Annal: 2003 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2003.

Book:The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: A Novel

Mark Haddon

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. Routine, order and predictability shelter him from the messy, wider world. Then, at fifteen, Christopher’s carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing.

Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer and turns to his favorite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. But the investigation leads him down some unexpected paths and ultimately brings him face to face with the dissolution of his parents’ marriage. As he tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, we are drawn…[more]

Book:Brick Lane

Brick Lane: A Novel

Monica Ali

Monica Ali’s gorgeous first novel is the deeply moving story of one woman, Nazneen, born in a Bangladeshi village and transported to London at age eighteen to enter into an arranged marriage. Already hailed by the London Observer as “one of the most significant British novelists of her generation,” Ali has written a stunningly accomplished debut about one outsider’s quest to find her voice.

What could not be changed must be borne. And since nothing could be changed, everything had to be borne. This principle ruled her life. It was mantra, fettle, and challenge.

Nazneen’s inauspicious entry into the world, an apparent stillbirth on the hard mud floor of a village hut, imbues in her a sense of fatalism that she carries across continents when she is married off to Chanu, a man old enough to be her father.…[more]

Book:A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies

A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies: Stories

John Murray

In this remarkably assured and satisfying debut collection, John Murray seamlessly meshes fact with fiction, taking his inspiration from the worlds of science, medicine, and nature. The stories are set in intriguing locations across the globe—a cholera tent in the slums of Bombay, a United Nations refugee camp in the mountains of Africa, a Key West hideaway—where his characters, among them doctors, nurses, research scientists, explorers, and collectors, can be found reading The Manual of Clinical Microbiology or Gray’s Anatomy or the Complete Textbook of Psychiatry.

And yet, despite the pull of the outer world, these stories are all about the internal world of emotions—love, loss, obsession, and conflict—and about families and how they survive. They unfold to tell of moments when people catch glimpses of their real selves, their pasts, and have flashes of understanding about their lives. In “The Hill Station,” an American-born scientist…[more]

Book:Goblin Fruit

Goblin Fruit: Stories

David Marshall Chan

In the provocative title story an ambitious young actor assumes the identity of his dead brother, killed in a notorious Hollywood film accident. “Brilliant Disguise” tells the story of an Asian American masked wrestler, while in “Lost Years” two brothers must adopt false names while on the road and on the run. Whether portraying the hapless erosion of innocence or the musings of young men longing to be something other—a boy detective, a Jehovah’s Witness, a swan—the stories in Goblin Fruit announce a distinctive literary voice shaped by the pop dreams and cultural divides of a Los Angeles forever transformed by the writer’s subtle craft.

Book:There Are Jews in My House

There Are Jews in My House: Stories

Lara Vapnyar

Innocence rounds the bend to experience in these beautifully shaped stories of Moscow and Brooklyn, which take up the worldview of the young and overlooked. The stunning Second World War story that opens the book is a masterpiece of ambivalence—about the simultaneous generosity and hypocrisy of Galina, a gentile Russian woman who offers safe harbor to a Jewish friend and her daughter during the German occupation. In “Love Lessons—Mondays, 9 A.M.,” a young math teacher is assigned to teach a girls’ sex education class, even though she herself is still awaiting her first kiss. And in “Mistress,” a boy newly arrived in this country bears witness to the intimate details of his grandparents’ new and diverging lives: his grandmother’s doctors’ appointments, where he is charged with translating her myriad complaints into English, and his grandfather’s clandestine courtship of another woman. …[more]

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