The Best Novels of 2015
- by Alex Preston/ Books/ The Guardian/ theguardian.com
"A truly vintage year for fiction with a strong Booker shortlist, dazzling debuts and a real masterpiece from an old hand.
This has been quite a year for the novel, one of those exquisite vintages that come along every decade or so and scotch any critical doom-mongering about the death of the form. It was such a good year that one doesn’t know whether to envy the Man Booker judges the delights of a summer spent devouring novel after magnificent novel, or pity them for having to narrow the books down to a (baker’s) dozen, then six, then to Marlon James’s deserved winner, the violent, polyphonic, masterful A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld). The best winning novel since Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty in 2004, or so it seemed to me as I read it over one white-knuckle weekend.
Joining James on the Man Booker shortlist were three other novels of extraordinary power, any of which would have made a fine winner (I’ll pass over Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread and Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island, both of which felt like the minor novels of major novelists). A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador) was the bookmakers’ favourite in the run-up to the prize, and although it divided critics, I thought the wretched protagonist, Jude St Francis, and his self-inflicted agonies beautifully rendered, the novel’s uncanny allegorical atmosphere unlike anything I’ve read before. The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota (Picador) was a quietly devastating examination of immigrant lives, moving between brutal subcontinental poverty and drab subsistence in Sheffield. The Fishermen (One/Pushkin Press), Chigozie Obioma’s first novel, laced Greek tragedy and African folklore into a withering allegory of contemporary Nigeria. The best debut of the year by some distance..."
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