Author Francis Spufford achieves hat-trick, adding Desmond Elliott to list of accolades alongside the Costa First Novel award and the Ondaatje Prize
Francis Spufford has won the 2017 Desmond Elliott Prize, it was revealed this evening (Wednesday 21 June) at a ceremony in London. Spufford was awarded the £10,000 Prize, the “most prestigious award for first-time novelists” (Daily Telegraph), for his debut novel, Golden Hill. Set in New York in 1746, when the now-famous sprawling metropolis was just a small town on the tip of Manhattan island, Golden Hill tells the story of Mr Smith – a mysterious young man who steps off a boat from England with an order for an enormous sum of money.
It was chosen as the best debut novel of 2017 from a shortlist which also featured My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal and Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan. Sam Leith, Literary Editor at the Spectator, chaired the judging panel and was joined by award-winning author Kamila Shamsie and specialist book buyer for WHSmith Iain Rushworth.
In his speech at the ceremony, Leith described Golden Hill as “miraculously constructed… at once so fabulously entertaining, so exquisitely wrought and so moving that it stands among not just the best first novels of the year, but the best novels of this or any year.”
Leith also took the opportunity to address the challenges debut authors face, saying: “The fact is that most first novels go unreviewed, barely promoted, seldom displayed in bookshops, unbought and unread. Many singular talents wither on the vine. And publishers – for whom buying a first novel is usually a relatively cheap investment – may treat the debut as a one-off betting ticket rather than the beginning of a career. The old days in which careers would be patiently nurtured through several books because an editor believed in a talent are, for the most part, dwindling in the rear-view mirror.” He then praised the Desmond Elliott Prize for continuing to “nurture and support the talent it has recognised”, adding “I can honestly say that no other prize I’ve helped judge has seemed to me quite as important as this one.”
Spufford, 53, is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He is the author of five works of non-fiction on a range of topics from religion and history, to literature and politics, and was awarded the 1996 Writer’s Guild Award for best non-fiction book and the 1997 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. Golden Hill marks his first venture into fiction.
Chair of the Prize Trustees, Dallas Manderson said: “Golden Hill is an exceptional novel and a worthy winner. It is staggering to see how deftly Francis Spufford has made the difficult jump from non-fiction to fiction – a clear indicator that we can expect to see more brilliant fiction from this fine writer in the future.”
The Prize is presented in the name of the late, acclaimed publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott, whose passion for finding and nurturing new authors is perpetuated by his Prize. Celebrating 10 years this year, the Prize has an established track record for spotting up-and-coming novelists in the UK and Ireland and propelling them to greater recognition and success. The 2016 winner was Lisa McInerney for her critically-acclaimed debut, The Glorious Heresies, which also won the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. Other past winners include Claire Fuller, Eimear McBride, Grace McCleen and Anjali Joseph.
11-year-old hero, Malcolm Polstead, also unveiled in first extract released today
New footage released today reveals Pullman’s thoughts on the success of His Dark Materials
The title of the first volume of Philip Pullman’s highly-anticipated The Book of Dust has been announced as La Belle Sauvage. The identity of its hero has also been revealed, along with an extract released exclusively via the Guardian. La Belle Sauvage will be published simultaneously on 19th October 2017 by Penguin Random House Children’s and David Fickling Books in the UK, and Random House Children’s Books in the US.
In the first extract from La Belle Sauvage, readers have been introduced to the story’s hero: 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, along with his boat La Belle Sauvage. It is revealed that Lyra is being sheltered – from her own father – by the nuns at Godstow Priory near Oxford. The extract comes from chapter 10, where Malcolm is persuaded to help Lord Asriel secretly see his infant daughter.
On the title, Pullman says, “Who or what is La Belle Sauvage? She is a boat, a canoe to be precise, and her owner is a boy, Malcolm Polstead, the hero of this story whom we have seen in an earlier part of Lyra’s story (if we were paying attention. He only had a walk-on part there). The canoe is important in this part of The Book of Dust, because some of the story is set during a massive flood.”
Two decades after Northern Lights (1995) (The Golden Compass in the US) — the first book of Pullman’s world-famous His Dark Materials trilogy, which has sold more than 17.5 million copies in over 40 languages — The Book of Dust (#BookofDust) will return to the parallel world that has enthralled readers young and old. La Belle Sauvage is set 10 years before Northern Lights and centers on the much-beloved Lyra Belacqua. Alethiometers, dæmons, and the Magisterium all return to play their part.
Since the ‘equel’ to His Dark Materials was announced, fans around the globe have cheered the return of Lyra Belacqua, heroine of His Dark Materials. In a short film released by his publisher, Pullman revealed the ingredient for success behind His Dark Materials: Lyra’s ordinariness.
He says: “When I wrote the first book of His Dark Materials – sometimes called Northern Lights, sometimes called The Golden Compass – I certainly didn’t anticipate that so many people would find Lyra as interesting a character as I did.”
“The thing about Lyra is that she’s not a special child. She’s not especially gifted or talented – she’s a very ordinary child. When I was a teacher, I taught many girls who were like Lyra. They were brave, inquisitive, curious, disobedient: all those interesting things for storytellers. I think the reason that people have read this long and complicated story is because they’re with Lyra. She doesn’t know the things that are threatening her and she’s in the same position as the reader, because the reader shares her sense of danger and excitement and curiosity about what’s going to happen next. I hope the same thing will be true of Malcolm in La Belle Sauvage.”
When its publication date was announced in February, Waterstones MD James Daunt commented in The Bookseller: “It will be another queues at midnight book.” About His Dark Materials, Daunt added: “[His Dark Materials] introduces people to reading and cements their love of books. People go back to them again and again. They are hugely important and seminal.” David Fickling – Pullman’s long-term editor – commented: “There is a mystery here, an exciting mystery and I urge any reader to set out on the adventure. You will not be disappointed. The Book of Dust is magnificent.”
Published between 1995 and 2000, Pullman’s spellbinding His Dark Materials trilogy is widely regarded as a modern classic that has captivated readers for over twenty years and won acclaim at every turn. Its heroine, Lyra Belacqua, frequently tops polls as an all-time favourite character, and the series is praised as one of the best, including being named an All-Time Greatest Novel by Entertainment Weekly and a Top 100 Book of All Time by Newsweek, which also said, “Pullman is quite possibly a genius.” The New Statesman wrote of the trilogy: “Once in a lifetime a children’s author emerges who is so extraordinary that the imagination of generations is altered. . . . The most ambitious work since the Lord of the Rings, [His Dark Materials] is as intellectually thrilling as it is magnificently written.”
Individually, the three books of His Dark Materials — Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass — have won several literary prizes, among them the Carnegie Medal (1996) and the “Carnegie of Carnegies” (2007) and the first Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year Award to be given to a children’s novel (2001). The books have been adapted for stage and screen countless times, and His Dark Materials will appear once again in a BBC One adaptation in 2018, produced by Bad Wolf and New Line Cinema.
£10,000 PRIZE ANNOUNCES ITS SHORTLIST OF THREE “MASTERFUL” DEBUTS
The three debut novels shortlisted for the 10th anniversary Desmond Elliott Prize, the “most prestigious award for first-time novelists” (Daily Telegraph) have been announced today, Friday 5th May. My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal, Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and Golden Hill by Francis Spufford are in the running to win the £10,000 Prize after being chosen by judges from a longlist of ten books published this year in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
The Desmond Elliott Prize has a reputation for spotting up-and-coming novelists in the UK and Ireland and propelling them to greater recognition and success. In 2016, it was won by Lisa McInerney whose novel The Glorious Heresies achieved critical acclaim and has since been optioned for television. Other past winners include Claire Fuller, Eimear McBride, Grace McCleen, and Ali Shaw.
Chair of Trustees for the Desmond Elliott Prize, Dallas Manderson said: “The judges have done a commendable job of selecting three titles from a strong, varied and ambitious longlist and we are delighted to present such an exemplary shortlist in our 10th anniversary year. The Prize strives to recognise future literary luminaries at the very start of their careers and our 2017 shortlisted authors certainly fit that bill. Their masterful debuts are just the beginning. We can expect to see great things indeed from these exceptional storytellers.”
Speaking on the judging process and the extraordinary skill shown by the shortlisted authors, Chair of Judges and Literary Editor for the Spectator, Sam Leith commented: “The level of excellence – not just potential, but real accomplishment – shown by each of the three books on this list makes it clear that these aren’t ‘good for a debut’ or ‘promising first novels’: they are fine novels tout court. Each shows technical command, each tells a compelling story, and each is given that vital extra depth by the imaginative capacity to inhabit real human feeling. I’m honoured to have had a role in selecting them.”
My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal is told from the perspective of nine-year-old Leon who, separated from his mother and little brother Jake by social services, is desperate to piece his family back together again. An international bestseller, the novel has now been optioned for television by Lenny Henry’s production company, Douglas Road Productions. Leith said: “My Name Is Leon is a piercing story: fierce, touching and with the absolute ring of truth-to-experience. The world de Waal creates has the refreshing quality of being one in which not only cruelty and sadness, but kindness and joy are present. It is a mark of sophistication that she has the confidence to tell it simply and straight.”
Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan tells the stories of Yuki Oyama – a young woman struggling to find her place in 1960’s New York, and Jay – the son she abandons when he is two years old. Leith said: “Harmless Like You is a work of startling wisdom and maturity. There’s nothing easy about the characters and relationships Buchanan describes — and she never, never, jumps quite the way you expect her to. I found it tough, moving and truthful.”
Golden Hill by Francis Spufford is set in New York in 1746, and centres around Mr Smith – a young man who arrives under a shroud of mystery with an order for an enormous amount of money. Leith said: “Golden Hill is a period pastiche that offers the abundant narrative pleasures of an 18th-century romp, with a slyly 21st-century knowingness. It is a terrific story: exciting, funny, dramatic, exquisitely written and in its unforeseeable final twist, richly moving.”
Publisher Viking Books, an imprint of Penguin Books UK, is shortlisted for the third year in a row, having been shortlisted in 2016 and 2015 for The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester and Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey respectively. It is also the third year in a row the Prize has revealed a majority female shortlist, with the dominance of Kit de Waal and Rowan Hisayo Buchanan.
Sam Leith is joined on the judging panel by the award-winning author, Kamila Shamsie and specialist book buyer for WHSmith, Iain Rushworth. The winner will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on 21st June where they will be presented with a cheque for £10,000.
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Tickets for Fry Up!, an “immersive theatrical dining experience” based on the traditional greasy spoon, will go on sale today, 1st April. For one week only, Fry Up! – based at arts venue The Vaults, Waterloo – will transport visitors into a traditional East London “caff” with all the trimmings: formica tables, plastic chairs, tomato-shaped ketchup bottles, salt and pepper sachets, Mother’s Pride and mugs of builder’s tea.
The brainchild of Kieron Vanstone, Director of The Vaults, the idea for the pop-up formed after a meeting in his local café. Vanstone realised there was a gap in the market for a true, London café experience.
Vanstone says: “As I was eating my smashed avocado on sourdough toast, with a double-shot, soya flat white, I realised I was craving something altogether simpler. That’s when it came to me – why not celebrate the greasy spoon?
“The greasy spoon is an iconic part of British culture and a dying breed which should be championed. So we have created an immersive theatrical dining experience that will take Londoners and tourists alike back to basics, celebrating the joy of a natter over a cuppa and a full English.”
Customers to Fry Up! will have the chance to sample traditional English breakfast fare – white toast, fried eggs, sausages, chips, bacon and baked beans – whilst also having the opportunity to try their hands at playing the role of cafe owner, waiting staff and kitchen porter.
Vanstone continues: “Audiences will be as immersed as they like, interacting as customers or being able to cook and serve their meal themselves. There’s even a pair of bespoke marigolds for the finale!”
Londoner Henry Jones says: “I’m really excited that Fry Up! is opening not too far from where I live. I’ve wanted to try out a traditional greasy spoon ever since I moved to London in 2012 but, with the rise of hipster cafes and the gluten-free Swedish cinnamon bun trend, I don’t feel like I’ve had the chance to have the genuine experience. I will definitely be in the queue for Fry Up!.”
Tickets to Fry Up! will start from £45 for breakfast only, and £65 for the chance to act as one of the staff. Tickets go on sale from Saturday 1 April on The Vaults website: https://www.thevaults.london/whats-on.