Who Is Daisy Johnson? The 'Everything Under' Author Just Became The Youngest Ever Booker Nominee
There are some surprise appearances as well as some unexpected cuts in this year's Man Booker Prize shortlist. Some big names, including Sally Rooney who wrote this year's esteemed Normal People, weren't selected from this year's longlist, leaving room on the shortlist for some newcomers. That includes Daisy Johnson, the youngest author to have ever been shortlisted for one of literature's most prestigious awards. She joins a shortlist which is happily dominated by women, with her very worthy novel Everything Under. But aside from her age and the obvious, who is Daisy Johnson?
Born in 1990, Johnson's already won a strung of awards for her debut novella Fen, which scooped up the A.M. Heath Prize back in 2014. "I grew up there, in the British Fens," she told American Short Fiction in 2017, "and when I started writing short stories it was a landscape which—without my much meaning it to—came back to me." Johnson said in the same interview that she's been writing since she was 14, and that her interest in "haunted house stories" is due to her having lived in "perhaps 10 houses by the time I was 15". After completing a creative writing MA at Oxford, she now lives in the same city.
The current record for the youngest winner is held by New Zealander Ellen Catton, who was 28 years old when she won the Prize back in 2013 for her surreal novel The Luminaries. But there's every chance that Catton's title as the youngest ever Man Booker Prize winner could be taken from her this year. If she's this year's Man Booker Prize winner, she'll be £50,000 better off, and with Everything Under, this could be her time. In their comments, the judges wrote: "The twists and turns of the book's stories braid this together with European folk tales to create a strong narrative river that carries us to a conclusion laced with tantalising possibilities."
The 28-year-old author — she was just 27 when the nomination was first announced — joins some more seasoned writers on 2018's shortlist, including The Flamethrowers writer Rachel Kushner and celebrated American writer Richard Powers. This year's novels encompass everything from escaping slavery on a sugar plantation to a woman trying to navigate predatory eyes in Belfast during the Troubles. Johnson's Everything Under tells the story of Gretel, a girl who lives on a canal boat after her mother put her in foster care, so that she could pursue a new lover. The Guardian made it their book of the day on Jul. 17, and critic Anthony Cummins praised Johnson for her ability to make "psychological phenomena feel visceral."
The shortlisted names were announced on Sept. 20, with one of this year's judges, the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, commenting that the finalists were all chosen for their "miracles of stylistic invention." "These books speak very much to our moment, but we believe that they will endure," he went on to say. The winner of this year's Man Booker Prize will be announced on Oct. 16 in London's Guildhall, and will be aired on the BBC.