There is much speculation, naturally, on which book will take the Man Booker Prize tonight - as far as the bookies are concerned, Hilary Mantel's Bring up the Bodies is a very narrow favourite at 6/4, just ahead of Will Self's Umbrella. There is also, as usual, a lot of talk on judging criteria and what the prize is recognising or seeking to reward, and I'd love to be a fly on the wall as the panel's deliberation and debate continues.
You can download readers' guides to the six shortlisted books (and those from the longlist which didn't make the cut), but in the spirit of getting to the nub of things, I thought I'd quote from the nicely brief assessments of the final six which appear in the current issue of Country Life:
The Lighthouse by Alison Moore - "The originality, structure and neat prose of this first novel justify its shortlisting, but it doesn't do much to lift the soul." (Kate Green)
Umbrella by Will Self - "Undoubtedly, it's the work of a brilliant mind ... but uncompromising Modernism has always been a little hard to swallow. If this wins, I'll eat my copy of Ulysses." (Emma Hughes)
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng - "This is a haunting literary novel, its writing as clear and poetic as a Japanese woodblock print, as well as a gripping story ... It deserves to win." (Leslie Geddes-Brown)
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy - "Language, imagery and recurring symbols cleverly evoke the surreal atmosphere, but for all the literary skill, I couldn't help feeling slightly annoyed by the self-consciousness, let alone exasperated by the pivotal character ..." (Mary Miers)
Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel - "... if the jury does choose it, it will prove it is guided solely by issues of quality." (Michael Hall)Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil - "Mr. Thayil's ear is better attuned to subtlety than Aravind Adiga, author of 2008 victor White Tiger, which makes for fewer belly-laughs, but a more intoxicating read." (Emma Hughes)