Annal: 1996 Whitbread Book Award for First Novel

Results of the Whitbread Book Award in the year 1996.

Book:The Debt to Pleasure

The Debt to Pleasure: A Novel

John Lanchester

The Debt to Pleasure is a wickedly funny ode to food. Traveling from Portsmouth to the south of France, Tarquin Winot, the book’s snobbish narrator, instructs us in his philosophy on everything from the erotics of dislike to the psychology of the menu. Under the guise of completing a cookbook, Winot is in fact on a much more sinister mission that only gradually comes to light.

Book:The Arizona Game

The Arizona Game

Georgina Hammick

Hannah comes from a family beset by madness and sadness. Surrounded by the clever and the eccentric and the gloomy, can she unravel the mysterious past and escape her legacy? And will she ever get to Arizona?

Book:Mother of Pearl

Mother of Pearl

Mary Morrissy

A tubercular child, Irene is banished to a sanitorium where, long after she is cured, she remains as a ministering angel to the lonely and the sickly—especially the men, whose furtive groping in the dark still leaves her virginal in body and in soul. But when one patient misconstrues her mission, Irene seeks an escape—and a marriage proposal from Stanley Godwin provides it.

From this provocative beginning Mary Morrissy spins her haunting story of one woman’s search for home and family, and for a sense of belonging that has long been denied her. Although Stanley is impotent, Irene carelessly tells a neighbor that she is pregnant. And Stanley, inexplicably, believes. Their marriage blooms into something dynamic and joyful as they await the child they have named Pearl. The lie, the calculated misunderstanding Irene has set into motion, will undo them both…unless, somehow, the child she has conjured out of light and air becomes flesh and blood. And the troubling truth emerges only years later, when a woman approaching middle age begins to remember her shadow life as the daughter of another mother.

Book:Reading in the Dark

Reading in the Dark: A Novel

Seamus Deane

Seamus Deane’s first novel is a mesmerizing story of childhood set against the violence of Northern Ireland in the 1940s and 1950s.

The boy narrator grows up haunted by a truth he both wants and does not want to discover. The matter: a deadly betrayal, unspoken and unspeakable, born of political enmity. As the boy listens through the silence that surrounds him, the truth spreads like a stain until it engulfs him and his family. And as he listens, and watches, the world of legend—the stone fort of Grianan, home of the warrior Fianna; the Field of the Disappeared, over which no gulls fly—reveals its transfixing reality. Meanwhile the real world of adulthood unfolds its secrets like a collection of folktales: the dead sister walking again; the lost uncle, Eddie, present on every page; the family house “as cunning and articulate as a labyrinth, closely designed, with someone sobbing at…[more]

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