Annal: 2005 Whitbread Book Award for First Novel

Results of the Whitbread Book Award in the year 2005.

Book:The Harmony Silk Factory

The Harmony Silk Factory

Tash Aw

The Harmony Silk Factory is the textiles store run by Johnny Lim, a Chinese peasant living in rural Malay in the first half of the twentieth century. It is the most impressive and truly amazing structure in the region, and to the inhabitants of the Kinta Valley Johnny Lim is a hero-a Communist who fought the Japanese when they invaded, ready to sacrifice his life for the welfare of his people. But to his son, Jasper, Johnny is a crook and a collaborator who betrayed the very people he pretended to serve, and the Harmony Silk Factory is merely a front for his father’s illegal businesses. Centering on Johnny from three perspectives-those of his grown son; his wife, Snow, the most beautiful woman in the Kinta Valley (through her diary entries); and his best and only friend, an Englishman adrift named Peter Wormwood-the novel reveals the difficulty of knowing another human being, and how our assumptions about others also determine who we are. …[more]

Book:26a

26a: A Novel

Diana Evans

The attic room at 26a Waifer Avenue in the lower-middle-class London neighborhood of Neasden is a sanctuary for identical twins Georgia and Bessi Hunter. It is a private universe where fantasy reigns as well as an escape from the sadness and danger that inhabit the floors below. Here the girls share nectarines and forge their identities-planning glorious success as the Famous Flapjack Twins-well removed from their Nigerian mother, Ida, who, devastated by homesickness, speaks to the spirits of the family she left behind on another continent. On occasion Georgia and Bessi’s older sister, Bel, and younger sister, Kemy, are admitted into their broad, bright and fanciful realm, but never their English father, who nightly bathes the wounds of his own upbringing in far too much drink.

But innocence lasts for only so long-and dreams, no matter how vivid and powerful, cannot slow the relentless incursions…[more]

Book:Gem Squash Tokoloshe

Gem Squash Tokoloshe

Rachel Zadok

She just sat there hardly moving, staring at the drive. Black marks formed under her eyes where her lashes bled their waxy coating onto her skin. Her rouged cheeks were smudged. Mother looked like she was melting in the heat.

Faith leads an isolated existence on her family’s drought stricken farm in the Northern Transvaal of South Africa. When the rain stopped, her father took to the road as a travelling salesman, returning only at weekends. Now Faith lives with her mother Bella and dog Boesman anticipating his visits—until one day he stops coming and Bella’s health begins to go into rapid decline.

Fifteen years later Bella has died incarcerated in the Sterkfontein asylum for the criminally insane. Faith has not spoken to her mother for ten years and is on the brink of a breakdown of her own. Now, with her mother’s death, she inherits the farm…[more]

Book:The Short Day Dying

The Short Day Dying: A Novel

Peter Hobbs

This is the story of four seasons in the life of Charles Wenmouth, a twenty-seven-year-old apprentice blacksmith and Methodist lay preacher in Cornwall in 1870. Life is at its hardest; poverty is everywhere. Charles crosses and recrosses the raw, beautiful landscape, attending to the sick and helping the poor, preaching in chapels with ever-dwindling congregations. He questions his faith along the way but never quite loses it, balancing it with the pleasure he takes in nature, the light in the skies, the colors of the earth, and in his attachment to a girl to whom he is drawn by the piety and patience she maintains despite her long illness.

Inspired by the language of his great-great-grandfather’s diaries and the Bible, influenced by authors as diverse as Hardy, Blake, and Faulkner, Peter Hobbs has created a first novel of breathtaking ambition and stylistic innovation, and of enormous emotional power.

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