Enright’s weepie novel proves Booker bookmakers wrong again

By Prasun Sonwalkar, IANS

London : In the end, the bookies got it wrong for the fifth year in succession and the Man Booker prize lived up to its reputation of producing surprise results as Anne Enright emerged the winner of this year’s edition of the prestigious prize Tuesday night for her brooding novel, ‘The Gathering’.

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Enright, 45, is the second Irish woman to win the prize, joining compatriots Iris Murdoch, Roddy Doyle and John Banville who won the prize in 1978, 1993 and 2005 respectively. She wins £50,000 of the prize money, which also guarantees large sales of her novel.

Chair of the judges, Howard Davies, announced the winner on the BBC Ten O’ Clock News, at the awards dinner at the Guildhall, London. Last year’s Man Booker winner was Indian-origin writer Kiran Desai for her book, ‘The Inheritance of Loss’.

Davies said: “The Gathering is an unflinching look at a grieving family. It’s the bleakness of one woman’s vision, a bleakness rooted in her family, her marriage and the death of her brother.”

“We think she is an impressive novelist, we expect to hear a lot more from her. The book is powerful, it pulls you along and it has an absolutely brilliant ending. It has one of the best last sentences of any novel I have ever read.”

Davies said that the winning title was ‘bleak’ and ‘depressing’ but went on to explain that the family epic was a ‘very readable and satisfying novel’.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Enright admitted that “when people pick up a book they may want something that will cheer them up, in that case they shouldn’t really pick up my book… my book is the equivalent of a Hollywood weepie.”

Davies confirmed that the judges’ decision had been unanimous. He divulged that when they had put ‘The Gathering’ on the long-list they “didn’t expect it to emerge as a winner.” He went on to say, “It is a very intense piece of writing which does repay re-reading.”

Enright was born in Dublin where she continues to live and work. She is the author of three previous novels: The Wig My Father Wore (1995), What Are You Like? (2000) and The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch (2002). Reviewers have called her winning book ‘distinctive’ in its ‘exhilarating bleakness’.

Each of the six shortlisted authors, including the winner, receives £2,500 and a designer-bound edition of their book.

Enright’s victory once again proved bookmakers wrong for the fifth year in succession. This year, the favourites were Ian McEwan’s ‘On Chesil Beach’ and Lloyd Jones’ novel ‘Mister Pip’. Since 2002, bookers’ favourites have not gone on to win the prize.

Sinha’s “Animal People” was among the six books short-listed for the award. The Man Booker Prize panel said about Sinha and his book: “Indra Sinha is an engaged campaigning novelist. The book clearly draws from real life events in Bhopal, but is a sustained imaginative creation in its own right, with intriguing parallel use of new media.”

Besides Sinha’s book and Enright’s ‘the Gathering’ , the other four short-listed books were: “Darkmans” by Nicola Barker, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid, “Mister Pip” by Lloyd Jones, and “On Chesil Beach” by Ian McEwan.

The judging panel for the 2007 Man Booker Prize for Fiction is: Howard Davies, director of the London School of Economics and Political Science; Wendy Cope, poet; Giles Foden, journalist and author; Ruth Scurr, biographer and critic; and Imogen Stubbs, actor and writer.