The Desmond Elliott Prize has announced that 'Our Endless Numbered Days' by Claire Fuller has emerged triumphant as the best debut novel of the year. This dark story is set in the British survivalist movement of the 1970s, and features a father who keeps his daughter captive in the German wilderness for nine years, under the pretence that they are the last people alive on earth.
Fuller was selected as the winner of the £10,000 Prize from a shortlist which also featured 'Elizabeth is Missing' by Emma Healey and 'A Song for Issy Bradley' by Carys Bray. Chair of Judges and award-winning author Louise Doughty said: “Our Endless Numbered Days is both shocking and subtle, brilliant and beautiful, a poised and elegant work that recalls the early work of Ian McEwan in the delicacy of its prose and the way that this is combined with some very dark undertones.”
While Fuller’s novel has been hailed by critics, it was not a breakout bestseller – something Doughty pointed out is typical of most debut novels. Doughty – who was joined by Foyles bookseller Jonathan Ruppin and journalist Viv Groskop on the judging panel – called for UK publishers to offer sustained support for novelists, far beyond their first books.
Fuller, 48, came to fiction writing later in life. She originally studied sculpture at Winchester School of Art, specialising in wood and stone carving, then ran her own marketing company for 23 years. She began writing fiction in her forties, spurred on by National Novel Writing Month (or “NaNoWriMo”), an online phenomenon which challenges participants to write a novel in a month. She belongs to a club of authors who have published their debut books in their 40s or later, called The Prime Writers.
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. Now in its eighth year, the award has an established record for spotting up-and-coming novelists in the UK and Ireland and propelling them to greater recognition and success. The 2014 winner was Eimear McBride, author of the much-garlanded and critically lauded 'A Girl is a Half-formed Thing'. Other past winners include Grace McCleen, Anjali Joseph, Edward Hogan and Ali Shaw.