LONDON – A childhood tale set in Libya, a 19th-century Australian saga and a story of love and loss in World War II are among the finalists announced Thursday for the Man Booker Prize, Britain's most prestigious award for fiction.
As usual, the choices were contentious, with several of the most hotly touted entries failing to make the cut.
The six books shortlisted by a panel of judges are: "In the Country of Men," Hisham Matar's semi-autobiographical first novel about childhood in Moammar Gadhafi's Libya; "The Secret River," Kate Grenville's tale of life in an Australian penal colony; "The Night Watch," British writer Sarah Waters' novel about characters whose fates intertwine during World War II; "The Inheritance of Loss," Indian writer Kiran Desai's cross-continental saga set in New York and India; "Carry Me Down," the story of an unusual boy, by Irish-Australian novelist M.J. Hyland; and "Mother's Milk," a portrait of a rich but dysfunctional family by English writer Edward St. Aubyn.
"Each of these novels has what we as judges were most looking for: a distinctive, original voice and audacious imagination that takes readers to undiscovered countries of the mind, a strong power of storytelling and a historical truthfulness," said critic Hermione Lee, who heads this year's judging panel.
The winner of the $94,000 award will be announced at a ceremony in London on Oct. 10.
Some of the biggest names on the 19-book longlist did not make the cut, including David Mitchell, whose "Black Swan Green" had been a favorite, and Australia's Peter Carey, a two-time Booker winner longlisted for "Theft: A Love Story."
Andrew O'Hagan's "Be Near Me," another critical favorite, also was omitted.
"These were all books that had extremely strong support and books which we thought were really considerable and moving and impressive, but in the end, some books are more exciting and interesting to you than others," Lee said.
The prize, open to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth of former British colonies, was founded in 1969 and long known as the Booker Prize. It was renamed when the financial services conglomerate Man Group PLC began sponsoring it four years ago.