Boyd Tonkin,writing in The Independent saysthe judges have made “possibly the worst, certainly the most perverse, and perhaps the most indefensible choice in the 36-year history of the contest… they selected an icy and over-controlled exercise in coterie aestheticism ahead of a short-list, and a long list, packed with a plenitude of riches and delights.”

But according to The Scotsman’s Allan Massie, it’sa novel in which all Banville’s “remarkable gifts come together to produce a real work of art, disquieting, disturbing, beautiful, intelligent, and in the end, surprisingly, offering consolation.”

One thing is certain – Banville doesn’t hold back on the briny adjectives. By page one, he’s already called the sea “that vast bowl of water bulging like a blister, lead-blue and malignantly agleam.” You almost feel as though you are in danger of choking on excessive adjectives before you’ve even started, says Finlo Rohrer in BBC News. Perhaps Banville, a former newspaper sub-editor – and former literary editor of The Irish Times – is “resistant to editing.”

Banville faced down stiff competition – including some of the darlings of the literary world, says Dan Alberge in The Times: Julian Barnes, Sebastian Barry, Zadie Smith and Ali Smith – to nab pride of place on the Booker shelf.

It was a reversal of fortunes for the author who lost out in 1989 when his novel The Book Of Evidence was short-listed for the Booker Prize, but ultimately beaten by Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains Of The Day. This year, Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go was the hot favourite before being eclipsed by The Sea which Ladbrokes had given less favourable odds of 13-2.

By all accounts, the decision was not easily made. But in true Brit style, the one-hour judging session remained “civilised,” says Sutherland: “No-one’s children were being slaughtered.” There were six novels that “were all good, and then a bloody guillotine is coming down on your head in an hour. The discussion could have gone on for three days. There’s something abnormal about these novels competing. It’s very sad that you have to have a gladiatorial combat to get people to read good novels.”

For reviews of all the shortlist (and longlist) Booker nominees, click here.

Peter Fray

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