The winner of this year's Booker Prize was announced last night: John Banville's The Sea. I confess, of the six shortlisted authors, Banville's name was the least familiar to me. The three 'guest critics' at BBC2's coverage of the prize-giving ceremony didn't think he had a hope of winning. The bookies - whoever they are - hadn't put him forward as a favourite either. But win he did... which, if nothing else, means that one more tiny glimmer of hope has sparked into life for every aspiring novelist in the country.

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