Man Booker Prize longlist extracts

Man Booker Prize longlist extracts

The books on the Man Booker Prize 2015 longlist span continents, times and worlds.

The shortlist will be announced on 15th September, and the winner on 13th October. In the meantime, get a taste of the longlist with these extracts.


The Green Road by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape)

Later, after Hanna made some cheese on toast, her mother came into the kitchen and filled a hot water bottle from the big kettle on the range.

‘Go on up to your uncle’s for me, will you?’ she said. ‘Get me some Solpadeine.’

‘You think?’

‘My head’s a fog,’ she said. ‘And ask your uncle for amoxicillin, will I spell that for you? I have a chest coming on.’

‘All right,’ said Hanna.

‘Try anyway,’ she said, coaxingly, taking the hot water bottle to her chest. ‘You will.’

The Madigans lived in a house that had a little river in the garden and its own name on the gate: ARDEEVIN. But it was not far to walk, up over the humpy bridge, past the garage and into town.

Hanna passed the two petrol pumps standing sentry on the forecourt, with the big doors open and Pat Doran in there somewhere, reading the Almanac, or lying in the pit below a car. There was an oil drum by the swinging Castrol sign with the bare fork of a tree sticking out of it, and Pat Doran had dressed it in a pair of old trousers with two shoes stuck on the ends of the branches, so it looked like a man’s legs waving around in a panic after him falling into the barrel. It was very lifelike. Their mother said it was too near to the bridge, it would cause an accident, but Hanna loved it. And she liked Pat Doran, who they were told to avoid. He took them for rides in fast cars, up over the bridge, bang, down on the other side.


A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (Oneworld)

Is a hell of a thing when a gun come home to live with you. The people who live with you notice it first. The woman I live with talk to me different. Everybody talk to you different when them see a new bulge in you pants. No, it’s not that at all. When a gun come to live in the house it’s the gun, not even the person who keep it, that have the last word. It come between man and woman talk, not just serious reasoning but even a little thing.

—Dinner ready, she say.

—Me no hungry.


—I going need it warm when me finally hungry.

—Yes sah.

When a gun come to live in the house the woman you live with treat you different, not cold, but now she weigh word, measure it before talking to you. But a gun talk to the owner too, telling him first that you can never own this, that outside is plenty people who don’t have a gun but know you do, and one night they going come like Nicodemus and take it. Nobody ever own a gun. You don’t know that until you own one. If somebody give it to you and  that somebody can take it back. Another man can think is for him even when he seeing that is you control it. And he don’t sleep until he get it ’cause he can’t sleep. Gun hunger worse than woman hunger for at least maybe a woman might hungry for you back. At night me don’t sleep. Me stay up in the dark shadow, looking at it, rubbing it, seeing and waiting.


The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami (Periscope)

You can write? Señor Dorantes asked. He was looking over my shoulder at the line of characters in the dirt, his elbow resting against the trunk of the tree. I was startled by his silent appearance behind me and I rushed to stand up, but he put his hand on my shoulder, urging me to sit down. Where did you learn? he asked.
At home, Señor. In Azemmur.
My father’s dearest friend is a converso – a jeweller from Córdoba. He still keeps his ledgers in Arabic, even though my father warned him that it might raise questions with the inquisitor. But I suppose it is hard to break old habits.
I ran my tongue on my lips, not sure what to say next. Experience had taught me that these kinds of conversations, with personal questions, friendly questions even, were dangerous, that they fed the master new ways of tormenting you later on, when you let down your guard. So I remained quiet, hoping the moment would pass. A soft breeze rustled the leaves of the poplar tree, shifting the dappled light on the ground. From the cluster of men behind us, someone called out for Father Anselmo to come hear a confession.
How did you end up in Seville, then? Señor Dorantes asked.
It is a long story, I said.
He slid against the trunk of the tree and sat down so close to me that I could smell his oily hair. (We had run out of soap a few days earlier.) What did he want from me? Was it not enough that he owned me and could dispose of me as he wished? Now he wanted that which had always been my own – my story.
Tell me, he said. I want to hear it.


Satin Island by Tom McCarthy (Jonathan Cape)

1.1 Turin is where the famous shroud is from, the one showing Christ’s body supine after crucifixion: hands folded over genitals, eyes closed, head crowned with thorns. The image isn’t really visible on the bare linen. It only emerged in the late nineteenth century, when some amateur photographer looked at the negative of a shot he’d taken of the thing, and saw the figure—pale and faded, but there nonetheless. Only in the negative: the negative became a positive, which means that the shroud itself was, in effect, a negative already. A few decades later, when the shroud was radiocarbon dated, it turned out to come from no later than the mid-thirteenth century; but this didn’t trouble the believers. Things like that never do. People need foundation myths, some imprint of year zero, a bolt that secures the scaffolding that in turn holds fast the entire architecture of reality, of time: memory- chambers and oblivion-cellars, walls between eras, hallways that sweep us on towards the end-days and the coming whatever-it-is. We see things shroudedly, as through a veil, an over-pixellated screen. When the shapeless plasma takes on form and resolution, like a fish approaching us through murky waters or an image looming into view from noxious liquid in a darkroom, when it begins to coalesce into a figure that’s discernible, if ciphered, we can say: This is it, stirring, looming, even if it isn’t really, if it’s all just ink-blots.

1.2 One evening, a few years ago, I found myself stuck in Turin. Not in the city, but the airport: Torino-Caselle. Lots of other people did too: nothing was taking off. The phrase Await Announcements multi- plied, stacked up in columns on the information screens, alternately in English and Italian. What was causing the delay was a rogue aero- plane, some kind of private jet, which, ignoring all instructions, was flying in idiosyncratic patterns over Southern England and the Channel; which meant that no other planes could penetrate that swathe of airspace; which in turn, via the series of switches and transfers and re-routings that had been put in place to deal with the whole situation, had spread a huge delay-cloud over Europe. So I sat, like everyone else, sifting through airline- and airport-pages on my laptop for enlight- enment about our quandary—then, when I’d exhausted these, clicking through news sites and social pages, meandering along corridors of trivia, generally killing time.


The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma (Pushkin Press)

We were fishermen: My brothers and I became fishermen in January of 1996 after our father moved out of Akure, a town in the west of Nigeria, where we had lived together all our lives. His employer, the Central Bank of Nigeria, had transferred him to a branch of the bank in Yola—a town in the north that was a camel distance of more than one thousand kilometres away—in the first week of November of the previous year. I remember the night Father returned home with his transfer letter; it was on a Friday. From that Friday through that Saturday, Father and Mother held whispering consultations like shrine priests. By Sunday morning, Mother emerged a different being. She’d acquired the gait of a wet mouse, averting her eyes as she went about the house. She did not go to church that day, but stayed home and washed and ironed a stack of Father’s clothes, wearing an impenetrable gloom on her face. Neither of them said a word to my brothers and me, and we did not ask. My brothers—Ikenna, Boja, Obembe—and I had come to understand that when the two ventricles of our home—our father and our mother—held silence as the ventricles of the heart retain blood, we could flood the house if we poked them. So, at times like these, we avoided the television in the eight-columned shelf in our sitting room. We sat in our rooms, studying or feigning to study, anxious but not asking questions. While there, we stuck out our antennae to gather whatever we could of the situation.


The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan (Faber)

Snow was falling past the window and in her sleep she pictured a small girl and her father in a railway carriage. The train passed into Ayrshire and the girl looked at nothing over the fields, losing herself in a sense of winter and the smell of soap on her father’s hands. It’s cold, Mog. He carried a light for her all his life and proved she was easy to love. Maureen opened her eyes and found that sixty years had gone by in an instant. Snowflakes poured from the street lamp like sparks from a bonfire. The night was empty and there wasn’t a sound in the flat except for the echo of yesterday’s talk shows.

This weather would put years on you. The sentence ran through her mind and then she wiped her eyes. Things are slow at that hour and you can easily miss a knock at the door or someone calling your name. Her memory had taken her to another place, where snow blew around a vanished train, and now she was home in her own warm bed and already tense for the day’s share of things sent to try her. Her thoughts came out at night like mice and the old scratching woke her up.


Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy (MacLehose Press)

The year the war came closer I was six or seven and it did not matter to me. I lived with my brother, father and mother and our hut had two rooms with mats on the floor and a line of wooden pegs from which our clothes hung and in the evening we sat in the yard outside, watching our mother cook on the fire by the grapefruit tree. When the tree flowered I opened my mouth wide to swallow the scent. Little green beads of fruit appeared when the flowers fell off. One day, when some of the fruit had turned as round and yellow as full moons, my brother climbed the tree. He looked tall and strong clambering from branch to branch, my older brother. I stood holding the trunk, waiting for the fruit to come down. He snapped them off the stem, the branch shook hard, and I was showered with dust and dry leaves.

The grapefruits were pale yellow outside, with stippled skin. They were as big as melons and heavy with juice. My mother slid a knife into one and cut it in half and the flesh was pink and the smell of its juice was tart and fresh.

Our hut was all we knew, the four of us. I remember a fence around it, made of branches my father cut and brought home on his shoulders a few at a time, every day. The jungle was thick, the leaves of the tall trees were broad and green. I have tried to remember which trees they were, but I can only bring back the ones that gave me things to eat: mangoes, grapefruit, jackfruit and  lime. We had hens that went mad cackling and crowing when they were
laying eggs. Their eggs were brown. We had a cow, a few goats, and three pigs.

When the pigs were slaughtered for their meat they shrieked with a sound that made my teeth fall off and this was the sound I heard soon after my mother cut the grapefruit, and the men came in with axes. Their faces were wrapped in cloth. They shoved my brother outside, they pushed my mother and me to a corner of the room and then they flung my father at a wall. They slammed his face at the wall again and again. The whitewashed wall streamed red, they threw him to the floor and kicked him with their booted feet. Each time the boots hit him it was as if a limp bundle of clothes was being tossed this way and that. One of the men lifted an axe and brought it down on my father’s forehead.

When they left they wrote something on the wall in his blood. They did not look at us. In my sleep I hear the sound of pigs at slaughter, the sound my father made.


The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota (Picador)

Randeep Sanghera stood in front of the green-and-blue map tacked to the wall. The map had come with the flat, and though it was big and wrinkled, and cigarette butts had once stubbed black islands into the mid Atlantic, he’d kept it, a reminder of the world outside. He was less sure about the flowers, guilty-looking things he’d spent too long choosing at the petrol station. Get rid of them, he decided, but then heard someone was parking up outside and the thought flew out of his head.
He went down the narrow staircase, step by nervous step, straightening his cuffs, swallowing hard. He could see a shape through the mottled glass. When he opened the door Narinder Kaur stood before him, brightly etched against the night, coat unbuttoned despite the cold. So, even in England she wore a kesri. A domed deep-green one that matched her salwaar kameez. A flank of hair had come loose from under it and curled about her ear. He’d forgotten how large, how clever, her eyes were. Behind her, the taxi made a U-turn and retreated down the hill. Narinder brought her hands together underneath her chin – ‘Sat sri akal’ – and Randeep nodded and took her suitcase and asked if she might follow him up the stairs.


The Chimes by Anna Smaill (Sceptre)

I’ve been standing here forever. My arms and legs and head and even my bones are heavy with sleep. Clothes heavy with the rain that won’t stop falling. Shoes heavy with mud. My roughcloth bag is slung over my shoulder and it jostles against my leg as I shift from side to side to keep warm. It’s heavy too, weighted with objectmemories. The ones I’ve decided to take.

Deep in the drilled-in mud of the fields behind me, our bulbs are wrapped in their brittle skins with their messages of colour stored inside. Blue iris, yellow crocus, tulips of all colours. I won’t be here to see them open. Longcup, double trompet. Daffs with the flowers in papery bunches and their smell of pepper like the air as it is just before Chimes.

Along the horizon, the fields are lines of grey that get darker as they reach the sky. I stare at them hard to make a picture I can take, but it’s only objectmemories you can trust in the end. And I’m carrying those in the bag already. You can’t force them to flower either. Like bulbs, they show their secrets in their own time.

A trader rides past. A handful of farmworkers cross the fields to the neighbouring farm. A swagman sings the there-and-back of his day’s journey, a song whose cadence closes at our village square. All journeymen, lighting their way through near distance with a day’s tune. Most people won’t venture further than a day – tarry longer from home, and the memories kept there, and risk losing the melody back.


A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (Chatto & Windus)

So Denny came home. The first time, he came alone. Abby was disappointed that he didn’t bring Susan, but Red said he was glad. “It makes this visit  different from those last ones,” he said. “Like he’s getting squared away with us first. He’s not taking it for granted that he can just pick up where he left off.”

He had a point. Denny did seem different— more cautious, more considerate of their feelings. He commented on little improvements around the house. He said he liked Abby’s new hairstyle. (She had started wearing it short.) He himself had lost the boyish sharpness along his jaw, and he had a more settled way of walking. When Abby asked him questions— though she tried her best to ration them— he made an effort to answer. He wasn’t what you’d call chatty, but he answered. Susan was doing great, he said. She was attending preschool now. Yes, he could bring her to visit. Carla was fine too, although they were not together anymore. Work? Well, at the moment he was working for a construction firm.
“Construction!” Abby said. “Hear that, Red? He’s working in construction!”  Red merely grunted. He didn’t look as happy about this as he might have.

Notice all that was missing, though, from what Denny had told them. How much did he really have to do with his daughter? And a spool of blue thread when he said he and Carla were “not together,” did he mean they were divorced? Just what were his living arrangements? Was construction his chosen career now? Had he given up on college? Then Jeannie came over with little Deb, and Red and Abby left them alone, and by the end of her visit they knew more. He had a lot to do with Susan, Jeannie reported; he was very much involved in her life. Divorce was too expensive, for now. He shared half a house with two other guys but they were starting to get on his nerves. Sure, he would finish college. Someday.


A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador)

At night, as beneath him his parents completed their routines, the banging of the old pipes as they washed their faces and the sudden thunk into silence as they turned down the living-room radiators better than any clock at indicating that it was eleven, eleven thirty, midnight, he made lists of what he needed to resolve, and fast, in the following year: his work (at a standstill), his love life (nonexistent), his sexuality (unresolved), his future (uncertain). The four items were always the same, although sometimes their order of priority changed. Also consistent was his abil¬ity to precisely diagnose their status, coupled with his utter inability to provide any solutions.

The next morning he’d wake determined: today he was going to move out and tell his parents to leave him alone. But when he’d get downstairs, there would be his mother, making him breakfast (his father long gone for work) and telling him that she was buying the tickets for their annual trip to St. Barts today, and could he let her know how many days he wanted to join them for? (His parents still paid for his vacations. He knew better than to ever mention this to his friends.)


*Extracts were requested from the publishers of all the Man Booker Prize longlisted titles. Those submitted have been published here.