THE Anglican writer Francis Spufford has made the longlist for the 2021 Booker Prize for his second novel, Light Perpetual, it was announced on Tuesday. The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams is among the judges of this year’s prize.
Light Perpetual (Faber) tells the interwoven stories of five south-London children who were among those killed in a V2 rocket attack in November 1944, and examines how their lives would have gone on to unfold if they had not been at the wrong place at the wrong time (Books, 19 February; Features, Podcast 26 February).
In a review for the Church Times, Canon Angela Tilby wrote: “The teasing premise — these children died in the bombing, and yet they might not have done — hovers over the story like a pregnant cloud. This is a history that never happened. And yet that seems to be the point. The light breaks in, ‘light perpetual’, not through what is determined, but through accident. There is no such thing as fate. I loved this book and cried at the end.”
Among the 12 other novels on the Booker Prize longlist are Klara and the Sun (Faber) by Kazuo Ishiguro; No One is Talking About This (Bloomsbury) by Patricia Lockwood, who has also written Priestdaddy: A memoir (Allen Lane) (Books, 13 April 2018); and China Room (Harvill Secker) by Sunjeev Sahota, whose previous books include The Year of the Runaways (Picador) (Books, 27 November 2015).
Lord Williams, who reviews regularly for the New Statesman, told The Guardian on Tuesday: “When you think of what’s won the Booker over the years, you want something that puts down a slightly fresh marker. . . That’s not to say you look for novelty for its own sake. The other thing about a Booker winner is that it ought to be a book that people enjoy reading, call me old-fashioned if you like. You don’t want something that is so experimental as to be highly satisfying to the author and a few ultra-sophisticated critics. You do want something that will keep people turning the pages.”
Mr Spufford’s first novel, Golden Hill (Reading Groups, 3 March 2017), won the Costa First Novel Award 2016. He has also written five works of non-fiction, including Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense (Books, 4 October 2013; Features, 7 September 2012), which was shortlisted for the 2016 Michael Ramsey Prize for Theological Writing.
Klara and the Sun is one of the books reviewed in this week’s Summer Books