If last year’s Booker Prize was consumed by controversy — the judges broke the rules and split the award between Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo — this year’s risks slipping under the radar. Early speculation that Hilary Mantel would land an unprecedented Booker hat-trick with The Mirror & the Light, the final volume in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, evaporated when it failed to graduate into the final six. The spotlight has shifted to new talent and global voices, with four of the six shortlisted authors nominated for their debut novel and all but one from outside the UK.

In other changes, the UK’s premier fiction prize for works written in English has been forced to forgo its traditional black-tie award ceremony at London’s Guildhall. In its place comes a Covid-compliant live broadcast from the Roundhouse, a more culturally gritty venue in north London. Then, organisers had to change the original date of the announcement for fears that it would be eclipsed by the much-...

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