The Booker Prize: Still Relevant?

BY CLAIRE BOTHWELL

Books-Ian Wilson-Flickr

Hilary Mantel has won the Man Booker Prize 2012, for her novel Bringing Up The Bodies– a historical novel about Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII. She is only the third author to win the prize twice and also the first woman. She is also the first author to win with a sequel. In 2009 she won with her first novel about Thomas Cromwell, the grandiose Wolf Hall.

But what effect does this award really have? Is it a mere publicity stunt to boost sales for the publisher, or does it have greater literary importance? As a student of English, I would like to hope it does mean something for literature and with judges taking over nine months to critique the lo

ng-list of 145 novels, there must be some point.

The benefit for the public is definitely awareness of high quality texts. Hilary Mantel’s novel was praised for having appeal to both critics and the reading public. Whether or not you agree that Bringing Up The Bodies was the best, the competition definitely encourages reading.

The other obvious benefit is the increase in sales: even books that don’t win the prize will still benefit from the media spotlight, particularly the five runners-up including Will Self’s novel Umbrella and Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse. Even being considered for the prize marks them as high class authors, therefore making them worth more both in opinion and publishing status.

So is it all just a big publicity stunt then? Well yes, but it is also an opportunity to honour and set aside the great writers of our time. As for Mantel, she is now basking in the glory of this prize but the greater reward will come with her third book in the series- which is now even more anticipated.

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