Desmond Elliott Prize shortlist revealed
Claire Adam, Michael Donkor and Anna Mackmin in running for £10,000 award
The three novels shortlisted today for this year’s £10,000 Desmond Elliott Prize for first-time novelists are Golden Child by Claire Adam, Hold by Michael Donkor and Devoured by Anna Mackmin.
All three titles explore the theme of how innocence can be lost following the realisation that long-accepted beliefs about the world might not be true.
Two Irish debutants had been longlisted, Sue Rainsford for Follow Me to Ground and Darragh Martin for Future Popes of Ireland.
Claire Adam introduces readers to the colourful, vibrant yet dangerous world of her childhood, Trinidad, in Golden Child. The novel tells the story of a family with twin boys, Peter and Paul, with differing personalities. When the ‘misfit’ twin, Peter, is abducted, their father, Clyde, must race to save the son that he has never really understood. About the novel, Alan Hollinghurst said: “Golden Child is a superbly controlled narrative of a family cracking under unbearable pressures, and a remarkable study in violence, always latent, sometimes horrifically real. It combines the tang of harsh reality with the luminous strangeness of a dream."
In Hold, author Michael Donkor explores the conflict between a person’s heritage and the culture in which they grew up taking inspiration from his own childhood experiences of being a London-born Ghanaian. When Londoner Amma starts rebelling against her parents, the disciplined ‘house-girl’ Belinda is summoned from Ghana to be a good influence on her. Hollinghurst said: “Hold is a captivating study of cultural displacement and generational change, seen, remarkably, entirely through female eyes. In the house-girl Belinda, Michael Donkor has created a memorably funny and poignant portrait of a young woman making sense of a life she is not in charge of.”
Rounding off the shortlist is Devoured by Anna Mackmin, a vivid semi-autobiographical tale of a girl growing up in a commune in Norfolk. The central character, Nearly Thirteen, offers the reader a chance to experience a world that exists on the fringes of society through the eyes of a child with the innocence not to question the unusual behaviour she encounters. The novel comes from Norwich-based independent publisher Propolis, founded by Henry Layte who co-published the 2014 Desmond Elliott Prize-winning A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride. Alan Hollinghurst said: “An exuberant and technically inventive debut from Anna Mackmin. She shows us the variously pompous, randy and self-deluded adults in a 1970s Norfolk commune through the eyes of drolly observant child on the cusp of puberty. Devoured is absorbing, unnerving and extremely funny.”
Last year, the prize was awarded to Preti Taneja for her debut novel, We That Are Young. Other past winners include Francis Spufford, Claire Fuller and Lisa McInerney.
Hollinghurst’s fellow judges are the literary editor of the Times, Robbie Millen, and managing director of the Booksellers Association, Meryl Halls. The winner will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on June 19th.
Desmond Elliott started life 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. Hee set up as an agent and established 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.