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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 October 2007, 21:53 GMT 22:53 UK
Outsider Enright wins Booker race
Author Anne Enright
The judges said Anne Enright's book was "depressing" and "bleak"

Irish author Anne Enright has won this year's Man Booker Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in literature.

The novelist's family saga The Gathering beat bookmakers' favourites Ian McEwan and Lloyd Jones to be named the best novel of the past 12 months.

The other authors on the 50,000 prize's shortlist were Mohsin Hamid, Nicola Barker and Indra Sinha.

Chair of judges Sir Howard Davies said Enright's book was "powerful, uncomfortable and, at times, angry".

"The Gathering is an unflinching look at a grieving family in tough and striking language," he said. "We think she is an impressive novelist, we expect to hear a lot more from her.

"The book is powerful, it pulls you along and it has an absolutely brilliant ending. It has one of the best last sentences of any novel I have ever read."

I was ready for anything - possibly anything except that
Anne Enright

Enright was regarded as one of the outsiders for the award, and said she was surprised to win.

"I am still churning it through," she told BBC Radio 4. "Tomorrow, I'll wake up and go 'whoopee'.

"I was ready for anything - possibly anything except that," she added.

The Gathering is the fourth novel by the 45-year-old former television producer.

Author Ian McEwan
6/4 - Ian McEwan (above), On Chesil Beach
2/1 - Lloyd Jones, Mister Pip
4/1 - Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist
7/1 - Nicola Barker, Darkmans
12/1 - Anne Enright, The Gathering
12/1 - Indra Sinha, Animal's People
Source: Ladbrokes
It is about an Irish woman who is prompted by her brother's suicide to revisit three generations of history of her large, dysfunctional family.

Sir Howard said the book was "depressing" and "a little bleak" in places - but Enright said she did not mind those descriptions. "I love them," she said. "They're entirely fair. It's not a cheerful book."

Enright's previous novels include the Whitbread-nominated What Are You Like? in 2000. She has also released Making Babies, her light-hearted diaries of motherhood.

She said she may spend the prize money on a new kitchen. "I had forgotten about the money and now I'm glad I bought that dress yesterday," she remarked.

The Gathering has sold 3,000 copies so far, but Radio 4's arts correspondent Rebecca Jones said a Booker win can transform an author's career in terms of sales.

"But also in terms of profile because Anne Enright's next book - and indeed the three other books she's already written - will now get more attention than they would have done had she not won," she said.

'Poisoned chalice'

Enright had been given odds of 12/1 before the ceremony by bookmakers Ladbrokes.

"Over 90% of all wagers were for Ian McEwan and Lloyd Jones," spokesman Nick Weinberg said. "The favourites' tag continues to be a poisoned chalice."

The bookmakers' favourite has not won since Yann Martel in 2002.

Of the six authors in contention for this year's Booker, only McEwan had even been shortlisted in the past. He won in 1998 with Amsterdam.

The award, which honours the best fiction written in English by an author from the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth, was handed out at the Guildhall in London on Tuesday.

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