Two writers with Canadian credentials – B.C.-based writer Ruth Ozeki and London, Ont.-born Eleanor Catton – are among the six finalists for the prestigious Booker Prize for fiction.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ozeki, who is American born but now lives in Whaletown, B.C., and The Luminaries by Catton, who lives in New Zealand, are on the shortlist announced Tuesday for the 50,000-pound ($81,400) prize.

The other finalists are British-born Pulitzer Prize-winner Jhumpa Lahiri for her Indian-American family saga The Lowland,  Irish novelist Colm Toibin's Bible-inspired The Testament of Mary, the shantytown-set story We Need New Names by Zimbabwe's NoViolet Bulawayo and rural requiem Harvest by Britain's Jim Crace.

The winner of the prize – open only to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth – will be announced Oct. 15.

The head of the judging panel, writer Robert Macfarlane, said the six novels were "world-spanning in their concerns, and ambitious in their techniques."

List includes four first-time finalists

"It is a shortlist that shows the English language novel to be a form of world literature. It crosses continents, joins countries and spans centuries," he said.


Cover image for Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being. (Handout/Canadian Press)

The Booker, which brings a huge publicity and sales boost for winners, is closely followed by readers, booksellers and literary gamblers, and the diversity of the list makes this year's contest especially unpredictable. Crace and Toibin are both previous Booker finalists. The other four writers – all women – are first-time nominees.

Bookmaker William Hill installed Catton – at 28 the youngest writer on the list – as favourite to win for her gold-rush tale The Luminaries, followed by 67-year-old Crace.

Jonathan Ruppin, Web editor at the Foyles bookstore chain, agreed that "the judges' debate will ultimately be between Jim Crace and Eleanor Catton."

"Either book would be a thoroughly deserving winner, but Crace is probably the marginal favourite, if only because it's easier to imagine five people concurring about Harvest than The Luminaries,' he said.

"It would also be overdue recognition for a writer appreciated far more overseas than by British readers, while there's absolutely no doubt that Catton has a career full of major awards ahead of her."

Bulawayo first finalist from Zimbabwe

Ozeki, 57, who was born in Connecticut, became a Canadian citizen in 2005. She now splits her time between New York and British Columbia and is an ordained Zen Buddhist priest.

The pages of A Tale for the Time Being are suffused with the dreaminess of her lush adopted home, as well as of her heritage. Ozeki was born to a Caucasian father and a Japanese mother, and she made stops in New York City, New Haven, Conn., and Tokyo while growing up.

"I started writing it in 2006, and the idea of this Japanese schoolgirl living in Tokyo writing a secret diary and casting it out into the world, that's where it started," Ozeki told The Canadian Press in a recent interview.

Bulawayo, a fellow at Stanford University in California, is the first writer from Zimbabwe to be a Booker finalist and the only debut novelist on the list.

The British-born Lahiri is U.S.-based and is a member of President Barack Obama's President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

Founded in 1969, the award is officially known as the Man Booker Prize after its sponsor, financial services firm Man Group PLC. Last year's winner was Hilary Mantel for her Tudor political saga Bring Up the Bodies.