Page last updated at 14:17 GMT, Thursday, 25 March 2010

Dame Muriel Spark shortlisted for 'lost' Booker Prize

Dame Muriel Spark and Nina Bawden
Dame Muriel Spark's The Driver's Seat and Nina Bawden's The Birds on the Trees are on the shortlist

Dame Muriel Spark and Nina Bawden are among six authors of books published in 1970 which have been shortlisted for the "lost" Booker Prize.

The Booker was originally given to a book published in the previous year.

But since 1971 it has been given to the best novel of the current year so books published in 1970 were never eligible.

Books by JG Farrell, Shirley Hazzard, Mary Renault and Patrick White join Spark's The Driver's Seat and Bawden's The Birds on the Trees on the list.

To reward the titles that "fell through the net", organisers decided to redress the balance 40 years on with a special award, the Lost Man Booker Prize.

A longlist of 21 eligible titles was whittled down to six by three judges, journalist and critic Rachel Cooke, ITN newsreader Katie Derham, and poet and novelist Tobias Hill - all of whom were born in or around 1970.

The public will decide the winner by voting on the Man Booker Prize website. It will be announced on 19 May.

Booker Prize literary director Ian Trewin said the "very impressive" shortlist "still has resonance today".

Of those on the shortlist, Farrell won the Booker Prize in 1973 with The Siege of Krishnapur, while Dame Muriel - who died in 2006 - and Bawden have previously been shortlisted.

The Lost Man Booker Prize is the brainchild of Peter Straus, honorary archivist to the Booker Prize Foundation.

He discovered that Fifth Business, by Robertson Davies, was not considered for the prize in 1971 and, after an investigation, the gap in awards was revealed.

The full shortlist is:

The Birds on the Trees by Nina Bawden: The story of writer Maggie and journalist Charlie whose "middle-class security" is "shattered" by the expulsion from school of their eldest son.

Troubles by J G Farrell: An army major hides himself away in the "dim and shabby splendour" of a hotel in Ireland in 1919, unaware that "the struggle for independence is about to explode with brutal force".

The Bay of Noon by Shirley Hazzard: The "lonely and rootless" main character Jenny makes new friends in war-torn Naples, "gradually revealing to her the changing face of love".

Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault: The story of the "resolute, fearless" young Alexander the Great during "the years that shaped him".

The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark: Office worker Lise "leaves everything behind her, transforms herself into a laughing, garishly-dressed temptress and flies abroad on the holiday of a lifetime".

The Vivisector by Patrick White: Painter Hurtle Duffield dissects the weaknesses of "the men and women who court him during his long life" with "cruel precision". Only the "egocentric adolescent he sees as his spiritual child elicits from him a deeper, more treacherous emotion".

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