Six novels were shortlisted for the Booker Prize in September - here are extracts from each.
CLOUD ATLAS, BY DAVID MITCHELL
Thursday, 7th November
Beyond the Indian hamlet, upon a forlorn strand, I happened on a trail of recent footprints.
Through rotting kelp, sea cocoanuts & bamboo, the tracks led me to their maker, a white man, his trowzers & Pea-jacket rolled up, sporting a kempt beard & an outsized Beaver, shovelling & sifting the cindery sand with a tea-spoon so intently that he noticed me only after I had hailed him from ten yards away.
Granta magazine named Mitchell as one of 2003's best young British novelists
Thus it was, I made the acquaintance of Dr Henry Goose, surgeon to the London nobility. His nationality was no surprise.
If there be any eyrie so desolate, or isle so remote that one may there resort unchallenged by an Englishman, 'tis not down on any map I ever saw.
Had the doctor misplaced anything on that dismal shore? Could I render assistance? Dr Goose shook his head, knotted loose his 'kerchief & displayed its contents with clear pride.
'Teeth, sir, are the enamelled grails of the quest in hand. In days gone by this Arcadian strand was a cannibals' banqueting hall, yes, where the strong engorged themselves on the weak.
The teeth, they spat out, as you or I would expel cherry stones. But these base molars, sir, shall be transmuted to gold & how? An artisan of Piccadilly who fashions denture-sets for the nobility pays handsomely for human gnashers. Do you know the price a quarter pound will earn, sir?'
I confessed I did not.
THE LINE OF BEAUTY, BY ALAN HOLLINGHURST
Peter Crowther's book on the election was already in the shops. It was called Landslide!, and the witty assistant at Dillon's had arranged the window in a scaled-down version of that natural disaster.
The Line of Beauty is Alan Hollinghurst's fourth novel
The pale-gilt image of the triumphant Prime Minister rushed towards the customer in a gleaming slippage.
Nick stopped in the street, and then went in to look at a copy. He had met Peter Crowther once, and heard him described as a hack and also as a 'mordant analyst': his faint smile, as he flicked through the pages, concealed his uncertainty as to which account was nearer the truth.
There was clearly something hacklike in the speed of publication, only two months after the event; and in the actual writing, of course.
The book's mordancy seemed to be reserved for the efforts of the Opposition.
Nick looked carefully at the photographs, but only one of them had Gerald in it: a group picture of 'The 101 New Tory MPs', in which he'd been clever enough, or quick enough, to get into the front row.
He sat there smiling and staring as if in his own mind it was already the front bench.
THE MASTER, BY COLM TOIBIN
In these days after his opening night and his return from Ireland he discovered that he could control the sadness which certain memories brought with them.
Toibin's The Blackwater Lightship was shortlisted for the Booker Prize
When sorrows and fears and terrors came to him in the time after he woke, or in the night, they were like servants come to light a lamp or take away a tray.
Carefully trained over years, they would soon disappear of their own accord, knowing not to linger.
Nonetheless, he remembered the shock and the shame of the opening night of Guy Domville.
He told himself that the memory would fade, and with that admonition he tried to put all thoughts of his failure out of his mind.
Instead, he thought about money, going over amounts he had received and amounts due; he thought of travel, where he would go and when.
He thought of work, ideas and characters, moments of clarity. He controlled these thoughts, he knew that they were like candles leading him through the dark.
They could easily, if he did not concentrate, be snuffed out and he would again be pondering defeats and disappointments, which if not managed could lead to thoughts that left him desperate and afraid.
ELECTRIC MICHELANGELO, BY SARAH HALL
The trick of course was to not look down. The trick was to concentrate and pretend to be observing the view or counting seagulls on the sill outside.
Sarah Hall's novel was nominated for the Orange Prize for Fiction
If he kept his eyes away from what he was carrying they would not go about their indiscriminating business, he would be spared the indelicacy of truth, and he would not get that nauseous feeling, his hands would not turn cold and clammy and the back of his tongue would not begin to pitch and roll.
He looked up and out to the horizon. The large, smeary bay window revealed a desolate summer scene.
The tide was a long way out, further than he could see, so as far as anyone knew it was just gone for good and had left the town permanently inland.
It took a lot of trust to believe the water would ever come back each day, all that distance, it seemed like an awful amount of labour for no good reason.
The whole dirty, grey-shingled beach was now bare, except for one or two souls out for a stroll, and one or two hardy sunbathers, in their two-shilling-hire deck-chairs, determined to make the most of their annual holiday week away from the mills, the mines and the foundries of the north.
A week to take in the bracing salty air and perhaps, if they were blessed, the sun would make a cheerful appearance and rid them of their pallor.
BITTER FRUIT, BY ACHMAT DANGOR
Silas cracked open his third beer, lay back on the grass, resting his head on the three remaining cans. The sun pressed down on his eyelids, a hot illumination that would soon make him feel drowsy.
Dangor was banned from publishing when in his native South Africa
This must be the way blind people absorbed light into their heads: raising their faces to the sun, to Ra, god of the blind. Everyone needed real light, not just the artificial, thought-up light of the imagination.
'God! You are so insensitive!' Lydia would have said, had he repeated this thought to her. An innocuous, light-hearted thought, born in a truly carefree moment. She would punish him for it.
Lydia had an unforgiving mind. What went on in her heart these days? Well, he'd find out soon. Have to tell her about Du Boise.
Not good at keeping secrets . . . well, not really. It struck him that he and Lydia spoke very little these days, and when they did, it was about something practical, the car needing a service, the leaking taps, the length of the grass at the back of the house.
And about Mikey. Speaking about Mikey was the closest she came to revealing herself. Not exactly pouring her heart out, but hinting at what was in there, the anxiety eating away at her calm exterior.
I'LL GO TO BED AT NOON, BY GERARD WOODWARD
Janus Brian had, it seemed, been drinking his way through the vintages of his little, homespun vintner's. As his cellar depleted so he desperately had tried to brew some more.
I'll Go To Bed at Noon is a sequel to Woodward's first novel August
That was what all the spilt sugar was about. In the scullery she found several fat demijohns of brown liquid bubbling through airlocks.
One of these was smashed and had leaked a broad puddle of immature wine across the floor, leaving a sticky residue.
How forethoughtful, thought Colette. There can't be many
self-sufficient drunks in the world, autarkic alcoholics who never once have to burden the off-license but who simply press whatever fruit, flowers or vegetables are growing in their gardens and transform the juices into alcohol.
But home-brewing is a slow, painstaking process. It takes method, routine, care and above all patience. The slow chemistry of fermentation can only happen over weeks and months.
Janus Brian was down to his last couple of bottles of kitchen garden wine, while the stuff
he was brewing was by now barely more potent than lemonade.
She later learnt that the matter that was fermenting in the
scullery was nothing more than tea wine. Incapable of reaping anything from the garden to use, Janus Brian had simply gone to the kitchen cupboard and taken the first thing that had come to hand - a packet of PG Tips tea bags.