A novel inspired by the harrowing case of Elisabeth Fritzl, the Austrian girl who was held captive by her father in the basement of their family home for 24 years, was on Wednesday tipped as the potential winner of Britain's most prestigious literary honour after it was longlisted for this year's £50,000 Man Booker Prize.
Dublin-born writer Emma Donoghue's Room was described as a “dark novel” about a five-year-old boy who has never left the room where he was born and whose only companion is his mother.
An excited Ms. Donoghue said, it was a “Cinderella moment” for her. “I got the news in a taxi. It's been an evening of non-stop laughter and congratulations,” she added.
Another favourite was said to be Australian writer Peter Carey for Parrot and Olivier in America, a fictional biography of the philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville. He has won the Booker twice.
For the second consecutive year, there is no contender from the subcontinent for a prize that has been previously won by Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai and Aravind Adiga.
The 13-strong longlist struck critics as a bit bland with few big names despite the hype over Martin Amis's and Ian McEwan's new works. But judges hailed it as an “exceptional” collection.
“Here are thirteen exceptional novels — books we have chosen for their intrinsic quality, without reference to the past work of their authors. Wide-ranging in their geography and their concern, they tell powerful stories which make the familiar strange and cover an enormous range of history and feeling. We feel confident that they will provoke and entertain,” said Andrew Motion, former Poet Laureate and chairman of the jury.
Literary director of the Prize Ion Trewin praised the judges for discovering new names.
Others on the list include Helen Dunmore's The Betrayal, Damon Galgut's In a Strange Room, Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question, Andrea Levy's The Long Song, Tom McCarthy for C, David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Lisa Moore's February, Paul Murray for Skippy Dies, Rose Tremain for Trespass, Christos Tsiolkas' The Slap, and Alan Warner's The Stars in the Bright Sky.
A shortlist of six will be announced in September and the Prize on October 12.