Travelling the centuries with the 2013 Booker longlist

Kate Braithwaite


Six of this year’s thirteen Booker longlisted titles are historical novels, spanning the centuries from the Crucifixion to the late twentieth century. Here’s our chronological run down:

Toibin-front uk


The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin

In his short novel (just over 100 pages) acclaimed Irish novelist Toibin presents the story of Mary, a grieving mother, living in exile and piecing together the last days of the life of her son. To Mary, her son was a vulnerable figure, surrounded by men he could not trust and through the novel she emerges as a vital, memorable and impassioned character.




Harvest by Jim Crace


Harvest by Jim Crace

Harvest is Walter Thirsk’s story: the story of harvest time in his village, somewhere in England, perhaps in the 16th century, when the arrival of three strangers plunge one small hamlet into fear, the threat of witchcraft which threatens the whole community. Read our full review here.




The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Described as a ghost story and a mystery, The Luminaries is set in New Zealand in 1866. Walter Moody travels to the gold fields to make his fortune but is drawn into investigating a disappearance, a suicide attempt and a fortune found in the home of a hopeless drunk.





TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

TransAtlantic opens in 1919 with two airmen piloting the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic. But this is a book set in more than one time and place as McCann weaves his story between the centuries and the continents, back to the Civil War and the Irish Potato famine and on again to the late 1990’s and 2012.





Unexploded by Alison MacLeod

Evelyn Beaument is a mother and wife in 1940’s Brighton, struggling to cope with her young son’s fears and her husband’s job as the Superintentent of a prisoner of war camp. Evelyn meets and initially dislikes Otto Gottlieb, a Jewish painter and prisoner in the camp but her feelings change and love, art and the tension of wartime prove to be a dangerous cocktail.




The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Lahiri’s novel is an epic of family life in India. Through the years of the Vietnam War roll past two brothers find the bonds of a close childhood can be threatened by tragedy, extremism and the demands of family.



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