Annal: 1996 Whitbread Book Award for Novel

Results of the Whitbread Book Award in the year 1996.

Book:Every Man for Himself

Every Man for Himself

Beryl Bainbridge

On Wednesday, April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic left Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York. Four days later, half an hour before midnight, she struck an iceberg. By 2 a.m. the last lifeboat had rowed frantically away. Minutes later the great ship sank. Fifteen hundred people had lost their lives. Every Man for Himself recaptures those four crucial days at the end of the Belle Epoque.

J. Pierpont Morgan’s nephew, en route to New York, has booked passage on the world’s most luxurious ocean liner. His companions include a host of Guggenheims, Vanderbilts, and upper crust fellow travelers. It is a voyage of black-tie dining and moonlight serenades, of illicit romances and reserved travelers with shadowy pasts. The young Morgan soon finds his destiny linked to those of his shipmates, memorable personalities all, as the great ship sails toward her fate. But the Titanic’s destiny…[more]

Book:Asylum (Patrick McGrath)

Asylum

Patrick McGrath

From our most celebrated writer of the psychological thriller comes this nerve-wracking yet eerily beautiful work of erotic obsession and madness. In the summer of 1959 Stella Raphael joins her psychiatrist husband, Max, at his new posting—a maximum-security hospital for the criminally insane. Beautiful and headstrong, Stella soon falls under the spell of Edgar Stark, a brilliant and magnetic sculptor who has been confined to the hospital for murdering his wife in a psychotic rage. But Stella’s knowledge of Edgar’s crime is no hindrance to the volcanic attraction that ensues—a passion that will consume Stella’s sanity and destroy her and the lives of those around her.

Book:Cocaine Nights

Cocaine Nights

J.G. Ballard

J. G. Ballard once again reveals his visionary mastery in this warped tale of the unexpected

The setting for Cocaine Nights is the Costa del Sol and the stylish resort of Estrella de Mar. Into the queasy beauty of this artificial environment steps Charles Prentice, a travel writer from London who has come to visit his brother Frank, manager of the resort’s Club Nautico.

Frank is in jail, having confessed to setting an explosive fire that has taken five lives. Certain that the confession was coerced, Charles launches his own investigation. As he allows himself to be drawn further into Estrella de Mar’s dark underworld, this explosive novel accelerates toward a disturbing climax.

Book:Last Orders: A Novel

Last Orders: A Novel

Graham Swift

Graham Swift’s first novel since the highly acclaimed Ever After is a subtle yet deeply felt exploration of the ways in which friendship and love are shaped by the past and by fate. At its center is a group of men, friends since the Second World War, whose lives revolve around work, family, the racetrack, and their favorite pub. Now, the death of one of them, and the survivors’ task of driving their friend’s ashes from London to the seaside town where they’ll be scattered, compels them to take stock.

Through conversation and memory they trace the paths they have followed by choice and by accident: through war and its aftermath, through the dramas of their family lives and of their shifting relationships with one another. In brilliantly realized, richly humorous voices, Swift has created a narrative language that perfectly expresses not only the comforts of old habits and friendships but the profound emotional revelations this brief but far-reaching journey will bring them.

Book:Mr. Clive & Mr. Page

Mr. Clive & Mr. Page

Neil Bartlett

In this novel, Mr Page takes the reader from the brittle glamour of the 20s to the violent repression of the 50s; from Mayfair dining rooms to the steam room of a Turkish bath; from the ordinary world of Mr Page to the strange and unsettling world of Mr Clive.

Book:Worst Fears

Worst Fears

Fay Weldon

Fay Weldon is an irresistible blend of compassionate wisdom and deliciously nasty wit, and her consummate twenty-first novel is a tour de force. From its hilarious opening (“I’ve never seen a dead body.…Can I come too?”) to its satisfying final conflagration, it is a taut, scathing revelation of the nature of marital intimacy. Released from the safety of the conjugal hearth into the howling gales of widowhood, it’s hard to tell if Alexandra is losing her sanity or just her friends.

When Alexandra returns from her stint on the London stage as Ibsen’s sweet and timid Nora to find her husband mysteriously dead of a heart attack and her female friends ominously invested in smoothing out all the complications of the tragedy, she begins to be suspicious. At first attributes this to grief, and then to paranoia—perhaps she’s simply going crazy?—but the smug managerial tactics of solid Abbie, the fussy, invasive ministrations of the again but still glamorous Vilna, and the vacant,…[more]

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