The shortlist is here. Who will go the distance?

So here we are with the most hotly debated annual shortlist in the English-speaking books world – the final six books vying for the Man Booker Prize 2009.

What has it boiled down to?

Summerland by JM Coetzee

The Children’s Book by AS Byatt

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer

Coetzee, if he wins, will have an unprecedented Booker hat-trick (he won previously for The Life and Times of Michael K and Disgrace). Byatt has won before. And a lot of people feel that Mantel’s time has come (she is the bookies’ favourite).

The shortlist has drawn various reactions from the quality London press. While the Observer thinks it is fiercely English centric; the Telegraph thinks this is the strongest shortlist in years; and the Times is also very supportive of the list.

What do you think?

Me, I wished Colm Toibin was on it. I am a great admirer of Coetzee’s, although his postmodern solipsism can sometimes get to me. I haven’t yet read the Mantel or the Byatt (both dauntingly long), and Adam Foulds is a great young talent. (His book-length narrative poem, The Broken Word is a compact masterpiece.) It is a very safe list, I think, heavily relying on historical fiction. And, yes, it is English centric. But then, neither of those may necessarily be a bad thing.

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