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Last month, I wrote about debut book prizes in the US. Today I will look at two overseas. The Desmond Elliott Prize goes to British and Irish debut authors. Their shortlist was recently announced with a winner to be announced July 1st. The three finalists all sound like intriguing reads:
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey – A mystery about a women with Alzheimer’s who searches for an old friend who she believes is missing.
A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray — A story about a Mormon family that faces a tragedy and how the tragedy tests their faith.
Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller – After a family tragedy, a survivalist father takes his daughter from London to live in a forest.
And in Australia, the Stella Prize celebrates women writers. The prize is open to writers at any stage of their careers, but this year’s winner was Emily Bitto for her debut novel, The Strays, which is a historical novel set in 1930s Melbourne, about a young girl, Lily, who befriends Eva, a classmate brought up by avant garde artists. This book does not look like it has been published in the US yet, but is available on the Kindle, and after winning this award I hope Bitto finds a US publisher.
Have any of you read any of these books? I’d be curious to know what you thought of them.
Keep cool … and happy summer reading….
I love reading books from other cultures and find that not many of them make it in to our shelves in the US. One way I have found to discover new authors from overseas is to follow books that win prizes, the only problem is that there is often a gap between when a book gets published overseas and when it makes it to the US. For example, Nayomi Munaweera’s Island of a Thousand Mirrors was longlisted for the 2012 Man Asian Prize after it was published in South Asia, but didn’t come out in hardback in the US until 2014. And she is an author who even lives in the US!
But e-publishing can shorten a wait for a book. The books I write about today have not yet been published in the US but some you can buy e-versions of via Amazon.
The Stella Prize celebrates women writers in Australia. Last week they announced their shortlist, and three of the six authors are debut writers. Of the three debuts, two are short story collections. Maxine Beneba Clarke wrote Foreign Soil, a collection of stories about people on the margins in the US, the UK and Australia. Ellen van Neerven’s Heat and Light is a collection of literary and speculative short fiction. And Emily Bitto wrote a historical novel set in 1930s Melbourne. The story is about a young girl, Lily, who befriends a girl, Eva, who is brought up by avant garde artists.
And last night, in Nigeria, the second Etisalat Prize for Literature was awarded to Songeziwe Mahlangu, a South African novelist. This is a prize awarded to a debut African author. Mahlangu’s novel Penumbra is the story of a young man living in Cape Town who recently graduated from college, and struggles with mental illness.
I am struck by how diverse all of these debuts are. Of the Australian books, Bitto’s novel sounds like something we would read about in the US market, but the short story collections are less mainstream and not easily summarizable, not a quality found in our market where debuts often need pithy plot lines to get noticed. And Penumbra is described as a difficult book and is less mainstream than last year’s Etisalat winner, NoViolet Bulawayo for We Need New Names. An intriguing collection of books and voices!
Next up, I review Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper—a quirky novel about an 83-year old woman’s journey to the sea.