Julian Barnes has won the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Sense of an Ending (Cape). The author beat a shortlist comprising Carol Birch's Jamrach's Menagerie (Canongate); Esi Edugyan's Half Blood Blues (Serpent's Tail); Stephen Kelman's Pigeon English (Bloomsbury); A D Miller's Snowdrops (Atlantic) and Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers (Granta).
Barnes wins £50,000. Ex-MI5 boss Dame Stella Rimington chairwoman of the 2011 judges said the five judges had reached a final, unanimous decision after about half an hour of debate on Tuesday. "I can tell you there was no blood on the carpet and nobody went off in a huff," she told the BBC.
Barnes said he was both "relieved" and "delighted" by the award. He praised his publisher Cape for its "practical and moral" support, including his editor Dan Franklin and his "paymaster" Gail Rebuck - Random House chief executive. Unusually, he also praised the book's designer Suzanne Dean. "If the physical book is to resist the challenge of the e-book it has to look like something worth buying and worth keeping."
He was the bookies' favourite to win the Man Booker prize, but had been passed over before having been on three previous Booker shortlists. Bookmakers William Hill said more than 50% of all bets struck on the Man Booker prize were placed on the Jonathan Cape title to win.
Miller's Snowdrops and Birch's Jamrach's Menagerie were the bestselling books in the Man Booker shortlist on the high street, ahead of the prize's announcement, but Amazon had revealed that Barnes' novel was ahead on Kindle downloads. This year has had the bestselling shortlist since Nielsen BookScan records began with 98,850 copies sold across all print editions, up 115% on 2010 and up 105% on 2009. Last year's winner, Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question has sold 266,835 copies to date, up 4,250% on sales of his previous novel, The Act of Love. The last time the bookies’ favourite won was also in 2009, when Hilary Mantel won with Wolf Hall.
Foyles' Jonathan Ruppin said of the winning book: "As a writer characterised by immense intelligence and imagination, it would have been remarkable if Barnes had never won the Booker. This is definitely one that splits opinion, with some finding it subtly powerful and others frustratingly underdeveloped, but great writers rarely please everyone." He added: "It's certainly been the most contentious Booker I can remember, but there are ferocious arguments every year, which only goes to show how important the prize is for the trade and readers alike."
This year’s judging process ran into controversy, with last week seeing the launch of The Literature Prize by a board including agent Andrew Kidd in rivalry to the prize, aiming to "offer readers a selection of novels that, in the view of these expert judges, are unsurpassed in their quality and ambition".
The organisers said: "For many years this brief was fulfilled by the Booker (latterly the Man Booker) Prize. But . . . it now prioritises a notion of 'readability' over artistic achievement." Man Booker Prize administrator Ion Trewin later slammed the accusation as "tosh".