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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
Booker Prize winner: Your reaction
Alan Hollinghurst
Alan Hollinghurst has won the 2004 Booker Prize for his novel The Line of Beauty.

The winner was announced on Tuesday night at the Royal Horticultural Halls, Westminster, London.

Also nominated were Achmat Dangor, Sarah Hall, Colm Toibin, Gerard Woodward and David Mitchell.

Mr Hollinghurst takes home a £50,000 cheque.

What did you think of the winner of this year's Booker Prize?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received:

This prize used to be highly valued as a literature yardstick. It is no more. If one is to believe the chicanery now attached to the selection panel, then it is completely debased.
Danny Streather, Romsey, UK

I think the world would be a duller place without Booker!
Helen, Plymouth, UK
In response to Simon: I love watching the Booker Prize every year and I am certainly not an affluent, commuter belt intellectual. The Booker has a reputation for discovering modern classics (eg: Midnight's Children, Moon Tiger, Possession). You may think they're unreadable, and that's your call, but personally, I think the world would be a duller place without Booker!
Helen, Plymouth, UK

Irrespective of views regarding the long listings then short listings, I feel that the right decision has been made and will help maybe overcome prejudices. However, why cant reviews clearly state that the book contains a gay character.....so much stress put down about being a gay novel....well done Alan!!!
Steve Lewis, London UK

To those who say that they have never heard of the authors on the shortlist - go out and read them! Does this not show the importance of the Booker - bringing the year's finest books & authors to public attention. As for the books being unreadable & highbrow - that's rubbish, The Line of Beauty is a great read, as is Cloud Atlas. I feel that Mitchell should have won for his 1st book, Ghostwritten and that Cloud Atlas was also worthy of the prize. His ability to write in so many different voices and genres is remarkable. As for populist writers - they have their own awards; Richard & Judy's Good Read, WH Smith prize etc. There are also separate awards for crime fiction, romance etc. Long Live The Booker!
Stuart, , N. Wales

I was wrong...I admit it. Clearly a book about a gay man with HIV in Thatcher's Britain should have won and did so. I'm glad I'm not on the judging panel I might vote for a classic book like War and Peace, The Great Gatsby or The Grapes of Wrath. I am clearly out of touch ....Thank God!
R.C.Robjohn, UK

Fantastic Novel - Simple as that !
Johnboy, Melbourne, Australia

I am delighted Alan Hollinghurst has won this year's Booker Prize. Being a fan of his writing for a number of years, I feel that this is the just recognition for an author of such beauty and searing honesty. It will open his wonderful prose and perceptive observation to a wider audience.
Ed Moran, London

People complaining that popular books don't win the Booker prize should note that 'popular' isn't always synonymous with 'good'.
Gareth Rippingale, UK

The Line Of Beauty is dull, peopled with shallow, poorly-drawn, self-centred characters.
Simon, Brighton, UK
Your own reviewer says it all in the final sentence - "But like a pleasant weekend that fell flat, it delivered little of the intimacy or insight required to make it truly memorable." The Line Of Beauty is dull, peopled with shallow, poorly-drawn, self-centred characters. There were much better books in the longlist. Any respect I once had for the Booker Prize (the days of Hotel Du Lac and Moon Tiger) has been finally extinguished. Hollinghurst has won for his past novels not for The Line Of Beauty. Hopefully the reaction of those who read every Booker winner will prove this beyond doubt.
Simon, Brighton, UK

Those who claim to read a book a week (a trait you share with Finchy from The Office) but have never even heard of any of the shortlisted authors, need to get out more - or rather, stay in more. This prize is aimed at them, however, in an attempt to widen their horizons. In the end my choice would have been Tóibín's The Master, which seemed both fluent, absorbing and fully achieved, whereas Cloud Atlas and The Line of Beauty, while hugely accomplished, seemed somewhat less than the sum of their parts.
Alan Simpson, Belfast, NI

The Booker Prize is biased towards books that appeal to well off, white, commuter belt, intellectuals. Nothing readable ever wins the prize and it never will.
Simon, London

Alan Hollinghurst is not "one of the leading authors of gay fiction in the UK". He is one of the leading authors of fiction in the UK. Period! Why continue pigeonholing people in this time and age?
George Tsopanellis, Manchester

Congratulations! The book is fantastic!
Franziska, UK
Congratulations! The book is fantastic!
Franziska, UK

Thank God for the Booker! Personally, I hadn't heard of any of the shortlisted authors, even though I'm an avid reader, but I'm delighted such a prize exists. We really need a benchmark in literature, something that raises the bar instead of constantly lowering it like in so many other fields. Every day I receive so many emails and letters from people who cannot spell and who use dreadful grammar, and who would clearly benefit from reading any book. So what if the ignoramuses think it's elitist? We all need some higher standards in our culture, instead of getting it all from Hollywood blockbusters and soap operas, and I for one am grateful that the Booker Prize (and the Whitbread, and others) keep flying the flag!
Rob, London, UK

Please leave the Booker as it is, it gives people the chance to become aware of books they sometimes wouldn't.
Carla, London UK
I watched the Booker shows last night on BBC4 and I want to read the winner and I'll Go To Bed at Noon. (I have already read Cloud Atlas and Electric Michelangelo) Other prizes like the Whitbread go for more popular books, Richard and Judy go for more popular books, please leave the Booker as it is, it gives people the chance to become aware of books they sometimes wouldn't.
Carla, London UK

In answer to Dave from Ramsgate, the reason you never see Pratchett or Rowling on these lists is simply that from a literary aspect they are not very well constructed. That's not to say they are not good books, they are great stories, but just not outstandingly written. I have read loads of books, from the likes of Dan Brown and John Grisham, who are both great story tellers, through to Booker winners. Try reading Life of Pi, it's well written and has a great story. You really can tell the difference.
Mike, Cheltenham, UK

I'm sorry, but if you've not heard of Alan Hollinghurst, David Mitchell, or Colm Toibin, then that says more about you than it does about the Booker judges
Paul, Los Angeles, USA
I find it staggering the number of people who mock the Booker for nominating a crop of "unknown authors". I'm sorry, but if you've not heard of Alan Hollinghurst, David Mitchell, or Colm Toibin, then that says more about you than it does about the Booker judges. And why not go out and try one of these authors before you trash their work? It's so very British to have a disparaging opinion of something one's not even read! Oh, and I am British too.
Paul, Los Angeles, USA

I do agree that well known authors who have already sold many books should be included in such an award, but perhaps the awards should be broken up into more appropriate categories, because let's face it everyone has their preferred niche that they like to read in. However, I have to disagree with some comments about the Booker prize not revealing ANY good books. I have enjoyed books by Booker prize winners and nominees in the past, and I may not have found out about such books was it not for the press that they received only because they had been winners/nominees.
Kay Shelton, Albany, USA

I've only had a chance to read the Sarah Hall book, but it's absolutely fantastic, and I sincerely hope it wins. It's an incredible book, beautifully written.
A. Legge, Leeds, UK

The only books on the list which sound genuinely relevant or ambitious are Cloud Atlas and Bitter Fruit
Tom Whyman, Hampshire, England
I'm an aspiring writer myself, you understand, and I think that the prize should try to be more like the Nobel prize, and reward genuinely innovative books as opposed to ones which attempt to oust Henry James as a homosexual. The only books on the list which sound genuinely relevant or ambitious are Cloud Atlas and Bitter Fruit, so I hope one of them wins, but it is a testament to the conservativeness publishing industry that I really couldn't distinguish between the blurbs of the vast majority of the shortlist and those from supposedly more derivative bestsellers.
Tom Whyman, Hampshire, England

I'm dying for the result and my vote is for "The Electric Michalengelo"
Somu Sundar Reddy, New Delhi, India

To Paul Tyrrell, thanks for ruining the experience of reading Cloud Atlas to many people who still haven't read it. Even before the shortlist was announced I had read Cloud Atlas and I thought it amazingly written. The first part is slight hard to get into, but it gets so much better. I am currently reading the Electric Michelangelo and I'm enjoying it, but I do not think it deserves to win.
Carla, London

Well trying to get them from the Local library is hard work. Colm Tobin's the master I enjoyed. But I've only read three from when the longlist was announced.
S J West, Uxbridge

David Mitchell should have received first prize a couple of years ago for "Ghostwritten;" a great novel that I've read many times. Not too sure abaout "Number9 Dream," but he seems to be back on form with "Cloud Atlas."
Stu, Salford

I think Sarah hall will be the winner because in her book a new horizon of life is exposed, a new language we found in her book
Ahmed Matiur Rahman, Dhaka Bangladesh

I think the booker prize is still relevant and I think it's laughable that someone suggests it should go on the number of books sold. I haven't read any of these yet, though I've bought David Mitchell's book and its next on my list. His first book 'Gostwritten' was outstanding in many ways. To suggest authors like Pratchett should win is also laughable. Yes, entertaining books but hardly innovative or excelling in anyway.
Jon Ryan, Winchester, UK

Just had a quick check with the folks here in the office, about 100 people who are keen readers of a variety of literature, and guess what not one person has heard of any of the shortlisted authors! Just goes to show that all these awards are a bit of a farce, and who are the 22 people on the panel of judges?
Steph, UK

I hope David Mitchell wins it for his sheer inventiveness and story-telling capability. Anyone who thinks that light-hearted fantasy pulp that does nothing to hold a mirror up to human life, should probably steer clear of the Booker and accept that some people still regard the novel as an art form. Long live literature!
Jason Heppenstall, Copenhagen, Denmark

I haven't read any of the books, and I am an avid reader. I would like to see the Booker Prize, and indeed other major book prizes promoted more widely, so that the general public becomes more aware of them and feels more involved with the process. Maybe the Booker Prize is snobbish and elitist, however, that doesn't mean that the books on the shortlist are; they could be excellent reads...so have an open mind...if you are a reader, give them a go and then make up your mind whether they are worthy of a prize or not.
Christina, London, UK

I used to read a lot of books on the Booker Prize Shortlist, but now I hardly bother. The type of books haven't changed, but my taste has. So much 'contemporary fiction' is pretentious nonsense and I usually wait a few years to see if a winning book has staying power.
Katherine, London, UK

I have yet to be attracted by any entry to the Booker prize
Pete, Leeds, UK
I have to say that, although I read more than fifty books a year, I have yet to be attracted by any entry to the Booker prize. The pretentious twaddle of the blurbs is only outdone by that spouted by critics, who presume to tell me what I should enjoy. Has there ever been an example of a winner writing a second "successful" novel, as they may be "worthy", but seemingly the rest of the reading public agree with me and buy books they want to read, rather than those they are told they should read. I remain happy to be a philistine.
Pete, Leeds, UK

I'm amazed by some of the comments here. The Booker Prize should steer clear of giving awards to the most "popular" (as in most bought by the public) authors. Surely one of the points is that the prize introduces the author to the public so that they can become bestselling? There are already a plethora of awards for TV, films and music based on various criteria and judging methods (e.g. popularity / critcial acclaim), why can't books also have such awards? And from a personal point of view, I've found that all the Booker winners / contenders I've read recently have been really enjoyable.

I've never read any of these authors before, but certainly Cloud Atlas sounds the most intriguing, and I'm looking forward to reading some soon. Finally, to answer Dave from Ramsgate, Rowling writes kids' books, and Pratchett writes books squarely aimed at computer studies students. Maybe that's why they're not included?
Pete, Bristol, UK

"A prize should go to an author based on the number of books sold" - that already exists, it's called a healthy bank balance, which sadly decent authors who take risks with creativity don't have. I'd like to award my own special sarcasm-i-hope (copyright) prize to Dave from Ramsgate. Please people, live a little, take some risks yourselves and read someone different, someone you've never heard of - after you've turned off your TV's repetitive soap rubbish. What's the worst any of these books could do to you?
Joab Cupth, Newcastle, England

To the suggestion that the prize should go to the author with the most books sold ... would this person suggest then that the authors of the Highway Code are deserving of the Booker prize? I understand the Bible is a cracking read as well ... or perhaps Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution? I personally laud the fact that these books are less populist novels that hopefully will stand the test of time. Nothing wrong with a bit of light reading now and again, but lets give praise for producing a piece of art as well. I expect the person who suggested the "most sold" method would also claim that WestLife make the best music, Man Utd shirts are the best in the world and the Sun is the finest newspaper ...
Paul Graham, Edinburgh, Scotland

The authors who sell the most books already have their prize - millions of pounds... The booker prize is a great way of recognising authors whose work is good whilst not necessarily appealing to the mass market.
Dan, Oxford

David Mitchell is the best British writer to emerge in decades.
Sam, London, UK
David Mitchell is the best British writer to emerge in decades. He's confident enough to not only write in a multitude of voices but also push the boundaries of the novel form. His debut Ghostwritten showed he could be original and relentlessly interesting; Cloud Atlas demonstrates he is a master of structure - six short stories of which five are split in two, creating eleven chapters in a palindrome format, with a broken chronology but a continuous narrative. It should never have worked, but is an absolute masterpiece. At last, we have the chance of a deserving winner.
Paul Tyrrell, London, UK

I hope Alan Hollinghurst wins. I've read all his other books and, I have to admit, he's the only one on the list that I've heard of.
Sam, London, UK

I used to work for a major publisher and I know for a fact that these awards (as in the music industry and most others) are just an excuse for a yearly slap up meal and self congratulations for being about to sell more books. The authors that people actually read never appear in these types of awards. I never managed to figure out a real point to the Booker and Whitbread Awards when I was working in the industry so how the public at large are supposed to get excited about them I have no idea.
Mim, London, UK

I would disagree with those who have said that the Booker should go to more well known authors. What made this year's long and short lists so interesting is that it included less well known authors and a number of first and second novels, giving some excellent writers well deserved publicity. Sarah Hall would be my choice, it's a remarkable and original novel, but my flatmate is a definite Hollinghurst supporter - we've already had a few lively discussions over it, I don't know how the judges ever manage to reach a decision!
Ruth, London

I have tried to read and enjoy the last three booker prize winners, thinking that there must be something in them to get to where they are. All three are still sitting with book marks stuck half way through them. Having to read so very many books at no time, I think, addles the minds of the judges.
Jason Linney, Kingston

I read the previous comments posted and cannot help feeling sad. This year's list is a list of very readable books. Anyone vaguely interested in decent modern literature will know at least half of the writers. Cloud Atlas is simply wonderful and hope it wins.
Book Lover, London

I read a lot and have never failed to be disappointed by the readability of the Booker nominees
Tom, London, UK
"Who will win the 2004 Booker Prize?" Who knows and frankly, who cares? I read a lot and have never failed to be disappointed by the readability of the Booker nominees, so have given up buying them. Sure, they are ridiculously clever, but they are also stuffy, pretentious and only suitable for the more extremist black-polo-neck-wearing faux-cognoscenti of the publishing world. Real people read real books by real authors, not the pretentious, high-brow muck that is written probably with the Booker prize in mind!
Tom, London, UK

I picked up David Mitchell's "number9dream" because I liked the cover. I'm reading "Ghostwritten" now and really enjoying it, so I'd like "Cloud Atlas" to win. Not that a Booker win would make me want to read a book - I choose them on the basis of what they're about and how interesting they sound!
Beck Kingsnorth, Guildford, England

I will now avoid these books. I made the mistake of reading last years shortlisted and was very disappointed. I will not be bothering this year. It's a prize bit disconcerting considering I read 1 book a week during my commute to work - but I've not heard of the finalists!
Maria, UK

This is one of the best shortlists in ages. I can never understand the anger and dismissiveness some people bring to the Booker Prize simply because it tries to reward excellence as opposed simply to popularity. I've read five of the six so far and they are all great reads with Alan Hollinghurst as my favourite.
G Nelson, London, UK

Being openly gay and fond of Victorian literature, it strikes me the Rt. Hon Chairman, Chris Smith, is most likely to favour Colm Tóibín's The Master - which is in itself a well crafted masterpiece; most definitely worthy of the prize. Sarah Hall was, of course, compared to Hardy and Lawrence when she wrote Haweswater, and stunning as the prose of The Electric Michelangelo is, I don't think it quite has the edge. As I haven't read the other titles, I won't be audacious enough to offer an opinion on them.
Lee J. Moore, Hartshill, Staffordshire, UK

I've read Cloud Atlas and I found it to be an excellent read.
Mike Geraghty, London, UK
I've read Cloud Atlas weeks before it was nominated for the Booker and knowing nothing about it or the author. I found it to be an excellent read. It's a remarkable book, breathtaking in scope and ambition. It offers so much, containing stories within stories, moving from the past to the present and the future then back again, with each segment connected in an ingenious way. The result is an outstanding novel. I shall definitely re-read it, I found it so engrossing. Whatever your feelings about prizes, this book deserves to be lauded.
Mike Geraghty, London, UK

Previously, I used to believe the same; that the Booker Prize winners were just some sort of artsy tosh with no substance. Yet the winners for the past two years have not been dry or dull at all. "Vernon God Little" is a fantastic read, not even remotely 'highbrow', but very clever and written brilliantly. It is also a comedy. "Life of Pi" is also a great book, full of interest and the wonder of nature. Not to mention that half of it reads like a castaway story more intriguing than Tom Hanks on a desert island. The Booker Prize will highlight a book deserving of praise, and someone will sell a lot more books due to the success. I'm a reader and a fan of Pratchett, Rowling et al, but do you really think they need more exposure?
Andy Hewitt, London, UK

Quite frankly, it's irrelevant. Now that I know who the finalists are, I can avoid those books. From bitter experience Booker Prize finalist books tend to be overblown, pretentious nonsense. So if nothing else, the Booker Prize committee is helping me not to waste money...
Mo C, UK

Alan Hollinghurst deserves to win - his novel is intriguing, spicy, elegantly worded and bitter sweetly etched. Mitchell's tome is over-reaching and one loses it in the web of multiple narratives. So Hollinghurst has my vote!
Yusuf Nasrullah, Boston, USA

I wonder if anybody has actually read anything by any of these authors. I actually read books and have never heard of any of them. What I find amazing is that authors like Pratchett and Rowling are never featured in lists like these. Perhaps they are too popular, and are not on these lists because people actually read their books, and they don't need the snobbism associated with these so called 'Coffee Table' books. So called because they look good on the coffee table, but nobody can be bothered to read them.
Dave, Ramsgate, England

My God....I've never heard of any of them which clearly proves that I am yesterdays man. I'll take a punt at Achmat Dangor because of the inferred ethnicity. If not then Colm Toibin because he is Irish. I really can't see that whatever is between the covers will make much difference. Like most things these days 'art' is no longer free from political interference. I am happy to be proved wrong however.
R.C. Robjohn, UK

The Booker prize means nothing to the general public, a prize should go to an author based on the number of books sold, it should be the public's choice, not some coven of so called experts.
Graham Randall, Herts




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