London-based Indian-descent writer Chetna Maroo’s first-ever book titled ‘Western Lane’ has been selected among the 13 books announced on Tuesday, August 1, for the 2023 Booker Prize longlist. The novel, written by the Kenya-born Maroo, takes place in the backdrop of the British Gujarati community and has garnered acclaim from the Booker judges for its skillful use of the sport of squash as a metaphor to depict intricate human emotions.
The storyline revolves around an 11-year-old girl named Gopi and her profound connections with her family. The Booker Prize judging panel, led by Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan, who has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize twice, commended ‘Western Lane’ for its ability to artfully weave the sport of squash into both context and metaphor.
They described the book as a profoundly evocative debut, centred around a family grappling with grief, conveyed through exquisite language that resonates akin to the sound “of a ball hit clean and hard… with a close echo.”
The “Booker Dozen” longlist for this year’s prestigious Booker Prize consists of 13 remarkable books, with four debut novels among them. Chetna Maroo’s ‘Western Lane’ stands as one of the notable debuts, accompanied by Jonathan Escoffery’s ‘If I Survive You’, Siân Hughes’ ‘Pearl’, and Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow’s ‘All the Little Bird-Hearts’.
The longlist also features exceptional works from established authors, including Sebastian Barry’s ‘Old God’s Time’, Paul Harding’s ‘The Other Eden’, Ayobami Adebayo’s ‘A Spell of Good Things’, Paul Lynch’s ‘Prophet Song’, Martin Macinnes’ ‘In Ascension’, Tan Twan Eng’s ‘The House of Doors’, Paul Murray’s ‘The Bee Sting’, Sarah Bernstein’s ‘Study for Obedience’, and Elaine Feeney’s ‘How to Build a Boat’.
The authors of these diverse and captivating books hail from Malaysia, Nigeria, Ireland, Canada, the US, and the UK. Their narratives delve into a wide array of universal and contemporary themes, encompassing deeply moving personal dramas, tragicomic family sagas, the impact of climate change, the struggles of minorities, scientific breakthroughs, and the world of competitive sport.
Esi Edugyan, the chair of the Booker Prize judging panel, expressed that the list is distinguished by its freshness and features both irreverent voices and the iconoclasm of established writers.
“All 13 novels cast new light on what it means to exist in our time, and they do so in original and thrilling ways. Their range is vast, both in subject and form: they shocked us, made us laugh, filled us with anguish, but above all, they stayed with us. This is a list to excite, challenge, delight, a list to bring wonder,” expressed Esi Edugyan, the chair of the Booker Prize judging panel.
“The novels are small revolutions, each seeking to energise and awaken the language. Together – whether historical or contemporary – they offer startling portraits of the current,” she added.
Joining Edugyan on the panel were British actor, writer, and director Adjoa Andoh; Hong Kong Chinese poet, lecturer, editor, and critic Mary Jean Chan; American author and professor James Shapiro; and British actor and writer Robert Webb.
The panel’s selection process involved assessing 163 books published between October 2022 and September 2023, all submitted by various publishers. The Booker Prize remains an annual platform open to long-form fiction works by writers of any nationality, written in English, and published in the UK or Ireland.
Gaby Wood, Chief Executive of the Booker Prize Foundation, emphasised the diverse range of experiences, expertise, and sensibilities among this year’s judges, which led them to seek novels that not only pushed the boundaries of the literary form but also offered profound insights into the world. Their aim was to find books with a lasting impact and enduring qualities – works that moved them deeply and, above all, displayed exceptional excellence and subtlety, prompting the judges to look forward to revisiting them.
The longlist, comprising 13 novels, will undergo a selection process to be narrowed down to a shortlist of six books. This highly anticipated shortlist will be disclosed on September 21 during an event held at the recently reopened National Portrait Gallery in London. Each of the authors who make it to the shortlist will be granted GBP 2,500 along with a specially-bound edition of their respective book as acknowledgment of their achievement.
The 2023 Booker Prize winner will be revealed on November 26 at a prestigious award ceremony in London. The recipient of this esteemed literary prize will be bestowed with a significant reward of GBP 50,000, and in tribute to the renowned Irish-British author Iris Murdoch, the trophy presented to the winner is named “Iris,” commemorating her victory in the 1978 Booker Prize.