This year marks the 50th (Golden) anniversary of the Man Booker Prize! The ‘Golden Five’ have been selected by the Prize’s judges showcasing the winning books from Man Booker history that have continued to stand the test of time.
In a free state, V.S. Naipaul
In a Free State tells first of an Indian servant in Washington, who becomes an American citizen but feels he has ceased to be a part of the flow. Then of a disturbed Asian West Indian in London who, in jail for murder, has never really known where he is. Then the central novel moves to Africa, to a fictional country something like Uganda or Rwanda. Its two main characters are English. They once found Africa liberating, but now it has gone sour on them. The land is no longer safe, and at a time of tribal conflict they have to make the long drive to the safety of their compound.
Moon Tiger, Penelope Lively
Moon Tiger is a haunting story of loss and desire, published here as a Penguin Essential for the first time. Claudia Hampton – beautiful, famous, independent, dying. But she remains defiant to the last, telling her nurses that she will write a ‘history of the world . . . and in the process, my own’. And it is her story from a childhood just after the First World War through the Second and beyond. But Claudia’s life is entwined with others and she must allow those who knew her, loved her, the chance to speak, to put across their point of view.
The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje
The final curtain is closing on the Second World War, and Hana, a nurse, stays behind in an abandoned Italian villa to tend to her only remaining patient. Rescued by Bedouins from a burning plane, he is English, anonymous, damaged beyond recognition and haunted by his memories of passion and betrayal. The only clue Hana has to his past is the one thing he clung on to through the fire – a copy of The Histories by Herodotus, covered with hand-written notes describing a painful and ultimately tragic love affair.
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
‘England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey’s clerk, and later his successor. Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.
Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body. From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm – called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo – and as ghosts mingle, squabble, gripe, and commiserate, and stony tendrils creep towards the boy, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.