The Gathering, a novel by 45-year-old Irish writer Anne Enright, mother of two, described as "the intellectual equivalent of a Hollywood weepie" won the prestigious Man Booker Prize of £52,500.
A rank outsider, her surprise choice dashed the hope of Indian author Indra Sinha, whose win would have secured the Prize for an Indian writer for two successive years. But her win was a sort of record, women authors outracing male writers for two years running.
Jumping with joy, Enright almost wept as she was cheered by invitees at the ornate Guildhall. "I am still churning it through…Tomorrow, I'll wake up and go 'whoopee'. I was ready for anything — possibly anything except that (award)."
The critics were stunned, too, when her name was announced by panel chairman Sir Howard Davies, as her book had sold the least, about seven per cent of books by all the short-listed novelists – a little over 3,000 copies as against McEwan's total of 120,362.
Both she and Sinha had odds of 12/1. Now, however, as Waterstones, said to be the biggest book store in Europe told HT, sales of her not only the winning book would be boosted but the three upcoming novels would also get a good start.
The Gathering's story about an Irish woman, who is prompted by her brother's suicide, to revisit three generations of history of her large, dysfunctional family, apparently impressed the panel of judges tremendously. Sir Howard Davies said, "We found it a very powerful, uncomfortable and even, at times, an angry book."
"It is an unflinching look at a grieving family in striking language. She is impressive and we expect to hear a lot more from her... It has the most brilliant last line I have ever read."
Other judges also described Enright's novel as a "bleak" tale of three generations of an Irish family harbouring secrets…powerful, uncomfortable and unflinching. Enright herself has said, "When people pick up a book they may want something that will cheer them up. In that case they should not really pick up my book."
Sinha, however, received some consolation. Sir Howard, criticising the stress of reviewers on established writers while giving short-shrift to lesser known writers, mentioned Sinha's Animal's People as having received less attention than it deserved.
A former ad writer and activist, who spent all his earnings on helping the trust for rehabilitation and care of the victims of Bhopal Gas tragedy, Sinha told HT earlier that he was content that through the debate over his book, after it was short-listed, he made the world aware of the devastation wrought to people like his main character, Sunil, to hundreds of thousands of people in Bhopal.