So we now know who the winner of the Man Booker Prize 2014 is. This year’s judges awarded the prize and £50,000 prize money to Richard Flanagan for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Based on the experiences of Australian POW’s building the Burma Railway for the Japanese in the Second World War, Flanagan wrote about this particular event because his own father had been one of the POW’s who built the Burma ‘Death Railway’.
Flanagan has faced some stiff competition to win this year. For the first time, the prize can be awarded to any author writing originally in English and published in the UK, which has meant that two American authors have been in the running. Also, Howard Jacobson, who won in 2010 with The Finkler Question, was in contention with his dystopia novel, J. The bookies favourite was Neel Mukherjee with The Lives of Others.
The shortlist was made up of genres which push all the Man Booker buttons. For example, Mukherjee’s novel follows in tradition of the Indian novel, which has include past winners Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy. Flanagan himself follows Thomas Keneally (Schindler’s Ark) and Peter Carey (True History of the Kelly Gang) as Australian authors who tap into historical events to create powerful works of literature.
I am looking forward to reading this years’ winner, particularly as I am already a fan of fiction which use historical context (I don’t use the term ‘historical fiction’ because it’s just too general and inaccurate, but hey, that’s just me), and judging from the reactions it has already received, I’m in for a powerful and gripping read.