Hilary Mantel is still in the running for a second Man Booker Prize, with her historical novel Bring Up the Bodies (Fourth Estate), the sequel to her previously Man Booker-scooping novel, Wolf Hall, among the titles revealed on this year's prize shortlist.
However independent publishers dominate the list, with The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (Myrmidon Books), Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (And Other Stories/Faber) and The Lighthouse by Alison Moore (Salt) all making the leap from the longlist to the final six. Also in the running are Umbrella by Will Self (Bloomsbury) and Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil (Faber).
Chair of the judges Peter Stothard said: "After re-reading an extraordinary longlist of 12, it was the pure power of prose that settled most debates. We loved the shock of language shown in so many different ways and were exhilarated by the vigour and vividly defined values in the six books that we chose - and in the visible confidence of the novel's place in forming our words and ideas."
Waterstones spokesman Jon Howells praised the judges' selection, saying: “Following last year, with all the criticism from the critics about the selection, you might have thought the judges would have played safe and gone for the big names. Hilary Mantel is obviously huge, but Will Self is not so far up there [as a name] and the others are not well known at all. They have obviously gone for the titles they think are best. Hang the critics, and good on them.”
Howells chose Mantel as the “one to beat”, even though it would be unprecedented for an author to win the prize for the sequel to a novel which has won the prize before. "It is always good to have some really well known names to anchor the list, which then will lead readers to pick out the lesser known names," he said. "Five of the books are from smaller publishers, which is brilliant. Our orders are ready and waiting to go, and we are pretty confident we will have the right stock in the right places.”
Foyles web editor Jonathan Ruppin heralded it as a "fantastic shortlist" and tipped Alison Moore's The Lighthouse to take the prize. "All the conversations I've seen online about it are hugely positive; everyone who has read it just adores it," he said.
However, Ruppin also said: "You can never discount Hilary Mantel, and Will Self's novel is just a step above anything else he has ever written." Andre Brink's Philida (Harvill Secker) was the title he was surprised to have seen slip from the running, Ruppin said, but added: "2012 is a wonderful year for fiction."
He added: "From a Foyles point of view it is a very good shortlist-the big names will sell anyway, but for Foyles, our market is a bit more diverse, and our job as an independent is to introduce readers to authors they might not have read before, and the fact that there are books people haven't heard of on the list and small independents works well for us. I expect the chains will be a little bit more wary, and perhaps hoping that Hilary Mantel will win."
The winner will be revealed at a ceremony at London's Guildhall on 16th October.