Sara Baume and Thomas Morris on Granta list of future stars

Running since 1983, the list spotlights 20 novelists under the age of 40 every 10 years

Granta magazine’s Best of British Novelists list, which hails the literary stars of the future, has this year expanded to include writers who “regard this country as their home” even if they do not have a British passport. “The result is a more varied and encompassing portrait of the kind of writing that is happening today in Britain”, said Luke Neima, deputy editor of Granta.

Running since 1983, the list spotlights 20 novelists under the age of 40 every 10 years, marking them out as stars of the future. This year’s authors include Booker Prize-winner Eleanor Catton, Desmond Elliott prize-winner Derek Owusu, former Stinging Fly editor Thomas Morris and Sara Baume, whose credits include the Davy Byrne’s Short Story Award, Hennessy New Irish Writing Award, Rooney Prize for Literature, Irish Book Award Newcomer of the Year, Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and Kate O’Brien Award.

They follow in the footsteps of writers such as Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith and Kamila Shamsie, who have made the list in previous years.

The inclusion of an Irish author on a Best of British Novelists list might raise eyebrows, if not hackles, but Baume, author of Spill Simmer Falter Wither, A Line Made by Walking, handiwork and Seven Steeples, was born in Lancashire in 1984. Perhaps Granta might expand its next list again to Best of British and Irish Novelists, in the same way that Irish publishers are now eligible for the Booker Prize, in recognition of how integral Irish authors are to the British literary world.


“I absolutely consider myself to be an Irish writer,” Baume said. “I’ve lived here since I was a baby; I was raised Roman Catholic in rural Cork in the ‘80s and ‘90s; I went to university in Dublin. Ireland is the country that made me a writer – every book I’ve written has been set here.

“But! I am also entitled to a British passport – because I was born in the UK and because my Dad was from Yorkshire. So I’m a dual citizen. And I’m over the moon to be representing Ireland on this prestigious list!”

Thomas Morris is from Caerphilly, south Wales, where all but one of the stories in his prize-winning debut short story collection We Don’t Know What We’re Doing (Faber, 2015) are set. The exception, about a stag party, is set in Dublin, where he now lives. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin and a former editor of Stinging Fly magazine, he is now its editor-at-large.

We Don’t Know What We’re Doing won the 2016 Wales Book of the Year, The Rhys Davies Trust Fiction Award, and a Somerset Maugham Award. Open Up, his second collection, will be published by Faber & Faber in August. He also devised and edited Dubliners 100 (Tramp Press), in which 15 Irish authors wrote “cover versions” of the stories from James Joyce’s Dubliners. It won the best Irish-published book at the 2014 Irish Book Awards.

Catton, this year’s best-known author, is from New Zealand but is eligible because of the rule change – she now lives in Cambridge. “Being British, for writers, is not just about a passport, it is also about contributing to, and taking part in, a literary culture which – incidentally – has traditionally welcomed foreign voices, from Joseph Conrad to Salman Rushdie, Hisham Matar and Elif Shafak,” said Granta editor Sigrid Rausing.

Owusu won the Desmond Elliott prize for his debut That Reminds Me, about a boy born to Ghanaian parents growing up in Britain. In his genre-blending second novel Losing the Plot, a son pays tribute to his immigrant mother and her precarious life in London, working cleaning jobs and raising a family. Owusu has also edited Safe, an anthology of writing by Black British men.

K Patrick, whose first novel Mrs S is out this summer and who identifies as non-binary, wrote much of his debut – about an Australian who takes on a job at an English boarding school and has an affair with the head teacher’s wife – in three months. Patrick was picked as one of the Observer’s 10 best new novelists of 2023.

Scottish author Graeme Armstrong had 300 rejections for his debut novel The Young Team, written in vernacular; “with its descriptions of violence, drug use and chronic poverty, the novel portrays lives rarely seen in fiction,” said the Guardian review. Olivia Sudjic is the author of Sympathy and Asylum Road, while Sophie Mackintosh’s Cursed Bread is longlisted for this year’s Women’s prize.

Natasha Brown’s Assembly, a blistering exposé of racism and sexism which unfolds as a Black woman prepares for a party, was described by Sara Collins in the Guardian as a “short sharp shock of a novel”. Tom Crewe’s acclaimed debut The New Life, released earlier this year, is set among radical thinkers and campaigners at the time of the Oscar Wilde trial; Lara Feigel in the Guardian described it as “virtuoso” and “one of the most embodied historical novels I have read”.

Eliza Clark is the author of Boy Parts; her novel Penance, an investigation of true crime obsession and teenage cliques, will be released in July, followed by a collection of short stories – She’s Always Hungry – in 2024.

Also on the list are Isabella Hammad, whose second novel Enter Ghost follows a production of Hamlet in Palestine; and Yara Rodrigues Fowler, author of Stubborn Archivist and There Are More Things, shortlisted for the Goldsmiths prize.

Lauren Aimee Curtis, who was born in Sydney, is the author of Dolores, published in 2019. Her second novel, Strangers at the Port, will be released this summer.

Eley Williams became known for her playful story collection Attrib.; her novel The Liar’s Dictionary, about two lexicographers divided by a century, won the 2021 Betty Trask award.

A number of other short story writers make the list. Saba Sams, who won the BBC short story prize, is the author of Send Nudes, a collection about young women and girls described as “exceptional” by Madeleine Feeney in the Guardian. Anna Metcalfe’s first book, Blind Water Pass, was published in 2016. while Camilla Grudova’s eerie collection The Doll’s Alphabet was followed by a novel about a fleapit cinema, Children of Paradise. Catherine Taylor in the Guardian said it “created a magnificently spiky commentary on the detrimental nature of work hierarchies and zero-hours contracts”.

This list is completed by Jennifer Atkins, whose novel The Cellist, published by the small indie Peninsula Press in 2022, explores love and creativity through the story of a musician and a sculptor; and Sarah Bernstein, author of The Coming Bad Days, whose second novel, Study for Obedience, is forthcoming in July.

The list was chosen by a panel chaired by Rausing. She was joined by novelists Rachel Cusk (who appeared on the 2003 list), Helen Oyeyemi (on the 2013 list), Tash Aw, and Irish essayist and critic Brian Dillon. – Guardian