The shortlisted novels are:
Milkman by Anna Burns
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Everything Under by Daisy Johnson
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
The Overstory by Richard Powers
The Long Take by Robin Robertson
As with last year, I have read all bar one of the shortlist and the rest of the longlist. Washington Black was only very recently released, and I expect to finish it within the next couple of days.
Some thoughts on the shortlist:
One non-white face. The longlist managed two. That seems very few. Are we really saying that 85% of the best books published in English over the past year were written by white folks?
The construction “as if” appears to have been completely replaced by the word “like”. It’s as if (like?) nobody cares to make the distinction any more.
Two experimental novels made the list. The Long Take is genuinely interesting and I thought quite highly of it. Milkman was such a slog to get through that it delayed my progress by at least two weeks.
Warlight and Normal People were superb. Their omission is disappointing. Everything Under was good but not great. The Mars Room was better but still not great. My ideal shortlist would have cut Milkman and Everything Under in favour of Warlight and Normal People. I would have kept The Mars Room. This would have led to a serious competition for my favour.
As it is, of the five books I have read, I am rooting for The Overstory, which is highly ambitious and brilliant if a little flawed (of which more later). Washington Black may yet change my mind.