'... helps develop wider audiences for emerging and deserving British writers via a major summer promotion supported by a wide network of partnerships. The initiative seeks to promote writers of outstanding work, looking beyond the debut novelists and the bestsellers.'
Delivered to my door last year box after box of books, submissions for the prize, and suddenly the dream of ever judging a literary prize became a reality...I would have to sit down and read them all.
And I wouldn't be able to write about many of them here if the tradition surrounding confidentiality of submissions was to be maintained...that might have been the hardest part. Writing about a book and then discussing it with all of you really consolidates the whole Book as Experience; it's like the final chapter of any read for me and I have to say I missed you all.
It was all very exciting though and exhilarating to be talking about books in this way, as well as seeing the decision-making process through from Non-Starters, to Maybes, to Possibles to Definites and with books swapping places all the time. One of us might suddenly see something special in a Maybe, flag it up to the others and it would move up to Possible, likewise others might move down the pack. E mails flew thick and fast until, at a certain point in the process, we deliberately all agreed to stop sharing views and settle down to do our own reading, to find our own stars in the mix before making final decisions.
Then cue over-excited behaviour from me in the middle of Charing Cross Road as our choice of books starred in the Foyles window on the day of the announcement...it was like seeing our very own babies on display...
The difference this year comes with the announcement of the winning books at the party in London this evening (really sorry I can't be there everyone) because each chosen author will now receive prize money of £5000 sponsored by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation.
This year's chair of judges and writer Matt Haig comments;
“We really didn't want a list full of compromise choices and I think that decision has paid off. I can safely say that every book on that list I could strongly recommend to someone, and everyone's favourites managed to make the final eight. We didn't want a list that had too much of an agenda, other than to highlight novels and writers that should be on even more people's bookshelves. I couldn't be happier with the final eight books and authors, some of whom were totally new to me and my fellow judges. These are all great books that can be enjoyed, and which are filled with humanity. I am so proud of the list.”
Dedicated to helping British writers build their careers, this is the first time that the Fiction Uncovered prize has been able to offer prize money. The £40,000 fund makes the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize one of the biggest literary prize funds awarded solely to British writers.
So without further ado here are the now un-embargoed winners and congratulations to each of them.
This is an incredibly diverse list, some you may fancy reading, others not, but it is clear the prize continues to ensure a selection of books that will appeal to a wide range of readers, and whether to your taste or not you can be sure each and every one will be a good read. Words are from the blurbs, whilst links are to reviews on the Fiction Uncovered website where available.
Lolito is a love story about a fifteen year-old boy who meets a middle-aged woman on the internet.
When his long-term girlfriend and first love Alice, betrays him at a house party, Etgar goes looking for cyber solace in the arms of Macy, a stunning but bored housewife he meets online. What could possibly go wrong...?
Hilarious, fearless and utterly outrageous, Lolito is a truly twenty-first century love story.
This is a searing short novel, built of the interlocking fates of a badger-baiter and a disconsolate farmer, unfolding in a stark rural setting where man, animal, land and weather are at loggerheads. Their two paths converge with tragic inevitability. Jones writes of the physiology of grief and the isolation of loss with brilliance, and about the simple rawness of animal existence with a naturalist's unblinking eye. His is a pared-down prose of resonant simplicity and occasional lushness. His writing about ducks and dogs and cows is axe-sharp. There is not a whiff of the bucolic pastoral or the romanticized sod here. This is a real rural ride. It is short, but crackles with latent compressed energy that makes it swell to fill more space than at first glance it occupies.
Whatever Happened to Billy Parks ~ Gareth R.Roberts (The Friday Project)
A vivid and engaging story of wasted talent, second chances, family, friendship, and, of course, the beautiful game.
October 17th 1973: the greatest disaster in the history of English football.
All England had to do was beat Poland to qualify for the World Cup.
They could only draw.
Left on the bench that night was a now forgotten genius, West Ham’s Billy Parks: beautiful, gifted and totally flawed.
Fast-forward forty years, Billy’s life is a testament to wasted talent. His liver is failing and he earns his money selling football memories on the after-dinner circuit to anyone who’ll listen and buy him a drink. His family has deserted him and his friends are tired of his lies and excuses.
But what if he could be given a second chance? What if he could go back in time and win the game for England? What if he was able to undo the pain he’d caused his loved ones?
The Council of Football Immortals can give him that chance, just as long as he can justify himself, and his life, to them.
This is the story of Billy Parks: a man who bore his genius like a dead weight and who now craves that most precious of things – the chance to put things right.
In the dazzling summer of 1926, Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley travel from their home in Paris to a villa in the south of France. They swim, play bridge and drink gin. But wherever they go they are accompanied by the glamorous and irrepressible Fife. Fife is Hadley’s best friend. She is also Ernest’s lover. Hadley is the first Mrs. Hemingway, but neither she nor Fife will be the last. Over the ensuing decades, Ernest’s literary career will blaze a trail, but his marriages will be ignited by passion and deceit. Four extraordinary women will learn what it means to love the most famous writer of his generation, and each will be forced to ask herself how far she will go to remain his wife… Luminous and intoxicating, Mrs. Hemingway portrays real lives with rare intimacy and plumbs the depths of the human heart.
Vanishing ~ Gerard Woodward (Picador)
Towards the end of the Second World War a young British artist called Kenneth Brill is arrested for painting landscapes near the old village of Heathrow. The authorities suspect his paintings contain coded information about the new military airfield that is to be built there. Brill protests that he is merely recording a landscape that will soon disappear. Under interrogation a more complicated picture emerges as Brill tells the story of his life - of growing up among the market gardens of the Heath, of his life on the London art scene of the 1930s, and his brief spell as a master at a minor public school. But a darker picture also comes to light, of dealings with the prostitutes and pimps of the Soho underworld, of a break-in at a royal residence and of connections with well-known fascist sympathizers at home and abroad.
So who is the real Kenneth Brill? The hero of El Alamein who, as a camouflage officer, helped pull off one of the greatest acts of military deception in the history of warfare, or the lover of Italian Futurist painter and fascist sympathizer Arturo Somarco? Why was he expelled from the Slade? And what was he doing at Hillmead, the rural community run by Rufus Quayle, friend of Hitler himself? Vanishing shows the world through the eyes of one of the forgotten geniuses of British art, a man whose artistic vision is so piercing he has trouble seeing what is right in front of him.
Mr Loverman ~ Bernadine Evaristo (Penguin)
Barrington Jedidiah Walker is seventy-four and leads a double life. Born and bred in Antigua, he's lived in Hackney since the sixties. A flamboyant, wise-cracking local character with a dapper taste in retro suits and a fondness for quoting Shakespeare, Barrington is a husband, father and grandfather - but he is also secretly homosexual, lovers with his great childhood friend, Morris.
His deeply religious and disappointed wife, Carmel, thinks he sleeps with other women. When their marriage goes into meltdown, Barrington wants to divorce Carmel and live with Morris, but after a lifetime of fear and deception, will he manage to break away?
Mr Loverman is a ground-breaking exploration of Britain's older Caribbean community, which explodes cultural myths and fallacies and shows the extent of what can happen when people fear the consequences of being true to themselves.
Little Egypt ~ Lesley Glaister (Salt)
Little Egypt was once a well-to-do country house in the north of England. Now it’s derelict and trapped on a small island of land between a railway, a dual carriageway and a superstore, and although it looks deserted it isn’t. Nonagenarian twins, Isis and Osiris, still live in the home they were born in, and from which in the 1920s their obsessive Egyptologist parents left them to search for the fabled tomb of Herihor – a search from which they never returned. Isis and Osiris have stayed in the house, guarding a terrible secret, for all their long lives until chance meeting between Isis and young American anarchist Spike, sparks an unlikely friendship and proves a catalyst for change.
'Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed British island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It's just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be. But something is coming for the sheep - every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags.
It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake's unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, in a landscape of different colour and sound, a story held in the scars that stripe her back.'