Annal: 2003 Whitbread Book Award for First Novel

Results of the Whitbread Book Award in the year 2003.

Book:Vernon God Little

Vernon God Little: A 21st Century Comedy in the Presence of Death

D.B.C. Pierre

In the town jail of Martirio, Texas — under the terrifying care of the dynastic Gurie family, and wearing only his New Jack trainers and underpants — fifteen-year-old Vernon Little is in trouble. His friend has just blown away sixteen of his classmates before turning the gun on himself. And Vernon has become the focus of the whole town’s need for vengeance, and the media’s appetite for sensational content — true or not. When the tricky Mr. Lesdema arrives in town — with a covert mission to promote himself from TV repairman to crack CNN reporter — Vernon thinks he has an ally. In fact, Lesdema is a villain of Machiavellian proportions. Vernon soon realizes that in this modern world innocence is definitely no defense. One distasteful arrangement with old Mr. Deutschman and $300 later, Vernon is headed for the border, for freedom and Mexico, and a much-anticipated date with the nigh-mythical Taylor Figueroa. But Texas isn’t finished with Vernon yet. Vital, riotously funny, and energetic, Vernon God Little puts lust for vengeance, materialism, and trial by media squarely in the dock. Vernon himself emerges as the lovable upholder of love, truth, and homespun wisdom in a world gone mad.

Book:Buddha Da

Buddha Da

Anne Donovan

Anne Marie’s dad, a Glaswegian painter and decorator, has always been game for a laugh. So when he first takes up meditation at the Buddhist Center, no one takes him seriously. But as Jimmy becomes more involved in a search for the spiritual, his beliefs start to come into conflict with the needs of his wife, Liz. Cracks appear in their apparently happy family life, and the ensuing events change the lives of each family member.

Donovan completely captures these lives in her clear-eyed, evocative prose, rendered alternately in the voices of each of the main characters. With seamless grace and astonishing veracity, Buddha Da treats serious themes with humor and its characters with humanity.

Book:An Empty Room

An Empty Room

Talitha Stevenson

Unlike typical coming-of-age novels, An Empty Room looks at youthful cynicism and narcissism seriously. Twenty-seven-year-old Talitha Stevenson does not patronize the emotional lives of her characters with glib humor, coy wit, or fanciful nostalgia. Inspired by her own experience of growing up too fast among families affected by divorce, Stevenson’s debut questions our perceptions of sexual intimacy as an endlessly renewable resource and asks if it is possible to simply use it up.

Nineteen-year-old Emily lives a carefree life filled with swinging parties, plenty of drugs and alcohol, and sex with Tom, the seemingly perfect boyfriend. But when the luster of wild nights begins to fade, Emily is left jaded and directionless. Unwilling to accept the only futures she knows-whether it be the misery and jealousy of Tom’s divorced parents or the hushed tensions that envelop her own parents’ marriage-she begins a quest for a more genuine intimacy. The search leads her into a complex affair…[more]

Book:An Evening of Long Goodbyes

An Evening of Long Goodbyes: A Novel

Paul Murray

Charles Hythloday observes the world from the comfortable confines of Amaurot, his family estate, and doesn’t much care for what he sees. He prefers the black and white sanctum of classic cinema—especially anything starring the beautiful Gene Tierney—to the roiling and rumbling of twenty-first-century Dublin. At twenty-four, Charles aims to resurrect the lost lifestyle of the aristocratic country gentleman—contemplative walks, an ever-replenished drink, and afternoons filled with canapes as prepared by the Bosnian housekeeper, Mrs. P.

But Charles’s cozy existence is about to face a serious shake-up. His sister, Bel, an aspiring actress and hopeless romantic, has brought to Amaurot her most recent—and to Charles’s mind, most ill-advised—boyfriend. Frank is hulking and round, and resembles nothing so much as a large dresser, probably a Swedish one. He bets on greyhounds and talks endlessly of brawls…[more]

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