Real Life – Booker Prize Shortlist 2020

by Brandon Taylor

£9.99


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Fiction

Paperback

9781911547747

Published by Daunt Books Publishing

Published July 2020

Books > Book Awards

LONGLISTED FOR THE 2020 BOOKER PRIZE

Wallace has spent his summer in the lab breeding a strain of microscopic worms. He is four years into a biochemistry degree at a lakeside Midwestern university, a life that’s a world away from his childhood in Alabama. His father died a few weeks ago, but Wallace didn’t go back for the funeral, and he hasn’t told his friends – Miller, Yngve, Cole and Emma. For reasons of self-preservation, he has become used to keeping a wary distance even from those closest to him. But, over the course of one blustery end-of-summer weekend, the destruction of his work and a series of intense confrontations force Wallace to grapple with both the trauma of the past, and the question of the future.

Deftly zooming in and out of focus, Real Life is a deeply affecting story about the emotional cost of reckoning with desire, and overcoming pain.

‘This debut is a fresh take on the age-old ‘campus novel’ tradition, providing a deeply painful, nuanced account of microaggressions, abuse, racism, homophobia, trauma, grief and alienation. We admired the vivid ways the book evokes daily, repetitive action as well as memory and fantasy to get at its profound central question: what is ‘real life’ anyway?’ – Booker Prize judges

‘With the rigour of the laboratory, Taylor wields scalpel-like prose, putting human behaviours under the microscope . . . precise and masterly.’ – Financial Times

‘An elegant take on the “campus novel” and a deeply moving study of race, grief and desire.’ – Sunday Times

‘Real Life is a tender, deeply-felt, perfectly-paced novel about solitude and society, sexuality and race. It explores what the past means and, with brilliance and sympathy, dramatizes the intricacies of love and grief.’ – Colm Tóibín

‘A stunning debut . . . There is delicacy in the details of working in a lab full of microbes and pipettes that dances across the pages like the feet of a Cunningham dancer: pure, precise poetry.’ – New York Times

‘A manual for life that I wish I’d had sooner.’ – Naoise Dolan, author of Exciting Times

‘A campus novel imagined from the vantage of a character who is usually shunted to the sidelines . . . [Taylor] endows his narrative with the precision of science and the intimacy of memoir.’ – The New Yorker

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