew – they find themselves pitted against one another. Will their rivalry be the thing that finally tears their family apart? 

in ascension

In Ascension by Martin McInnes (not yet released in the US)

Exploring the natural world with wonder and reverence, this compassionate, deeply inquisitive epic reaches outward to confront the great questions of existence, while looking inward to illuminate the human heart. 

 Leigh grew up in Rotterdam, drawn to the waterfront as an escape from her unhappy home life. Enchanted by the undersea world of her childhood, she excels in marine biology, traveling the globe to study ancient organisms.  When a trench is discovered in the Atlantic Ocean, Leigh joins the exploration team, hoping to find evidence of Earth’s first life forms. What she instead finds calls into question everything we know about our own beginnings, and leaves her facing an impossible choice: to remain with her family, or to embark on a journey across the breadth of the cosmos.   

Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry

A dazzlingly written novel exploring love, memory, grief, and long-buried secrets.

Recently retired policeman Tom Kettle is settling into the quiet of his new home, a lean-to annexed to a Victorian castle overlooking the Irish Sea. For months he has barely seen a soul, catching only glimpses of his eccentric landlord and a nervous young mother who has moved in next door. Occasionally, fond memories return, of his family, his beloved wife June and their two children, Winnie and Joe. But when two former colleagues turn up at his door with questions about a decades-old case, one which Tom never quite came to terms with, he finds himself pulled into the darkest currents of his past.

Pearl by Sian Hughes (due for US release in October)

Hughes contemplates both the power and the fragility of the human mind in her haunting debut novel, which was inspired by the medieval poem of the same name.

Marianne is eight years old when her mother goes missing. Left behind with her baby brother and grieving father in a ramshackle house on the edge of a small village, she clings to the fragmented memories of her mother’s love; the smell of fresh herbs, the games they played, and the songs and stories of her childhood.  As time passes, Marianne struggles to adjust, fixated on her mother’s disappearance and the secrets she’s sure her father is keeping from her. Discovering a medieval poem called Pearl – and trusting in its promise of consolation – Marianne sets out to make a visual illustration of it, a task that she returns to over and over but somehow never manages to complete.  Tormented by an unmarked gravestone in an abandoned chapel and the tidal pull of the river, her childhood home begins to crumble as the past leads her down a path of self-destruction. But can art heal Marianne? And will her own future as a mother help her find peace? 

Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (due for US release in September)

A mother faces a terrible choice, in this exhilarating, propulsive and confrontational portrait of a society on the brink. 

 On a dark, wet evening in Dublin, scientist and mother-of-four Eilish Stack answers her front door to find the GNSB on her doorstep. Two officers from Ireland’s newly formed secret police want to speak with her husband.  Things are falling apart. Ireland is in the grip of a government that is taking a turn towards tyranny. And as the blood-dimmed tide is loose, Eilish finds herself caught within the nightmare logic of a collapsing society – assailed by unpredictable forces beyond her control and forced to do whatever it takes to keep her family together.  

 A Spell of Good Things by Ayobami Adebayo

Adébáyọ̀’s breathtaking novel shines a light on the haves and have-nots of Nigeria, and the shared humanity that lives in between.  

Eniọlá is tall for his age, a boy who looks like a man. His father has lost his job, so Ẹniọlá spends his days running errands, collecting newspapers and begging – dreaming of a big future.  Wuraola is a golden girl, the perfect child of a wealthy family, and now an exhausted young doctor in her first year of practice. But when sudden violence shatters a family party, Wuraola and Ẹniọlá’s lives become inextricably intertwined.

study for obedience

Study For Obedience by Sarah Bernstein (due for US release in late August)

Bernstein explores themes of prejudice, abuse and guilt through the eyes of a singularly unreliable narrator.  

A woman moves from the place of her birth to a ‘remote northern country’ to be housekeeper to her brother, whose wife has just left him. Soon after she arrives, a series of unfortunate events occurs: collective bovine hysteria; the death of a ewe and her nearly-born lamb; a local dog’s phantom pregnancy; a potato blight.  She notices that the community’s suspicion about incomers in general seems to be directed particularly in her case. She feels their hostility growing, pressing at the edges of her brother’s property. Inside the house, although she tends to her brother and his home with the utmost care and attention, he too begins to fall ill…

This Other Eden by Paul Harding

This spellbinding novel celebrates the hopes, dreams and resilience of those deemed not to fit in a world brutally intolerant of difference.

Inspired by historical events, it tells the story of Apple Island: an enclave off the coast of the United States where castaways – in flight from society and its judgment – have landed and built a home.  In 1792, formerly enslaved Benjamin Honey arrives on the island with his Irish wife, Patience, to make a life together there. More than a century later, the Honeys’ descendants remain, alongside an eccentric, diverse band of neighbors.  Then comes the intrusion of ‘civilization’: officials determine to ‘cleanse’ the island. A missionary school teacher selects one light-skinned boy to save. The rest will succumb to the authorities’ institutions – or cast themselves on the waters in a new Noah’s Ark…

Western Lane by Chetna Maroo

A tender and moving debut novel about grief, sisterhood, a teenage girl’s struggle to transcend herself – and squash.

Eleven-year-old Gopi has been playing squash since she was old enough to hold a racket. When her mother dies, her father enlists her in a quietly brutal training regimen, and the game becomes her world.  Slowly, she grows apart from her sisters. Her life is reduced to the sport, guided by its rhythms: the serve, the volley, the drive, the shot and its echo. But on the court, she is not alone. She is with her pa. She is with Ged, a 13-year-old boy with his own formidable talent. She is with the players who have come before her. She is in awe.

Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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