Annal: 1999 Whitbread Book Award for First Novel

Results of the Whitbread Book Award in the year 1999.

Book:White City Blue

White City Blue

Tim Lott

Frankie Blue has an overwhelming desire to fit in somewhere. Up until now, his friends have kept him grounded, but, with his wedding day fast approaching, Frankie starts to question his relationship with the lads as well as his relationship with Vronky, his glamourous, sexy but suddenly nagging fiancee.

White City Blue could so easily have fallen into the makeshift-Nick Hornby-throwback trap, but is saved by the fact that it is actually quite an articulate study of a man made of little more than the suit he wears and the car he drives.

Frankie is as…

Book:A Foreign Country (Francine Stock)

A Foreign Country

Francine Stock

Daphne is the sort of woman who lives alone because she can “no longer bear conversations”. She has an orderly mind and she’s proud of it. At 74 her faculties remain as sharp as they were 50 years ago when she worked in the War Office, interviewing suspected Fifth Columnists. By 1940s standards her work there was dutiful beyond reproach, but civil rights standards have moved on since then. When Rachel, her favourite son Oliver’s girlfriend, suggests she take part in a programme about internment and deportations during the war, Daphne clams up. She knows better…

Book:The Great Ideas

The Great Ideas

Suzanne Cleminshaw

First novels about childhood don’t come more erudite or thrilling than this. Haddie Ashton, aged 13, is embroiled in a summer holiday full of mystery, tragedy and learning the “A” section of the encyclopaedia (thus we get potted discourses on Agorazonta, Alcibiades and Animism delivered in a refreshingly wondering, childlike tone). But, together with her wilfully eccentric best friend, Louis Lewis, she gets up to more nefarious deeds—cat-burgling, for instance, and exploring an empty, neighbouring house. Thirteen years ago, from the top storey of this sinister…

Book:Our Fathers

Our Fathers

Andrew O'Hagan

Hugh Bawn was a modern hero, a dreamer, a Socialist, a man of the people who revolutionized Scotland’s residential development after World War II. Now he lies dying on the eighteenth floor of one of the flats he built, flats that are being demolished along with the idealism he inherited from his mother. Hugh’s final months are plagued by memory and loss, by bitter feelings about his family and the country that could not live up to the housing constructed for it. His grandson, Jamie, comes home to watch over his dying mentor and sees in the man and in the land that bred him his own fears. He tells the story of his family-a tale of pride and delusion, of nationality and strong drink, of Catholic faith and the end of the old Left. It is a tale of dark hearts and modern houses, of three men in search of Utopia. Andrew O’Hagan’s story is a poignant and powerful reclamation of the past and a clear-sighted look at our relationship with personal and public history. Our Fathers announces the arrival of a major writer.

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