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The Booker bridesmaids

September 26, 2005

The nominations are in and all that's left for book-lovers to do now is wait for October 10, when the Man Booker jury picks a winner from its six shortlisted titles. But spare a thought for the 11 titles on the longlist that didn't make it to the final selection.

image Posterity, that most reliable of judges, often has the last laugh in these things, so don't be too surprised if, 30 years from now, the consensus is that the real masterpiece of 2005 was one of the books that never made it anywhere near the grand prize. Like one of these.

A Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

With a title like that, it's easy to see why Amazon briefly slotted it under the 'Science and Engineering' section of its web site; but this is fiction, and one of the more unusual success stories of the year.

Two sisters, Nadezhda and Vera, are shocked out of their wits when their 84-year-old father announces that he plans to marry a woman nearly half a century younger than him -- especially when it becomes clear that the lady in question is a gold-digger, prepared to do anything to stay in England.

Meanwhile, the aging papa is writing -- you guessed it -- a history of tractors in Ukrainian. Some critics say this novel is riding a wave of success purely because of the exotica factor, but there's no doubting that it's a lot of fun.

Saturday by Ian McEwan (Rs 795)

So star-studded was this year's longlist that it was inevitable that at least a few big names would be left out. Duly, Salman Rushdie (Shalimar The Clown) and J M Coetzee (Slow Man) fell by the wayside.

But the big shock for most pundits was the exclusion of Ian McEwan, whose latest novel has been one of the year's biggest releases. This day-in-the-life novel uses a London neurosurgeon's 24-hour odyssey to examine the complexities and insecurities of the world post-9/11.

The People's Act Of Love by James Meek

Arguably the most acclaimed title to be left off the final selection, this was seen as a dark horse for the 2005 Booker before the shortlist was announced.

Set in a remote Siberian town, this book tells the story of an escaped convict who wanders into an isolated community, even as a regiment of Czech soldiers waits for the opportunity to get back home.

'The People's Act Of Love will be read, referenced, studied and talked about for years to come," gushed The Guardian review. Take that with a pinch of salt though: the author works for the newspaper!
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