DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE LONGLIST 2018


DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE LONGLIST HERALDS “POWERFUL ARRAY OF DISTINCTIVE VOICES” WITH COMMERCIAL AND CRITICAL SUCCESS

  • Longlist includes two Guardian journalists, Xan Brooks and Paula Cocozza, and former Sunday Times Style columnist, Francesca Hornak
  • Indie publisher Galley Beggar Press is longlisted for fifth year in a row with We That Are Young by Preti Taneja

The 10-strong longlist for the 11th annual Desmond Elliott Prize, the “UK’s most prestigious award for debut novelists” (Daily Telegraph), has been revealed today (Friday 23rd March). The Prize, which is presented in the name of the late, acclaimed literary agent and publisher, Desmond Elliott, has revealed a longlist containing many authors who are currently enjoying commercial and critical success, suggesting a greater investment in debut fiction from publishers.

Glasgow-based author Gail Honeyman is longlisted for her debut Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, which has already won her the Costa First Novel Award. The book became a Sunday Times Bestseller when it was published and is currently at number one in the e-books chart for the fourth week in a row. Sally Rooney is unique in having her book Conversations with Friends previously judged by one of her fellow longlisted authors, Lucy Hughes-Hallett (Peculiar Ground), who was one of the three judges to award Rooney the Sunday Times/Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award last year.

Many of the longlisted novelists are former or current journalists. Xan Brooks (The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times) was formerly an associate editor for the Guardian, and Paula Cocozza (How to be Human) is a feature writer for the title. Francesca Hornak (Seven Days of Us) was the author of a column for the Sunday Times Style magazine before turning her hand to novel writing.

The UK’s biggest publishing houses feature prominently on this year’s longlist, with Penguin Random House imprints Harvill Secker and Hutchinson leading the charge with three longlisted titles between them. Independent publisher Galley Beggar Press is longlisted for the fifth year in a row with We That Are Young by Preti Taneja, while leading Irish independent New Island Books is featured for the first time with One Star Awake by Andrew Meehan. 

The 2018 Desmond Elliott Prize longlist in full (alphabetically by author surname):

  • The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks (Salt)
  • How to be Human by Paula Cocozza (Hutchinson)
  • The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (Harvill Secker)
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (HarperCollins)
  • Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak (Piatkus)
  • Peculiar Ground by Lucy Hughes-Hallett (4th Estate)
  • How Saints Die by Carmen Marcus (Harvill Secker)
  • One Star Awake by Andrew Meehan (New Island)
  • Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (Faber & Faber)
  • We That Are Young by Preti Taneja (Galley Beggar Press) 

The Chairman of the Prize’s trustees, Dallas Manderson said: “It is a pleasure to reveal this exemplary longlist, containing such a powerful array of distinctive voices. We are extremely pleased to see that some publishers appear to be investing more in debut fiction, as evidenced from the success of several of the novels on our longlist. However, as the point of our prize is to help debut writers sustain their careers, we hope that investment continues to our authors’ second and third books.” 

Judge for this year’s Prize and award-winning journalist, Samira Ahmed said: “I haven’t judged a book prize before but it has always been debut novels that have most intrigued me and provided some of my most fascinating conversations with writers. I’ve never loved anything more than reading so I can’t think of anything more delightful than being presented with so many titles by new talents.”

The Desmond Elliott Prize has a track record of spotting exceptionally talented novelists at the very beginning of their careers. Last year, the Prize was awarded to Francis Spufford for his debut novel, Golden Hill. Other past-winners include Lisa McInerney, Claire Fuller and Eimear McBride.

Samira Ahmed is joined on the judging panel by the award-winning author and this year’s chair of judges Sarah Perry, and head of fiction and publisher liaison for Waterstones, Chris White. A shortlist will be announced on 27th April and the winner will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on 20th June, where they will be presented with a cheque for £10,000.

For further information please contact Laura Curtis at Riot Communications on

020 3174 0118 / laura@riotcommunications.com 

–ENDS–

Notes to Editors

  1. The Desmond Elliott Prize is an annual award for a first novel written in English and published in the UK. Worth £10,000 to the winner, the Prize is named after the literary agent and publisher, Desmond Elliott. When choosing the winner, a panel of three judges looks for a novel which has a compelling narrative, arresting characters and which is both vividly written and confidently realised.
  2. Desmond Elliott’s own story began in an Irish orphanage. In 1947, aged 16 and with just two pounds in his pocket, he left for England, to start his publishing career at Macmillan. Thereafter he set up as an agent and subsequently went on to establish his own publishing company, Arlington Books, in 1960. The charismatic, witty and waspish Elliott – who drank only champagne, flew regularly on Concorde and used Fortnum & Mason as his local grocer – nurtured numerous household-name authors, including Jilly Cooper, Anthony Horowitz and Penny Vincenzi. He died in August 2003 at the age of 73.
  3. The Desmond Elliott Charitable Trust is a registered charity. It is chaired by Dallas Manderson, the former Group Sales Director of the Orion Publishing Group. He is joined by Liz Thomson, journalist and broadcaster, and Christine Berry, a partner in the charities group at Taylor Vinters. Both Manderson and Berry worked with Elliott at Arlington Books. The Desmond Elliott Prize is administered by its Literary Director, Emma Manderson: manderson@desmondelliottprize.org
  4. The Desmond Elliott Prize 2018 longlist in detail (alphabetically by author surname):
  • The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks (Salt)

Summer 1923: the modern world. Orphaned Lucy Marsh climbs into the back of an old army truck and is whisked off to the woods north of London – a land haunted by the past, where lost souls and monsters conceal themselves in the trees.

In a sunlit clearing she meets the ‘funny men’, a quartet of disfigured ex-soldiers named after Dorothy’s companions in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Here are the loved and the damaged, dark forests and darker histories, and the ever-present risk of discovery and violent retribution.

Praise from the Desmond Elliott Prize

“A title which hints at airy discombobulation conceals a novel of visceral design: red in tooth and claw, silk-velvet in heart and head. This demonic fairy tale, is it The Wizard of Oz exhumed to horrific purpose? A prequel to Decline and Fall?  Or simply a great-aunt’s legend revisited? All these, and something supremely itself: a novel spun from a moment of family history which connects us to all times.”

About the Author

Xan Brooks is an award-winning writer, editor and broadcaster. He spent his rude youth as part of the founding editorial team of the Big Issue magazine and his respectable middle period as an associate editor at the Guardian, specialising in film. It was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award in 2017 and longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction in 2018.

 

  • How to be Human by Paula Cocozza (Hutchinson)

You’ve seen a fox. Come face to face in an unexpected place or at an unexpected moment. And he has looked at you, as you have looked at him. As if he has something to tell him. But what if it didn’t stop there?

When Mary arrives home from work one day to find a magnificent fox on her lawn – his ears spiked in attention and every hair bristling with his power to surprise – it is only the beginning. He brings gifts (at least Mary imagines they are gifts) and gradually makes himself at home.

And as he listens to Mary, Mary listens back.

She begins to hear herself for the first time in years. Her bullish ex-boyfriend, still lurking on the fringes of her life, would be appalled. So would the neighbours with a new baby. They only like wildlife that fits with the décor. But inside Mary, a wildness is growing that will not be tamed.

Praise from the Desmond Elliott Prize

“In her garden of earthy delights, a young woman takes a walk on the wild side that will lead her back to herself. In this parallel wilderness, reality bites with insouciant wit. For Mary Green, Cocozza has created a persona as winning and as wily as her invited guest, a couple couched at peace and not at bay. Nature and nurture confide in epicurean harmony. She takes us under their skin, to explore and to interpret with divining skill, and to touch the heart. Anthropomorphism made eloquence, realism made magical.”

About the Author

Paula Cocozza is a feature writer at the Guardian and completed her MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia, where she was the 2013/14 recipient of the David Higham Award. She lives in London.

 

  • The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (Harvill Secker)

One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.

As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost.

Praise from the Desmond Elliott Prize

“Social commentary stiffens the sinews of this text like whalebone: great questions, such as how women existed without feminism, wrapped up by the sisterhood in voluble debate, rolled out in priceless diversions. Their voices, Gowar’s prose, the audible hallmark of her sterling work. She has the just phrase for every mood in this mercurial world, from the adjectivally plush to the lyrically spare. A language which speaks of nightmare underworld as fluently as dreams above.”

About the Author

Imogen Hermes Gowar studied Archaeology, Anthropology and Art History before going on to work in museums. She began to write fiction inspired by the artefacts she worked with and in 2013 won the Malcolm Bradbury Memorial Scholarship to study for an MA in Creative Writing at UEA. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock was a finalist in the MsLexia First Novel Competition and shortlisted for the inaugural Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers’ Award.

 

  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (HarperCollins)

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

Praise from the Desmond Elliott Prize

“A coming to life rather than a coming of age, this neat twist on a classic novel form. Miss Oliphant, an admirer, would be proud to find such as Miss Austen among her forebears; indeed, Eleanor turns out to be quite the beacon for moral and spiritual transformation in the manner of Emma Woodhouse. Her charms may emerge less gracefully, by Velcro’ed brogue not barouche-landau, but are no less enduring. Honeyman resists the temptation to make over her heroine. She realises, as we do, that Eleanor is already fledged. All she has to do is realise it fully. A woman badly done by whom we learn to like supremely well.”

About the Author

As a work in progress, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. Since publication, translation rights have sold to over thirty territories worldwide, Reese Witherspoon has optioned it for film and it was chosen as one of the Observer’s Debuts of the Year for 2017. Gail was also awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award in 2014 and has been longlisted for BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. Gail lives in Glasgow.

 

  • Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak (Piatkus)

It’s Christmas, and the Birch family is gathering for the first time in years.

Emma is elated at having everybody under one roof, but her eldest child, Olivia is only home because she has nowhere else to go. She’s just returned from treating an epidemic abroad and must stay in quarantine for a week – and so too should her family. For the next seven days no-one can leave the house and no-one can enter.

It doesn’t sound too hard. But a week with our nearest and dearest can feel like an eternity, especially when they’re all harbouring secrets. One of whom is about to come knocking at the door…

Praise from the Desmond Elliott Prize

“A cool narrative despite the searing emotional element and a crisp, dry writing style counter any more tearful tendencies. A plot which begins, flourishes from improbable coincidence, finishes seemingly by naturalistic design. The Birches in turmoil, thrashing one another with their angst and fret, at first-sight roundly flawed, acutely dislikeable, transform on deeper acquaintance – on the opening of their emotive passports, date-stamped and poignantly detailed. By sleight of hand and sly wit, Hornak charms winning individuality from mass dysfunction, sweetly blended kinship from acerbic friction.  Just as she conjures mesmerising drama from detonating scenes of crisis, to the accompaniment of cracking dialogue.  All of which produces, in this house, with this cast, a performance to be swapped for many a Christmas.”

About the Author

Francesca Hornak is a journalist and writer, whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Sunday Times, the Guardian, Marie Claire, Red, Grazia and Stylist. Her column History Of The World In 100 Modern Objects first appeared in The Sunday Times Style magazine in 2013 and ran for two years, later becoming a title with Portico. Francesca is also the author of a second non-fiction book, Worry with Mother (Portico).

 

  • Peculiar Ground by Lucy Hughes-Hallett (4th Estate)

It is 1663, and a wall is being built around a great house. Wychwood is an enclosed world, its ornamental lakes and majestic avenues planned by Mr Norris, landscape-maker. A world where everyone has something to hide after decades of civil war, where dissidents shelter in the forest, lovers linger in secret gardens, and migrants, fleeing the plague, are turned away from the gates. Three centuries later, another wall goes up overnight, dividing Berlin, while at Wychwood, over one hot, languorous weekend, erotic entanglements are shadowed by news of historic change. A little girl, Nell, observes all.

Nell grows up and Wychwood is invaded. There is a pop festival by the lake, a TV crew in the dining room and a Great Storm brewing.  As the Berlin Wall comes down a fatwa signals a different ideological faultline and a refugee seeks safety in Wychwood…

Praise from the Desmond Elliott Prize

“An ingenuous, ingenious masterwork assembled from varicoloured snatches of seismic events; scores of recovered memory fragments; a mindfulness of reflective essays; a generosity of psychological and cultural aperçus, as well as personal and political adventures in real time and place. Not forgetting that demesne-full of characters, many cunningly carried forward, both key and affective frame to the narrative picture.”

About the Author

Lucy Hughes-Hallett is the author of The Pike: Gabriele D’Annunzio, Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Duff Cooper Prize, the Political Book Awards Political Biography of the Year and the Costa Biography Award. Before that, she wrote Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams and Distortions which was published in 1990 to wide acclaim, and Heroes: Saviours, Traitors and Supermen, published in 2004, which garnered similar praise. Cleopatra won the Fawcett Prize and the Emily Toth Award. Lucy lives in London.

 

  • How Saints Die by Carmen Marcus (Harvill Secker)

Ellie Fleck has a question for everything – but there is one she cannot ask. Where have they taken her mother?

Ten years old and irrepressibly curious, Ellie lives with her fisherman father on the wild North Yorkshire coast. It’s the 1980s and her mother’s breakdown is discussed only in whispers, with the promise ‘better by Christmas’ and no further explanation.

Steering by the light of her dad’s sea-myths, her mum’s memories of home across the water, and a fierce spirit all her own, Ellie begins to learn – in these sudden, strange circumstances – who she is and what she can become. By the time the first snowdrops show, her innocence has been shed, but at great cost.

Praise from the Desmond Elliott Prize

“‘There was once a Fleck. There was once a mother. There was once a wolf.’ These are ten-year-old Ellie’s key points in the story she plans to write. Ear-catching, enticing as an opening stanza it is equally a refrain, for the power of the spoken word is a major motif in How Saints Die.  A novel told by a curious, dreaming girl, of life with a devoted father, Peter, bereft of her mentally ill mother, Kate. Tales of sea monsters, martyred saints and demonic wolves fill up her waking thoughts, slip into the spaces where unanswered questions lie. Ellie’s thoughts, buffeting between fantasy and reality, form a disorderly queue in the mind but go direct to the heart in fabulously vivid, free-verse accompaniment to her days.”

About the Author

Carmen Marcus lives in the Victorian spa town of Saltburn-by-the-Sea. Her writing has been described as ‘crackling dangerously with inherited magic yet achieving contemporary vitality’. She is in much demand as a performance poet and has appeared at the Royal Festival Hall. Recently she has been commissioned by BBC Radio 3’s Verb New Voices. How Saints Die is her first novel, and as a work in progress it won New Writing North’s ‘Northern Promise’ Award.

 

  • One Star Awake by Andrew Meehan (New Island)

A young woman comes to in the Paris restaurant in which she apparently works – she has survived some kind of trauma, but her memories haven’t. Something tells her there has been a reprieve. Yet when she crosses paths with a mysterious man called Eagleback, she becomes convinced that he holds the key to her identity. Over the course of a hot, sticky summer she covertly pursues Eagleback while re-learning how to live. Then she must decide if she is ready to solve the emotional puzzle of her life so far.

This is a fractured fairy tale – a funny and touching testament to the highs and lows of self-discovery and love found in unlikely places.

Praise from the Desmond Elliott Prize

“From screen pitch to narrative itch, each in their way well and truly scratched. Andrew Meehan, once head of development at the Irish Film Board, now literary novelist cum laude. One Star Awake, a title drawn from Padraic Colum’s celebrated sentimental ballad, these few words enigmatic and beguiling the perfect fit for a story conspicuous for the brilliance of its writing and the penumbral depths of its plot. Upon the simple premise of amnesic darkness in the city of light, Meehan has built a plot which entices and intrigues to mesmeric effect.”

About the Author

Andrew Meehan’s short fiction has been published in The Stinging Fly, The Moth, Banshee and Winter Papers, as well as in TOWN & COUNTRY: The Faber Book of New Irish Stories, edited by Kevin Barry. Prior to writing full-time, Andrew was for many years Head of Development at the Irish Film Board. There, he nurtured numerous Irish feature-films, including the Oscar-nominated animated feature SONG OF THE SEA; Lenny Abrahamson’s WHAT RICHARD DID; and the rollicking comedy GOOD VIBRATIONS.

 

  • Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (Faber & Faber)

Frances is twenty-one years old, cool-headed and observant. A student in Dublin and an aspiring writer, at night she performs spoken word with her best friend Bobbi, who used to be her girlfriend. When they are interviewed and then befriended by Melissa, a well-known journalist who is married to Nick, an actor, they enter a world of beautiful houses, raucous dinner parties and holidays in Provence, beginning a complex ménage-à-quatre. But when Frances and Nick get unexpectedly closer, the sharply witty and emotion-averse Frances is forced to honestly confront her own vulnerabilities for the first time.

Praise from the Desmond Elliott Prize

“Sally Rooney’s debut has been described as ‘whip smart’ and hers is a weapon which thrashes its hobby horses with vim and vigour. A sharply crafted novel and a cutting review of contemporary affairs. A work too which clearly draws upon a wellspring of emotional and psychological savvy that appears to wash over its often obtuse protagonists but provides for us a sparklingly immersive experience in the lives of others.”

About the Author

Sally Rooney was born in 1991 and lives in Dublin. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, The White Review, The Dublin Review, The Stinging Fly, Kevin Barry’s Stonecutter and The Winter Page anthology. Rooney was shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award for her short story Mr Salary and winner of the Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award for Conversations with Friends.

 

  • We That Are Young by Preti Taneja (Galley Beggar Press)

Money, power, corruption and desire. Unimaginable wealth. Unspeakable hardship. A family divided.

When Jivan Singh returns to his childhood home after a long absence, it’s only to witness the unexpected resignation of Devraj, the founding father of the Company – a vast corporation at the heart of Indian life. On the same day, Devraj’s youngest daughter absconds – refusing to submit to marriage. Her older sisters Radha and Gargi are handed their father’s company… So begins a vicious struggle for power, ranging from the luxury hotels of New Delhi and Amritsar, the Palaces and slums of Napurthala to the beautiful, broken city of Srinagar, Kashmir.

Praise from the Desmond Elliott Prize

“A commemorative portrait of a destroyed dynasty, a triptych dedicated to three departed sisters: one thinks of We That Are Young in painterly terms, the gravest of themes rendered in glorious colour, multiple canvases depicting intensely moving individual episodes. The voices equally enthral, from his daughters’ fervid dialogue to Bapuji’s mad soliloquising.  Prose as sensual, perfumed and parti-coloured as a wedding basket of ladoo, inset with gems of pure poetry. Yet pungent enough to match the Dhimbala’s fetid starvelings. Everywhere as remarkable to the ear as it is revelatory of the soul.”

About the Author

Preti Taneja was born in the UK to Indian parents and spent most of her childhood holidays in New Delhi. She has worked as a human rights reporter on Iraq, in Jordan, Rwanda, and Kosovo, and her work as been published in the Guardian, the New Statesman and Open Democracy. A fellow at Warwick University, she is also the editor of Visual Verse and was selected as an AHRC / BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker for 2014.

  1. The previous winners of The Desmond Elliott Prize have successfully continued their writing career and have published further work to great acclaim.
  • 2017: Golden Hill by Francis Spufford (Faber & Faber) was the author’s first work of fiction following a number of successful non-fiction titles. It received critical acclaim and also won the 2016 Costa First Novel Award and the 2017 Ondaatje Prize.
  • 2016: The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney (John Murray) was also awarded the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Book of the Year and has been optioned for television by boutique drama production company, Fifty Fathoms. McInerney’s second novel, The Blood Miracles, was published in 2017.
  • 2015: Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller (Fig Tree) received high critical acclaim and is published in nine countries. Fuller’s second novel, Swimming Lessons, was published in 2017.
  • 2014: A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride (Galley Beggar Press/Faber) was also awarded the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize in 2013, the 2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the 2014 Geoffrey Faber prize.
  • 2013: The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber (Sceptre) was also awarded the 2013 Author’s Club First Novel Award and longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
  • 2012: The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen (Chatto & Windus) was shortlisted for the National Book Awards and selected by Richard and Judy for their book club. McCleen has since published The Professor of Poetry in 2014 and The Offering in January 2015, both with Sceptre. The Professor of Poetry received acclaim from Hilary Mantel, who called it “an astonishing and luminous novel…every line is newly felt and freshly experienced.”
  • 2011: Saraswati Park by Anjali Joseph (Fourth Estate) won the Betty Trask Prize, and the Vodafone Crossword Book Award for Fiction in India. Her second novel, Another Country was published in 2012.
  • 2010: The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw (Atlantic Books) was shortlisted for the Costa First Book Award in 2009, longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award in 2009, longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2010 and his second novel, The Man Who Rained, was published in 2012.
  • 2009: Blackmoor by Edward Hogan, (Simon & Schuster) was followed by his second novel The Hunger Trace in March 2011. His first novel for young adults Daylight Saving was published by Walker in February 2013.
  • 2008: Gifted by Nikita Lalwani (Viking) was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2007, shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and nominated for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. Her second novel, The Village, was published by Viking in 2012 and was selected as part of the 2013 Fiction Uncovered promotion.
  1. To find out more about The Desmond Elliott Prize please visit: desmondelliottprize.org