Poor Hilary Mantel. Her novel The Mirror & the Light was on the 2020 Booker longlist, but it did not make the shortlist. Now she must live with just two Booker Prizes—for Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, the first two books in her trilogy featuring Thomas Cromwell. But that's two more Booker Prizes than most, and it's two more than any of the authors on the 2020 shortlist has. What's notable about the authors who remain is that four out of six of them are debut authors. Diane Cook, Douglas Stuart, Avni Doshi, and Brandon Taylor are all first-time writers.
The 2020 winner will be announced on Tuesday, November 17, 2020, in an event broadcast from London’s Roundhouse in collaboration with BBC Arts.
The shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. The winner will receive an additional £50,000.
Here is the shortlist:
The New Wilderness by Diane Cook
A daring, passionate, and terrifying novel about a mother’s battle to save her daughter in a world ravaged by climate change.
This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga
In this tense and psychologically charged novel, Tsitsi Dangarembga channels the hope and potential of one young girl and a fledgling nation to lead us on a journey to discover where lives go after hope has departed.
Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
This is a love story and it is a story about betrayal. But not between lovers—between mother and daughter. Sharp as a blade and laced with caustic wit, Avni Doshi tests the limits of what we can know for certain about those we are closest to, and by extension, about ourselves. (Currently only available in the U.S. on Audible.)
The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
Ethiopia. 1935. With the threat of Mussolini’s army looming, recently orphaned Hirut struggles to adapt to her new life as a maid. Her new employer, Kidane, an officer in Emperor Haile Selassie’s army, rushes to mobilize his strongest men before the Italians invade. The Shadow King casts light on the women soldiers written out of African and European history. It is a captivating exploration of female power, and what it means to be a woman at war.
Real Life by Brandon Taylor
Deftly zooming in and out of focus, Real Life is a deeply affecting story about the emotional cost of reckoning with desire, and overcoming pain.
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
Laying bare the ruthlessness of poverty, the limits of love, and the hollowness of pride, Shuggie Bain is a blistering and heartbreaking debut, and an exploration of the unsinkable love that only children can have for their damaged parents.
The shortlist is dominated by some bright debuts.