The Desmond Elliott Prize, the “most prestigious award for first-time novelists” (Telegraph), has today (3 April) announced a diverse longlist of 10 “astonishing” novels, which showcase the excellence of new British and Irish writing.
Among the chosen ten is Nathan Filer’s highly acclaimed and inventive novel The Shock of the Fall, which follows Matthew as he comes to terms with his brother’s death, in tandem with his own schizophrenia. Best-selling writer, SJ Watson, himself a nominee of The Desmond Elliott Prize in 2012, has called it “ambitious and exquisitely realised.”
Scottish playwright, poet and twice winner of the Forward Poetry Prize, Kate Clanchy is also in the running. Her debut, Meeting the English, set in London’s Hampstead during the hot summer of 1989, originally started life as a short story “which got out of hand”. It follows 17-year-old orphan Struan Robertson, who leaves Scotland to care for a stroke-victim and finds himself tangled in a midsummer’s dream of mistaken identity, giddying property prices and wild swimming.
The longlist also features Eimear McBride’s novel, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, which took nine years to be published having been rejected by several mainstream publishers. McBride’s story of a young woman’s relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumour, has since gone on to win high critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the inaugural Folio Prize.
Defying the belief that writing is an art that cannot be taught, four of the ten novelists are connected to creative writing courses. Nathan Filer lectures at Bath Spa where Jason Hewitt graduated with distinction, and Sam Byers and D.W. Wilson are alumni of University of East Anglia’s Creative Writing Masters. Indeed, Wilson was the recipient of the UEA’s inaugural Man Booker Prize Scholarship – the most prestigious award available to students in the MA programme.
The Desmond Elliott Prize 2014 longlist in full (in alphabetical order by author surname):
• The Letter Bearer by Robert Allison (Granta)
• Idiopathy by Sam Byers (Fourth Estate)
• Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy (Picador)
• The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer (HarperCollins)
• Sedition by Katharine Grant (Virago)
• The Dynamite Room by Jason Hewitt (Simon & Schuster)
• A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (Galley Beggar Press)
• The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan (Doubleday Ireland)
• Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera (William Heinemann)
• Ballistics by D. W. Wilson (Bloomsbury)
Chair of judges and best-selling author, Chris Cleave said: “British and Irish writing is in the best shape it’s been for many years. The strength of these ten astonishing novels proves that our home-grown talent is world class.”
Jonathan Ruppin of Foyles Bookshop commented: “The Desmond Elliott Prize has an established track record in recognising great writers of the future: all the previous winners have gone on to fulfil the rich promise of their debuts and this year’s longlist promises just as much potential.”