Sunday, November 18, 2018

Shortlistees for the Sunday Times/Peters Fraser and Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award

I had a very good time yesterday at an event for bloggers, meeting the four authors shortlisted for the Sunday Times/Peters Fraser and Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award.

All the shortlisted books this year are debuts, and two this year are non-fiction. Laura Freeman's The Reading Cure: How Books Restored My Appetite, part memoir and part literary appreciation, charts how the enticing descriptions of food and meals in literature cured her of her anorexia, and Adam Weymouth, a journalist with an interest in the environment, recounts in Kings of the Yukon a journey he made with his partner down that river in a small boat, and explores the impact of modernity on the progress of its King Salmon. The two novels, both written by historians, come already garnered with prizes. Fiona Mozley's Elmet won the Somerset Maugham Award and the Polari Prize, and has picked up several prestigious short- and long-listings including a short-listing for the Man Booker and a long-listing for the Women's Prize. Told in a lyrical yet tough language often recalling older dialect, the novel is the narration of Daniel, who has lived in the woods on the edge of society with his father and sister, but now something terrible has happened... Imogen Hermes Gowar's The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, a historical novel featuring the real-life eighteenth-century 'mermaid' in the British Museum where Imogen was working, won the Mslexia First Novel Competition and was shortlisted for the Women's Fiction Prize among others.

Interestingly, this year only one of the shortlisted authors, Imogen, had done an MA in novel writing, and even Imogen agreed with the others that she likes best to work alone, to finish the entire first draft of a novel before showing it to anyone (I would agree!), and that she wrote The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock 'as an escape' from the novel she was writing for her MA.

I have to say that the authors were all lovely - entirely open and unaffected in spite of their success. This year I hadn't read any of the books beforehand, and I'm looking forward to them all. On the train back I started with Fiona's Elmet and was so engrossed I had no idea that the two hours between London and Stockport had passed, and I almost missed getting my things together and getting off in time.

l-r in the pic above: Adaam Weymouth, Fiona Mozley, Sunday Times Literary Editor Andrew Holgate, Imogen Hermes Gowar and Laura Freeman.

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