Annal: 2000 Whitbread Book Award for Novel

Results of the Whitbread Book Award in the year 2000.

Book:English Passengers

English Passengers: A Novel

Matthew Kneale

When Captain Illiam Quillian Kewley and his band of rum smugglers from the Isle of Man have most of their contraband—but not all—confiscated by British Customs, they are forced to put their ship Sincerity up for charter. The only takers are two eccentric Englishmen who want to embark for the other side of the globe.

The Reverend Geoffrey Wilson believes the Garden of Eden was on the island of Tasmania. His traveling partner, Dr. Thomas Potter, unbeknownst to Wilson, is developing a revolutionary, and sinister, thesis of his own, about the races of men. And these passengers are perhaps only slightly more odd than the crew itself, a diverse and lively bunch better equipped to entertain one another than to steer Sincerity around Cape Horn and across the Indian Ocean. Yet they set sail, pointed southward and bound for a thrilling, epic romp across the high seas and cultures of the nineteenth century. …[more]

Book:Fred & Edie

Fred & Edie

Jill Dawson

In a dazzling act of literary license, the novelist and poet Jill Dawson has transformed the sensational true story of Britain”s infamous condemned adulteress into a dramatic novel of passion, murder, and scandal, as seductive as it is shocking. One night in London in 1922, a clerk named Percy Thompson is stabbed to death as he walks home from the theater. The spectacular case that follows captures the imagination of an entire nation, as Percy”s wife, Edith, and her young lover, Frederick Bywaters, are imprisoned, summarily tried, and hanged for murder, even as a petition to spare their lives receives more than one million signatures. Stylish, tantalizing, “with descriptions of the sex act from a woman”s viewpoint [that] are both lyrical and sublime” (Daily Mail), Fred & Edie is a hauntingly authentic portrait of a woman whose passio ultimately leads to her destruction. Reminiscent of both Lady Chatterley and Emma Bovary, Jill Dawson”s Edie falls into the category of the unforgettable.

Book:How the Dead Live

How the Dead Live

Will Self

Will Self is a novelist of world-class stature, an unparalleled literary craftsman with a ferocious insight. In How the Dead Live, he gives us his best and most important book yet, an incisive and troubling dissection of the spiritual emptiness and death in our culture.

Lily Bloom is an aging American in final-stage cancer in the Royal Ear Hospital in Central London. Not that there’s anything wrong with her ears—it’s just the only bed they could find for her. As her two daughters buzz around her and the nurses pump her full of morphine, Lily slides in and out of consciousness, outraged that there’s so little time left and so much hate still to go around. In her delirium she rails against everything, from the sins of those in the immediate proximity to the world at large, viewed through the lens of her paranoid bigotry. In the corner of the ward sits an impassive, middle-aged Aboriginal Australian…[more]

Book:What Are You Like?

What Are You Like?

Anne Enright

Anne Enright is one of Ireland’s most exciting new writers, a beguiling storyteller of warm humor and wry lyricism. In her American debut, she gives us a novel of the fierce bonds of origin and the connections and disjunctions of family that will establish her as a wise, fresh voice in fiction.

At the opening of What Are You Like? Berts, a new father, struggles to love his baby daughter, simultaneously mourning the wife who died giving her life. Raised in the shadow of his quiet grief, Maria finds herself at twenty in New York City, awash in nameless longing and falling in love with the wrong sort of man. Going through her lover’s things, she finds a photograph of herself aged twelve, in clothes she’s never worn, a place she’s never been. It will send her home to Ireland, to the slow unraveling of a secret that may prove more devastating than Berts’s long sadness, but more pregnant with possibility. …[more]

Book:When We Were Orphans

When We Were Orphans

Kazuo Ishiguro

The maze of human memory—the ways in which we accommodate and alter it, deceive and deliver ourselves with it—is territory that Kazuo Ishiguro has made his own. In his previous novels, he has explored this inner world and its manifestations in the lives of his characters with rare inventiveness and subtlety, shrewd humor and insight. In When We Were Orphans, his first novel in five years, he returns to this terrain in a brilliantly realized story that illuminates the power of one’s past to determine the present.

Christopher Banks, an English boy born in early-twentieth-century Shanghai, is orphaned at age nine when his mother and father both vanish under suspicious circumstances. Sent to live in England, he grows up to become a renowned detective and, more than twenty years later, returns to Shanghai, where the Sino-Japanese War is raging, to solve the mystery of the disappearances. …[more]

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