A Birmingham-based author’s first novel has been longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize.
Gaynor Arnold, who works for Birmingham’s Adoption and Fostering Service, has seen her debut novel, Girl in a Blue Dress, on the prestigious list which also includes Sir Salman Rushdie and Irish author Joseph O’Neill.
Arnold’s work is published by Tindal Street Press, based at the Custard Factory, which has already seen another of its authors, Catherine O’Flynn, pick up two major awards this year - Newcomer of the Year: British Book Awards 2008 and Winner of the Costa First Novel Award - for What Was Lost.
Set in Victorian England, Cardiff-born Arnold’s work is described by the publishers as “an ambitious and sympathetic account of an extraordinary celebrity marriage”.
“In Alfred Gibson the author skilfully recreates the fierce energy and brilliance of the most famous of the Victorian novelists, with a heart-warming story of first love, when a cocky young writer is smitten by a pretty girl in a blue dress.”
Also on this year’s Man Booker list is Rushdie’s new novel The Enchantress of Florence.
The British novelist won the award in 1981 with Midnight’s Children, a book which was also the recipient of the Booker of Bookers in 1993 and the Best of the Booker this year.
Sir Salman and Irish author Joseph O’Neill were immediately installed as favourites to win this year’s Man Booker.
O’Neill has been longlisted for Netherland, his third novel, which has been hailed as a post-9/11 masterpiece.
Among the 13 books longlisted this year, two are by former Booker winners and five by debut novelists.
Six of the authors are British and the others hail from Australia, Ireland, India and Pakistan.
At 81, John Berger is the oldest author on the list and nominated for his latest work From A to X.
The British novelist, painter, art historian and author of Ways of Seeing last won the prize 36 years ago for the novel cryptically entitled G.
The youngest writer on this year’s longlist is Tom Rob Smith, 29, who is longlisted for his first novel, Child 44.
Gladiator director Sir Ridley Scott snapped up the film rights to the crime novel, set in Stalin’s Russia, by the British author, who lives in London.
As well as Arnold, other first-time novelists include Aravind Adiga, from India, longlisted for The White Tiger; Australian writer Steve Toltz, for a Fraction of the Whole, and Pakistan-born Londoner Mohammed Hanif for A Case of Exploding Mangoes.
Established authors include British novelist Linda Grant, nominated for The Clothes on Their Backs, while Philip Hensher is longlisted for his latest work, The Northern Clemency, which follows two families’ fortunes from 1974 through to the mid-1990s.
The 2008 shortlist will be announced in September and the winner a month later at a ceremony in London.