This year’s inclusion of two Australian novels on the Man Booker Prize shortlist is a rare event, but no one was more surprised than one of the authors, M.J. Hyland, listed for Carry Me Down. Hyland went along to the dinner to support her friend Andrew O’Hagan, who was widely expected to make the final list for Be Near Me. Hyland was amazed to find herself on the shortlist. O’Hagan was not shortlisted. Nor were several other fancied contenders, including Nadine Gordimer, David Mitchell and Peter Carey, whose Theft: A Love Story seems to be the work of a novelist at the height of his powers. Commenting on these omissions, Hermione Lee, chair of the judges, remarked: ‘These were all books that had extremely strong support and books which we thought were really considerable and moving and impressive … What I feel, though, is that they are such talented and exceptional and splendid writers that they don’t need us. They will go on regardless.’ There must be some logic coiled in that statement. Kate Grenville is the other shortlisted Australian, for The Secret River. The winner will be announced on October 10.