Anne Tyler’s “Redhead by the Side of the Road” is also on the list. But most of the other nominated books are less high-profile, with eight by debut novelists, including C Pam Zhang’s “How Much of These Hills Is Gold,” about a Chinese American family during the Gold Rush.
Nine of the longlisted authors are women.
“The Mirror and the Light” is focused on the final years of Thomas Cromwell’s life, as the chief adviser to King Henry VIII. The book was a sensation in Britain when it was published in March, despite its length: It is 875 pages long.
“Like Henry VIII, bloat has set in,” wrote Robbie Millen, in a review for the Times of London. “It’s true that passages of noun-bloat swell the volume to gargantuan heft,” wrote Simon Schama in a review for The Financial Times, “but this reader wouldn’t want a word less.”
Parul Sehgal, in a review for The New York Times, said the length was appropriate. “This is not a young man’s book, not a book of striving,” she wrote. “It is a novel of late middle age, a novel of preserving what one has seized.”
If “The Mirror and the Light” wins, Mantel would become the first author to take the prize three times. She won in 2009 for “Wolf Hall” and again in 2012 for “Bring Up the Bodies,” the two other Cromwell novels.
Several novels in the running focus on race, including Kiley Reid’s “Such a Fun Age,” about two white people who compete for a Black woman’s attention to signal their progressive credentials. “There are voices from minorities often unheard, stories that are fresh, bold and absorbing,” said Margaret Busby, the chair of the judges, in a statement.
The other judges, who chose the 13 titles from 162 submitted books, include Lee Child, the thriller writer, and poet Lemn Sissay. A shortlist will be announced in September, and the winning title will be unveiled in November. The author of that book will receive 50,000 British pounds (about $64,000).
Last year’s prize was shared by Margaret Atwood for “The Testaments” and Bernardine Evaristo for “Girl, Woman, Other,” after the judges decided to rebel against their own rules and split the prize, a decision that was met with widespread derision.
This year’s longlist seems unlikely to cause similar controversy, although it does include six authors born in the United States, as well as three others who claim US citizenship. There have been regular complaints about Americans’ eligibility for the prize, something only allowed in 2014.
Before then, it was limited to books by writers from Britain, Ireland and Commonwealth countries (plus South Africa and, later, Zimbabwe).
The full longlist is:
Diane Cook, “The New Wilderness”
Tsitsi Dangarembga, “This Mournable Body”
Avni Doshi, “Burnt Sugar”
Gabriel Krauze, “Who They Was”
Hilary Mantel, “The Mirror and the Light”
Colum McCann, “Apeirogon”
Maaza Mengiste, “The Shadow King”
Kiley Reid, “Such a Fun Age”
Brandon Taylor, “Real Life”
Anne Tyler, “Redhead by the Side of the Road”
Douglas Stuart, “Shuggie Bain”
Sophie Ward, “Love and Other Thought Experiments”
C Pam Zhang, “How Much of These Hills Is Gold”
© 2020 New York Times News Service