6 Authors you didn’t know won the Booker Prize
Penelope Lively (1987)
An award-winning author of over 20 children’s books, Penelope Lively is certainly no stranger to literary success. But for those who best recognise her name from the cover of The Ghost of Thomas Kempe, the author’s Booker Prize might come as quite a surprise.
Lively won with Moon Tiger, a story told from the hospital bed of the aged and dying Claudia Hampton. Nearing the end of her life, she begins to recreate the past in her mind, vividly revisiting the most passionate and painful parts of her own history, and confronting her personal legacy.
The book’s 1987 win was considered a shock, with other literary heavyweights expected to come out on top. Lively herself called the experience “disconcerting” as she wondered how to follow up the achievement. Luckily for fans, she needn’t have worried; the author has since penned over 20 more books for adults and children alike.
William Golding (1980)
The first of "A Sea Trilogy", the story tells of a young man’s voyage from Britain to Australia at the start of the 19th century. The narrator becomes increasingly concerned about the welfare of a passenger, before a shocking incident leaves readers doubting everything they have come to know.
Golding is said to have written the first draft of the book in just under a month; less time than a group of A Level students will have spent reading his works in class. The novelist claimed that he found his character’s voice by “transcribing conversations” he had heard in his head.
Margaret Atwood (2000)
Atwood’s novel The Blind Assassin scooped the prize in 2000, with critics lauding the work for being “far-reaching, dramatic and structurally superb”. The book is almost three novels in one, following the life of protagonist Iris Chase, her deceased sister’s posthumously published novel and the stories those fictitious characters also have to tell.
With an amazing five Booker Prize nominations under her belt, Atwood was considered to be a frontrunner for this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, resulting in winner Kazuo Ishiguro even apologising to her during his acceptance speech. Here’s hoping the author isn’t in for another 14-year wait.
Thomas Keneally (1982)
Based on true events, the 1982 novel documents the life of Oskar Schindler, a wealthy factory owner who's credited with saving over 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust. The moving story had been brought to Keneally by Holocaust survivor Poldek Pfefferberg, who he later dedicated the story to on completion. Pfefferberg would then later convince Steven Spielberg to create the motion picture. The movie has won the most awards for a film adaption of a Booker Prize-winning story.
Keneally and Pfefferberg’s extensive research can also be read in Searching for Schindler: A Memoir.
Yann Martel (2002)
Martel described his win as a “freak success”, later revealing in a Guardian interview that he had been living on £4,000 a year just two years before. But it seems a Booker Prize doesn’t quite impress everyone, as the author went on to explain that his four children have remained decidedly indifferent to the achievement.
Ian McEwan (1998)
The lesser-known novel tells the story tells of two friends who form a euthanasia pact after watching their former lover die from an agonising rapid-onset disease. But their relationship soon begins to take a disastrous turn, with both seemingly normal characters rapidly losing control.
McEwan’s win paved the way for Atonement to become the global phenomenon it still is today. Readers can also be sure he made good use of his prize money; telling reporters he would be buying “something perfectly useless", to prevent it from being frittered away on "bus fares and linoleum”. Wonderful.
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