Reading list

Must reads of 2018: The 7 Penguin books that made the Man Booker longlist

From bold debuts to multi-narrative epics, we celebrate the seven Penguin books in the running for 2018’s prestigious prize. 

 

 

Snap by Belinda Bauer

About the book: Eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she’d said. I won’t be long. But she doesn’t come back. Three years later, Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother…

Sarah Adams, Fiction Publisher at Transworld, said: ‘What a joy it is to see Belinda Bauer on the Man Booker Prize longlist. I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with Belinda for ten years now, across eight brilliant books, and she has surprised and stunned me with each and every script she delivers. From her powerful and provocative debut Blacklands, through to the astonishing Rubbernecker, and now with the exquisitely crafted Snap, her writing is at once wry and playful, brave and deeply affecting. Ultimately, and never more so than with Snap, she leaves you feeling a little bit more curious about the world around you.’

 

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

About the book: Words are important to Gretel. As a child, she lived on a canal boat with her mother, and together they invented a language. She hasn’t seen her mother since the age of sixteen though, and those memories have faded. A phone call from the hospital interrupts Gretel’s isolation and throws up questions from long ago. She begins to remember the private vocabulary of her childhood. She remembers other things, too: the wild years spent on the river; the strange, lonely boy who came to stay on the boat one winter; and the creature in the water – a canal thief? – swimming upstream, getting ever closer. In the end there will be nothing for Gretel to do but go back. 

Ana Fletcher, Senior Editor at Jonathan Cape, said: ‘It’s wonderful to see Daisy Johnson’s debut novel longlisted. Everything Under is driven by the boldest of plots – ­a transgressive retelling of a classical myth – and bursting with ideas: about memory and the collective imagination, about family, motherhood and identity. Daisy’s writing on the natural world is extraordinary, and I couldn’t be happier that so many new readers will be introduced to one of the most exciting emerging voices in British fiction.’

 

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

About the book: Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility. Outside is the world from which she has been permanently severed: the San Francisco of her youth, changed almost beyond recognition. And her seven-year-old son, Jackson, now in the care of Romy’s estranged mother. Inside is a new reality to adapt to: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive. Romy sees the future stretch out ahead of her in a long, unwavering line – until news from outside brings a ferocious urgency to her existence, challenging her to escape her own destiny and culminating in a climax of almost unbearable intensity. 

Michal Shavit, Publishing Director at Jonathan Cape, said:‘A gripping, heartbreaking and truth filled novel about what it is to live and love under incarceration. A damning portrait of modern day America and injustice on an epic scale with a cast of characters that will stay with you forever. The Mars Room confirms Rachel Kushner as one of the most exciting and important writers on the world stage.’

 

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

About the book: Imagine a world very close to our own: where women are not safe in their bodies, where desperate measures are required to raise a daughter. This is the story of Grace, Lia and Sky, kept apart from the world for their own good and taught the terrible things that every woman must learn about love. And it is the story of the men who come to find them – three strangers washed up by the sea, their gazes hungry and insistent, trailing desire and destruction in their wake. The Water Cure is a fever dream, a blazing vision of suffering, sisterhood and transformation.

Simon Prosser, Publisher at Hamish Hamilton, said‘A startling fever-dream of a novel, written in luminous prose with enormous assurance, The Water Cure probes the structures of patriarchy with unforgettable lucidity. It is a terrific debut — and also the first acquisition of Hermione Thompson for the Hamish Hamilton list, so I am doubly thrilled.’ 

 

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

About the book: It is 1945, and London is reeling from the Blitz and years of war. Fourteen-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, are apparently abandoned by their parents, left in the care of an enigmatic figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and grow both more convinced and less concerned as they get to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women with a shared history, all of whom seem determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? Years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all he didn’t know or understand in that time, and it is this journey – through reality, recollection, and imagination – that is told in this magnificent novel.

Robin Robertson, Associate Publisher at Jonathan Cape, said: ‘In the wake of The English Patient’s triumph in the Golden Man Booker Prize, it is wonderful to see Michael Ondaatje’s work celebrated again, a month later, with the longlisting of his new book Warlight. This novel – his eighth – is a magisterial work of art: humane, generous, mysterious and passionate – an examination of memory, of desire and loss, truth and deceit, by one of the unarguably great writers of our time.’

 

The Overstory by Richard Powers

About the book: An Air Force loadmaster in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan. An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. These strangers – each summoned in different ways by trees – are brought together in a last and violent stand to save the continent’s few remaining acres of virgin forest. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.

Jason Arthur, Publisher of William Heinemann said: ‘Richard Powers is, to my mind, one of the greatest living American novelists. He is certainly one of the most formidable, rewarding authors I have ever read. The Overstory is endlessly fascinating, extraordinary and utterly unforgettable. It is a magnificent novel that is at once a multi-narrative epic and an encyclopaedic homage to the marvel of trees – a novel that highlights how much their catastrophic destruction will cost humanity. 

 

From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan

About the book: Farouk’s country has been torn apart by war.

Lampy’s heart has been laid waste by Chloe.

John’s past torments him as he nears his end.

The refugee. The dreamer. The penitent. From war-torn Syria to small-town Ireland, three men, scarred by all they have loved and lost, are searching for some version of home. Each is drawn towards a powerful reckoning, one that will bring them together in the most unexpected of ways.

Fiona Murphy, Publishing Director of Transworld Ireland, said: ‘From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan is a devastating exploration of love, loss, family and manhood. Weaving together the stories of Farouk, Lampy and John, it is both brilliantly constructed and a deeply compassionate excavation of the human heart. It is a small wonder of a novel. ‘

 

 

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