• Friday, December 08, 2023


Chetna Maroo’s debut novel shortlisted for Booker Prize

The Kenya-born author’s novel is set in the context of the British Gujarati milieu

Writer Chetna Maroo (Image Credit: The Booker Prizes)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

LONDON-BASED author Chetna Maroo’s debut novel Western Lane has been shortlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize.

Kenya-born Maroo’s novel set within the context of the British Gujarati milieu has been praised by the Booker judges for its use of the sport of squash as a metaphor for complex human emotions.

It revolves around the story of an 11-year-old girl named Gopi and her bonds with her family.

“Chetna Maroo’s deeply evocative debut of a family grappling with grief conveyed through crystalline language which reverberates like the sound of a ball hit clean and hard with a close echo’. It is stunning and it stays with you,” said Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan, the chair of the Booker Prize 2023 judging panel, as she announced the shortlist.

Maroo said it would be fair to call it a sports novel.

“It’s also been called a coming-of-age novel, a domestic novel, a novel about grief, a novel about the immigrant experience. Recently a friend asked me if the book has something of the detective story about it, with Gopi trying to find her way, piecing together the clues of small gestures, actions and fragments of overheard conversations; she has little to go on and since she’s dealing with the mysteries of loss, there are no answers for her,” she said.

Sarah Bernstein’s Study for Obedience, If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery, Paul Harding’s The Other Eden, Paul Lynch’s Prophet Song and Paul Murray’s The Bee Sting complete the shortlist of six that will compete for the £50,000 prize to be unveiled on November 26 at an award ceremony in London.

“Together these works showcase the breadth of what world literature can do, while gesturing at the unease of our moment. From Bernstein and Harding’s outsiders attempting to establish lives in societies that reject them, to the often-funny struggles of Escoffery and Murray’s adolescents as they carve out identities for themselves beyond their parents’ mistakes, to Maroo and Lynch’s elegant evocations of family grief each speaks distinctly about our shared journeys while refusing to be defined as any one thing,” noted Edugyan.

“This is truly a list without borders. It includes a Briton of Indian descent, an American of Jamaican descent, a Canadian recently named one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists, and two Irish authors,” said Gaby Wood, chief executive of the Booker Prize Foundation.

“Though new to the Booker shortlist, all of these writers have been lauded elsewhere or in other ways It’s a pleasure to be bringing their extraordinary talents and vastly varied styles to Booker Prize readers and we can’t wait to hear what the thousands of members of the new Booker Prize Book Club on Facebook have to say about them,” she said.

The judges chose the final six novels from 13 longlisted titles the so-called Booker dozen which were selected from 163 books published between October last year and September this year and submitted to the prize by publishers. All the shortlisted authors receive £2,500 and a bespoke bound edition of their book.


Eastern Eye

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