• Monday, December 11, 2023


British Indian author Chetna Maroo’s debut novel on Booker longlist

Maroo’s novel, set within the British Gujarati community, was praised by the Booker judges for its use of the sport of squash as a metaphor for complex human emotions

Writer Chetna Maroo (Image Credit: The Booker Prizes)

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

London-based author Chetna Maroo’s debut novel, Western Lane, is among 13 books to make the cut for the 2023 Booker Prize longlist revealed on Tuesday (1).

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

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

“Skilfully deploying the sport of squash as both context and metaphor, ‘Western Lane’ is a deeply evocative debut about 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’,” said the Booker Prize judging panel, chaired by twice Booker-shortlisted Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan.

The 2023 Booker Prize winner will be announced on November 26 at a ceremony in London.

The winner receives £50,000 and a trophy named “Iris” in honour of the 1978 Booker Prize-winning Irish-British author Iris Murdoch.

Western Lane is one of four debut novels that make up this year’s so-called “Booker Dozen” of 13 longlisted books, alongside If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery; Pearl by Siân Hughes and All the Little Bird-Hearts by Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow.

Sebastian Barry’s Old God’s Time; Paul Harding’s The Other Eden, Ayobami Adebayo’s A Spell of Good Things; Paul Lynch’s Prophet Song, Martin Macinnes’ In Ascension; Tan Twan Eng’s The House of Doors; Paul Murray’s The Bee Sting; Sarah Bernstein’s Study for Obedience and Elaine Feeney’s How to Build a Boat make up the rest of the longlist.

The 13 books, whose authors are from Malaysia, Nigeria, Ireland, Canada, the US and the UK, explore universal and topical themes – from personal drama and family sagas to the effects of climate change, the oppression of minorities, scientific breakthroughs and competitive sport.

“The list is defined by its freshness – by the irreverence of new voices, by the iconoclasm of established ones,” said Edugyan.

“All 13 novels cast new light on what it means to exist in our time, and they do so in original and thrilling ways. Their range is vast, both in subject and form: they shocked us, made us laugh, filled us with anguish, but above all, they stayed with us. This is a list to excite, challenge, delight, a list to bring wonder. The novels are small revolutions, each seeking to energise and awaken the language.

“Together – whether historical or contemporary – they offer startling portraits of the current,” she added.

Edugyan was joined on the judging panel by British actor, writer and director Adjoa Andoh; Hong Kong Chinese poet, lecturer, editor and critic Mary Jean Chan; American author and professor James Shapiro; and British actor and writer Robert Webb.

Their selection was made from 163 books published between October 2022 and September 2023 and submitted by publishers.

The Booker Prize is open annually to works of long-form fiction by writers of any nationality, written in English and published in the UK or Ireland.

“The range of experience, expertise and sensibility among this year’s judges led them to seek novels that both advanced the form and allowed the reader to understand something about the world; books that would have impact and longevity; books that moved them – and above all, books of such excellence and subtlety that the judges looked forward to re-reading them,” said Gaby Wood, Chief Executive of the Booker Prize Foundation.

The longlist will be whittled down to a shortlist of six books, to be announced on September 21 at an event at the newly reopened National Portrait Gallery in London.

The shortlisted authors will each receive £2,500 and a specially-bound edition of their book.

Eastern Eye

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