Odds on Britain’s most prestigious literary award, the Man Booker Prize have been been narrowing in recent days as the winner announcement date of October 16 approaches.
The Overstory by Richard Powers is current outright favourite, with William Hill now offering odds of 11/4, down from 5/2 earlier in the week when the shortlist was originally announced.
It certainly has the pedigree of a potential winner. Described by the Guardian as an “extraordinary novel”, The Overstory details nine Americans’ experiences with trees, and their coming together to combat deforestation. The Atlantic praised Powers for his “courage and intellectual stamina to explore our most complex social questions with originality, nuance, and an innate skepticism about dogma.”
Resisting the American Invasion
Originally meant for British and Commonwealth authors, in 2014 the Booker Prize expanded to include all fiction written in English and published in the UK. The move proved highly controversial and provoked criticism from British and Commonwealth writers who, after all, were excluded from American literary prizes.
The last four winners of the prize have been men, and the most recent two have also been American, leaving some to argue that Powers’ odds are overstated and that judges will be more inclined to run with one of the four women on the six writer shortlist – Daisy Johnson, Esi Edugyan, Anna Burns or Rachel Kushner.
William Hill currently has Johnson at second favourite at 10/3 although Coral, at 5/1, appear to be less sure of the outcome. At only 28 years of age, Johnson is seen in some quarters as too young for the prize.