Not the Booker prize 2019: three more finalists revealed


After the public vote last week, our judges and book champions reveal their choices to complete the six-novel field. Let’s start reading!

We now have a full size Not the Booker prize shortlist. Following on from the public vote, our judges from last year have selected Spring by Ali Smith, while our nominated book champions from Storyhouse library in Chester and Golden Hare Books in Edinburgh have chosen Flames by Robbie Arnott and Supper Club by Lara Williams respectively.

I’m eager to read these new additions – not least because I’ve read what our expert team of selectors have to say about them.

It interweaves the story of the McAllister family with a cast of characters including a grumpy coffin-maker, a fisherman who hunts with a seal, a river god, an alcoholic private detective and an increasingly unhinged wombat farmer. Each of these characters has a very different voice and style, and Arnott is unafraid to experiment with different narrative forms … the way these seemingly disparate characters interact with each other is deftly done and the ending had me in tears. This book has been nominated for Australian literary prizes but definitely deserves a wider readership in other countries.

Our selection caused a lot of discussion but, in the end, we went with the brilliant debut Supper Club. A powerfully visceral read, it tells the story of a secret society of women hungry for more than the awful men in their lives can ever give them. Determined to be more than their lot, they quaff, sing and dance until their bodies grow huge from their defiance. Truly brilliant dark fiction with a cover to die for. We also had the pleasure of hosting Lara for the launch for Supper Club, and can vouch she is as excellent a human as she is a writer. We’re really excited about this new talent and we hope she wins!

Spring is the third of Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet, a highlight of each literary year with their rhythmic examination of contemporaneous events through wordplay, historical resonance, female artists who capture past decades (here Katherine Mansfield and the 1920s), Dickens, Charlie Chaplin and Shakespeare’s late romances (here Pericles). [Read his full review on Goodreads here.]

Spring is, to me, a profoundly affecting book: about ways of seeing, ways of knowing, ways of understanding, ways of loving. The book’s coincidences, in the words of one of the characters in the book, are of the kind “that sends electricity through the truths of our lives.”

Spring is a timely and powerful novel which touches on the crises of our contemporary world while maintaining a strong core of humanity and a dash of humour.

12. Three readers will be selected by the Guardian to form a panel of judges from those readers who have made substantial contributions to the discussion of the shortlisted books. The process by which these readers are chosen is also left studiously vague and at the Guardian’s discretion. These judges undertake to read at least three of the six-book shortlist before the final judging meeting.

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