Damon Galgut is ‘all the rage’ favourite to win 2021 Booker prize

Damon Galgut’s The Promise is frontrunner at the bookies to win the Booker prize this week.

Six authors are in the running for the £50,000 award, with judges chaired by historian Maya Jasanoff set to meet on Wednesday to choose their winner before the award ceremony that evening. South African novelist Galgut’s book, about a white family that fails to keep its promise to give a home to the Black woman who has worked for them her whole life in South Africa, is heading the charge, if the bookmakers are to be believed: the novel is 2/1 at both Ladbrokes and William Hill to take the prize. Galgut, who has been shortlisted twice before for the Booker but has never won, has said he felt “relief, excitement and a fair amount of anxiety” at making the shortlist.

“Damon Galgut has been all the rage with literary punters since making the shortlist, and if the money’s to be believed The Promise will land this year’s Booker,” said Ladbrokes’ Jessica O’Reilly.

The three American writers shortlisted for the Booker follow Galgut in Ladbrokes’ odds: Richard Powers’s Bewilderment, in which widowed scientist Theo struggles to raise his profoundly troubled, passionately green young son, is at 4/1; Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle, about a vanished female aviator, is at 5/1 and Patricia Lockwood’s internet-focused No One is Talking About This is at 6/1. Lockwood’s debut – the only first novel on the shortlist – is the bestselling title of the six, however, with 9,541 copies sold to date, according to the Bookseller, narrowly ahead of The Promise’s 8,844.

Nadifa Mohamed, the sole British writer to make this year’s Booker shortlist, is at 8/1 at Ladbrokes for The Fortune Men, inspired by the real-life story of a Somali seaman wrongfully convicted of murder in Wales.

Sri Lankan Anuk Arudpragasam’s A Passage North, in which a man travels across the island for the funeral of his grandmother’s former care-giver, is at 14/1. At internet betting exchange Smarkets, Matthew Shaddick said it would be “the biggest Booker shock of recent years” if Arudpragasam were to take the prize.

“The betting markets hadn’t had a very good record of predicting the winner until a few years ago, but the favourites have tended to do better recently; Douglas Stuart was the well-backed market leader last year as was Margaret Atwood in 2019 (albeit that ended up as a dead heat),” said Shaddick. “Since this year’s shortlist was announced, Richard Powers has seen his chances improve the most, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him win.”

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