Annal: 1999 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction

Results of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in the year 1999.

Book:Renegade

Renegade: Or Halo2

Timothy Mo

Over the last two decades Timothy Mo has been responsible for producing some of the best postcolonial fiction written in English. From his debut Monkey King, to two of his finest novels Sour Sweet and An Insular Possession, Mo has written with great wit and political intelligence about the postcolonial condition from his own uniquely Anglo-Asian perspective. With Renegade or Halo Mo confirms his status as one of the finest novelists currently writing about globalisation, decolonisation, migrancy and cultural hybridity.…

Book:A Harlot's Progress

A Harlot's Progress

David Dabydeen

Going back to the origins of black fiction in 18th-century slave narrative, A Harlot’s Progress tells the story of Mungo, an elderly slave engaged in dictating the main events of his life to the Abolitionist, Mr Pringle, who is “authoring” his autobiography. Unfortunately, the true history of Mungo’s life—both as a slave and as an African—keeps on going missing in Pringle’s attempts to transform that life into a moral emblem or fable of savage innocence preceding the fall into slavery. In fact, that life refuses to confirm to any of the versions white…

Book:The Harvest (Christopher Hart)

The Harvest

Christopher Hart

A novel about adolescence and first love, about English nature and the profound changes affecting our rural landscape, The Harvest is a contemporary and unsentimental elegy for an entire class and way of life that is disappearing as surely as the English elm.

Book:Headlong

Headlong: A Novel

Michael Frayn

An unlikely con man wagers wife, wealth, and sanity in pursuit of an elusive Old Master.

Invited to dinner by the boorish local landowner, Martin Clay, an easily distracted philosopher, and his art-historian wife are asked to assess three dusty paintings blocking the draught from the chimney. But hiding beneath the soot is nothing less-Martin believes-than a lost work by Bruegel. So begins a hilarious trail of lies and concealments, desperate schemes and soaring hopes as Martin, betting all that he owns and much that he doesn’t, embarks on a quest to prove his hunch, win his wife over, and separate the painting from its owner.

In Headlong, Michael Frayn, “the master of what is seriously funny” (Anthony Burgess), offers a procession of superbly realized characters, from the country squire gone to seed to his giddy, oversexed young wife. All are burdened by human…[more]

Book:The Leper's Companions

The Leper's Companions: A novel

Julia Blackburn

The Leper’s Companions begins, we know only that the narrator has lost someone she loves. In her bereavement, she creates a past in which she might both lose and find herself: a fifteenth-century village in a land of saints and spirits, inexplicable afflictions and miraculous awakenings. With a band of pilgrims—among them an old man, his pregnant daughter, a priest, a dying woman, and a leper—she discovers a beached mermaid, watches a priest drive madness from a woman’s mouth, enters a mossy forest inhabited by a hunted man covered in shaggy hair, and witnesses a map being digested in the belly of a ravenous woman.

Moving effortlessly between the magical and the real, the past and the present, the journey of the narrator and her companions transcends the physical terrain and becomes a fantastical quest for rebirth. We are skillfully ushered into the emotional lives of each of the travelers as they reflect and ultimately redefine the life of the narrator.

The Leper’s Companions reaffirms Julia Blackburn’s status as one of the most original writers at work today, as she makes the fictional narrative do the work not only of storytelling but also of invention.

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