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.
by Rana Asfour
In two days' time (on July 1) the winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize for 2015 will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason, UK. The three shortlisted titles chosen from a longlist of ten books published in the last year by British and Irish debut novelists include ' by Emma Healey (Viking), 'by Carys Bray (Hutchinson) and ' by Claire Fuller (Fig Tree).
In a press release, Chair of judges Louise Doughty noted: 'It’s fascinating to see that each writer arrived here from slightly unorthodox beginnings and it’s a testament to The Desmond Elliott Prize that it identifies and rewards the very best new writing talent, whatever the author’s date of birth. Our shortlist shows that there’s no age limit on being a sparkling new arrival on the literary scene'.
Claire Fuller, 48, 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 40s, spurred on by National Novel Writing Month (or “NaNoWriMo”), an online phenomenon which challenges participants to write a novel in a month.
Emma Healey, the youngest of the shortlisted authors at 29, took home a C in GCSE English in her school days, but, like Fuller, brings an artistic background to her writing – her first degree was in bookbinding, after which she worked in an art gallery. She eventually enrolled in the UEA Creative Writing Course before 'Elizabeth is Missing' went on to sell at auction and become a bestseller.
Carys Bray, 39, has spoken openly about the restrictions that kept her from writing until recently. Just five years ago she and her husband decided to remove their family of six from the Mormon faith. She now also teaches Creative Writing and is completing a PhD.
In a review I wrote about 'A Song for Issy Bradley' just before it hit the shelves, I described it Carys Bray book as a stunning heart-warming story about loss that is brave, even funny and so heartbreaking in its sincerity that you'll need to keep that tissue box handy. In short, this is a book about a family, any family, who has to conjecture enough faith to miraculously resurrect itself from the abyss after having lost one of its own.
For the full BookFabulous review, click HERE & to read an excerpt, click HERE
This is about elderly Maud who although is slowly losing her grip on every day life as she battles with Alzheimer's, yet remains consistently insistent that her best friend Elizabeth is missing and in danger. Ignoring everyone's advice to the contrary, Maud, armed with handwritten notes she leaves for herself resolves to discover the truth and save her friend. Her quest opens up a seventy-year-old mystery. One that everyone has forgotten about. Everyone, except Maud.
To read a review and an excerpt, click HERE.
This is the story of eight-year-old Peggy Hillcoat, whose father James, a survivalist, kidnaps her to live in a forest and convinces her that the whole world is no more and everyone on it has disappeared, including her home in London and her mother. As time goes on, Peggy comes to discover for herself the events that brought her to the forest and finds a way to return to civilisation. After Peggy's return, her mother begins to learn the truth of her escape, of what happened to James on the last night out in the woods, and of the secret that Peggy has carried with her ever since.
To read an excerpt, click HERE & for a review, click HERE