There has been a lot of talk about novels that were overlooked by the Man Booker judges this year. However this talk is not new. The Booker has overlooked great novels from its very beginning in 1969. Neither Graham Greene nor Angela Carter were ever shortlisted, although in Greene’s case most of his great work was done before 1969.
I have read each of the novels below. Each is so well done that it is a mystery to me why these eligible novels would not have made the Booker Prize short list. The novels are listed in chronological order.
‘Fifth Business’ by Robertson Davies (1970) This amazing Canadian novel was the one that got me started down the path of world literature.
‘The Eye of the Storm’ by Patrick White (1973) For whatever perplexing reason this Australian masterpiece did not make the Booker short list, although White’s previous novel ‘The Vivisector’ did make it in 1970.
‘A Good Man in Africa’ by William Boyd (1981) This one did not get shortlisted, but Boyd’s equally good ‘The Ice-Cream Wars’ got shortlisted the following year.
‘Time After Time’ by Molly Keane (1983) Although Booker did shortlist her equally good previous novel ‘Good Behavior’ in 1981.
‘Golden Gate’ by Vikram Seth (1986) This delightful novel-in-verse was never shortlisted nor was Seth’s 1349-page ‘A Suitable Boy’ which I have not read.
‘Cloudstreet’ by Tim Winton (1991) This Australian favorite was not shortlisted, but two of Winton’s later novels were.
‘Trainspotting’ by Irvine Welsh (1993) Another novel that apparently was too wild, too gross, too risqué for the Booker.
‘The Blue Flower’ by Penelope Fitzgerald (1995) Fitzgerald was shortlisted four times which is a record, but it is still hard to imagine why this novel wasn’t.
‘The Englishman’s Boy’ by Guy Vanderhaeghe (1996) – Vanderhaeghe is a Canadian writer who somehow hasn’t been shortlisted yet.
‘Miss Garnet’s Angel’ by Salley Vickers (2000) – Salley Vickers is a well-kept secret apparently even to the Booker.
‘The City of Bohane’ by Kevin Barry (2011) – Too edgy for the Booker?