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Booker Prize winner announced early

Berkeley Squares can exclusively reveal that the winner of the 2017 Booker Prize, the prestigious book award, will be George Saunders. We think. Possibly.

Officially, the announcement of the winner takes place in late October, in time for the Christmas market. Berkeley Squares is taking the unusual step of reporting it in advance, partly because it is so boring to wait for anything and partly because we decided that, bearing in mind the high price of books and the demographics of our readership, announcing it early would allow you all to start saving your pennies early. We always put you first.

A surprise omission from the shortlist was Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. It was a surprise to us anyway. Had she made it through to the final this would have been the second bite of success for British Indian Roy, having previously won the prize 25 years ago with God of Small Things – a lackadaisical near copy of Salmon Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. But Arundhati Roy is not as original an author as she thinks, and perhaps the world has moved on from her magical realism and tales of ghosts and spirits, once very trendy at the best Islington dinner parties. Ultimately, the Booker is more about the zeitgeist than literature.

Another surprise omission was The Underground Railway – a story of slaves escaping to the north through secret routes and safe-houses. If you think that is a gruelling story don not even bother with shortlisted Paul Astor’s 4321. It is not the subject matter that is the problem, just that, at nearly 900 pages, you have really got to be in the right mood and for a very long time. The good news is that it is only £4.99 on Amazon.

On the other hand, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is a much better offering. It charts President Lincoln’s mourning for his 11-year-old son at the start the American Civil War. The multi-narrative ensemble will be considered pretentious by some, largely because it is; it chronicles a state of purgatory and challenges the contrasts between the personal and the private. But at least it is not as pretentious as Ali Smith’s Autumn, another shortlisted contender this year. Nothing could be.

George Saunders is a previous winner of the Pulitzer Prize and may be better known to Berkeley Squares readers for his short stories (which are better). If you have not read any of his works already, now is the time. After he wins, it will be too late, though this book is never going to be made into a film, so do not wait up for that.

We think he deserves to win. Maybe it will.