Irish author Sally Rooney has won the 2017 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award for her first novel, Conversations With Friends (Faber & Faber). The award was presented at a ceremony on Thursday night at the London Library.
Acclaimed as a remarkably fresh, clever and self-assured novel, Conversations With Friends has been one of the biggest debuts of 2017, and Rooney's writing has been compared to that of JD Salinger and Bret Easton Ellis.
Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate, who was on the judging panel, said: that "for line-by-line quality, emotional complexity, sly sophistication and sheer brio and enjoyment, Sally Rooney's Conversations With Friends really stood out".
“To have produced a novel which nods all the way back to Jane Austen’s Emma, while being so thoroughly modern in feel, is quite something, and Rooney proves herself with this debut to be a really worthy addition to the extraordinary list of past winners of the Young Writer Award.”
Rooney (26), born in the west of Ireland and now living in Dublin, is the first Irish winner of this award, founded in 1991, and the joint youngest winner – she is tied with Zadie Smith, who won for White Teeth in 2001.
This Sunday Times/Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award, in association with the University of Warwick, was judged by award-winning novelist and political commentator Elif Shafak, cultural historian and biographer Lucy Hughes-Hallett, and Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate.
Strength of submissions
Rooney’s intimate story of high-risk relationships, youth and love was one of four books the judges shortlisted this year, rather than the usual three, as a testament to the strength of submissions.
Featuring two other novels, a collection of linked short stories and a biography, the shortlist showcased the extraordinary breadth of young British and Irish writing: Minoo Dinshaw's debut Outlandish Knight is a biography of the great and strange British historian Steven Runciman; with The End of the Day, Claire North has written a novel of life, death and everything in between; The Lucky Ones, Julianne Pachico's debut collection of stories, mostly set in Colombia, brings together the fates of guerrilla soldiers, rich kids, rabbits and drug dealers, while The Lauras by Sara Taylor, whose first novel was shortlisted for the award in 2015, explores identity and relationships, set against a rolling backdrop of the North American landscape.