Newbury independent publisher reaches long list for Booker Prize

On the long list for this year’s Booker Prize is a book published by an independent publisher based in Newbury – An Island, by South African author Karen Jennings (Holland House Books).

Robert Peett is the founder and editor of Holland House Books, specializing in literary and non-fiction fiction, crime and historical fiction. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and regularly lectures and teaches masterclasses at the University of Reading; these led to paid internships in Holland House’s Novella project aimed at increasing the diversity of writers and publishing professionals, supported by the Arts Council.

The Booker Prize is the leading literary prize in the English-speaking world and has brought recognition, recognition and readership to outstanding works of fiction for more than five decades. Each year, the prize is awarded to what is, in the opinion of the judges, the best novel of the year written in English and published in the UK and Ireland. It is an award that transforms the career of the winner.

An island (50448656)

The winner receives £ 50,000 plus £ 2,500 awarded to each of the six shortlisted authors. The winner and shortlisted authors are guaranteed a worldwide readership and a dramatic increase in book sales.

Robert admits he was “essentially surprised” when he learned that An Island had been shortlisted. “Publishers are allowed to list their best books for the prize,” he said. “And then five judges read them all – and it’s a very solid panel of judges. You only have to look at some of those who are not selected to see how difficult it is. Getting into an island was part of a problem. belief statement in the book.

He said the publication of Karen’s book was never in doubt. “This is a beautifully constructed and deep novel with written global relevance, as the judges put it” majestic and extraordinary prose. “

Karen Jennings Photo Carol Coelho
Karen Jennings Photo Carol Coelho

As for his chances of being on the shortlist, he thinks that’s impossible to say and that they had no hope. “The others are very powerful so that’s just what the judges feel when they reread them and start arguing. We assume that it won’t be shortlisted, not because of a lack of confidence in the book, but because it is more secure.

Holland House Books was established nine years ago, but it’s a feat for a freelance publisher like Holland House to be listed. As Robert explained: “Independent is a misleading term – it just means not being part of a large group. But Faber is an independent and it’s a very big company with a lot of power. We’re a small press, and very few of them make the long list – we’re the only ones this year. “

Reaching the long list has already brought benefits. “We have become better known and have sold rights all over the world, from the United States to Russia. Now we have to build on it. We might even get our books revised now – not a single major newspaper or magazine has rated An Island. “

The preselection will be unveiled on September 14.

The long list of the Booker Prize 2021 is:

A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books, Granta Publications)

Second place, Rachel Cusk, (Faber)

The Promise, Damon Galgut, (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)

The Softness of Water, Nathan Harris (Tinder Press, Headline, Hachette Book Group)

Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)

An Island, Karen Jennings (Holland House Books)

A town called Solace, Mary Lawson (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)

Nobody Talks About It, Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)

The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohamed (Viking, Penguin General, PRH)

Perplexity, Richard Powers (Hutchinson Heinemann, PRH)

China Room, Sunjeev Sahota (Harvill Secker, Vintage, PRH)

Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers, PRH)

Perpetual Light, Francis Spufford (Faber)

An island

Samuel lived alone for a long time; one morning, he discovers that the sea has brought someone to offer him company and threaten his loneliness …

A young refugee stranded unconscious on the beach of a small island inhabited by Samuel, a former lighthouse keeper. Destabilized, Samuel is quickly carried away by the memories of his former life on the continent: a life which saw his country suffer under the colonizers, then fight for independence, to fall under the reign of a cruel dictator; and it recalls its own part in its history. In the presence of this new man, he begins to think, as he did in his youth, about what is meant by land and to whom it should belong. How far will a person go to ensure that what is theirs is not taken away?

A novel about guilt and fear, friendship and rejection; on the sense of home.

About the Author

Karen Jennings is a South African author. Her first novel, Finding Soutbek, was shortlisted for the Etisalat Prize for African Fiction. Her memoir, Travels with my Father, was published in 2016, and in 2018, she published her first collection of poetry, Space Inhabited by Echoes. Currently living in Brazil, Karen completed postdoctoral research at the Federal University of Goiás last year on the historical relationship between science and literature, with a focus on eusocial insects. Karen works with the mentorship programs run by Writivism and Short Story Day Africa, both of which promote writing in Africa. His interests lie in colonialism, historically and in the lasting impact it has had on the African continent and beyond.


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