Annal: 2001 Whitbread Book Award for Novel

Results of the Whitbread Book Award in the year 2001.

Book:Twelve Bar Blues

Twelve Bar Blues

Patrick Neate

Twelve Bar Blues is an epic tale of fate and family, jazz and juju that spans three continents and two centuries to tell a story of enduring roots and indelible love. At its heart is Lick Holden, a talented but tormented young musician who sets the jazz scene of early-twentieth-century New Orleans on fire with the hot tones of his coronet. But Lick’s true passion is for his beautiful lost stepsister, for whom he searches among the streets, music halls, and bordellos of the South. Their story reverberates through the decades into the life of Sylvia Di Napoli, a black English former prostitute turned singer who travels from London to America in 1999 to find the answer to the mystery of her family’s roots.

Funny and poignant, Twelve Bar Blues is a dynamic novel with all the emotional energy and breakneck tempo of a red-hot Big Easy jazz band that will hook you—like a favorite tune—until the very last page.

Book:Atonement

Atonement: A Novel

Ian McEwan

On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her older sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching Cecilia is their housekeeper’s son Robbie Turner, a childhood friend who, along with Briony’s sister, has recently graduated from Cambridge.

By the end of that day the lives of all three will have been changed forever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had never before dared to approach and will have become victims of the younger girl’s scheming imagination. And Briony will have committed a dreadful crime, the guilt for which will color her entire life.

In each of his novels Ian McEwan has brilliantly drawn his reader into the intimate lives and situations of his characters. But never before has he worked with so large a canvas: In Atonement he takes the reader from a manor house in England…[more]

Book:Oxygen

Oxygen

Andrew Miller

It is the summer of 1997. Alec Valentine is returning to England to care for his ailing mother, Alice, a task that only reinforces his deep sense of inadequacy. In San Francisco, his older brother Larry prepares to come home as well, preoccupied with an acting career that is sliding toward sleaze and a marriage that is faltering. In Paris, on the other hand, the Hungarian playwright Lászlo Lázár seems to have it all—critical acclaim, a loving boyfriend, and a close circle of friends—yet even he is haunted by guilt and tragedy. For each of them the time has come to assess the turns taken, the opportunities missed. And for each there will be one last chance to break free from the past and find redemption in a moment of clarity and courage.

Andrew Miller has given us an intimate, compelling meditation that evokes an extraordinary range of emotions and insights—Oxygen lives and breathes beyond the final page.

Book:The Siege

The Siege: A Novel

Helen Dunmore

The Siege is Helen Dunmore’s masterpiece. Her canvas is monumental—the Nazis’ 1941 winter siege on Leningrad that killed six hundred thousand—but her focus is heartrendingly intimate. One family, the Levins, fights to stay alive in their small apartment, held together by the unlikely courage and resourcefulness of twenty-two-year-old Anna. Though she dreams of an artist’s life, she must instead forage for food in the ever more desperate city and watch her little brother grow cruelly thin. Their father, a blacklisted writer who once advocated a robust life of the mind, withers in spirit and body. At such brutal times everything is tested. And yet Dunmore’s inspiring story shows that even then, the triumph of the human heart is that love need not fall away.

Amid the turmoil of the siege, the unimaginable happens—two people enter the Levins’ frozen home and bring a kind of romance where before there was only bare survival. A sensitive young doctor becomes Anna’s devoted partner, and her father is allowed a transcendent final episode with a mysterious woman from his past.

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