Annal: 2007 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction

Results of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in the year 2007.

Book:Our Horses in Egypt

Our Horses in Egypt

Rosalind Belben

Philomena, fat and lazy when she is requisitioned from an English field at the start of the First World War, sails for Egypt with the territorial regiment, the Dorset Yeomanry. She serves faithfully, charging the dervishes in the Western Desert and enduring the privations of Allenby’s great campaign in Palestine. She recovers from wounds to swelter through a summer in the Jordan Valley. She takes part in the triumphant advance on Damascus—only to be sold off in Cairo among the 22,000 horses left behind by the War Office after the Armistice.

By 1921, the forceful Griselda Romney, a war widow—in the author’s Hound Music she was a child—has discovered that her old hunter, Philomena, could be still alive. With her six-year-old daughter, and of course Nanny, Mrs Romney sets out to Egypt, to find Philomena and to rescue her…

Our Horses in Egypt depicts the work of a troop-horse in the Army—and of exotic Cairo, in political unrest—as meticulously and exuberantly as Hound Music recreated the milieu of Edwardian fox-hunting.

Book:The Devil's Footprints

The Devil's Footprints: A Novel

John Burnside

Michael Gardiner has lived in Coldhaven all his life yet still feels like an outsider. Married but rather distant from his wife, he reads in the local paper that a school friend, Moira Birnie, has killed herself and her two sons by setting their car on fire; but she has spared her 14-year-old daughter Hazel. Michael uneasily recalls his past connections to Moira. As teenagers, Michael and Moira had a brief romance, yet more troubling to Michael is the fact that he was responsible for the death of Moira’s brother, the town bully. In the wake of the tragedy, Michael becomes obsessed with Hazel, who is just old enough to be his daughter. Aware of his obsession, Hazel convinces Michael to take her away from the village and her father, an abusive and violent man.

Setting his story against the untamed Scottish landscape, John Burnside has written a chilling novel that explores the elemental forces of everyday life: love, fear, grief, and the hope of redemption. In its ability to evoke and exploit our most primal fears, The Devil’s Footprints prompts comparisons to the best of Stephen King. In both language and imagery, it is a novel of mysterious beauty, written with the clarity and power of a folktale.

Book:A Far Country

A Far Country

Daniel Mason

From the best-selling author of The Piano Tuner, a stunning new novel about a young girl’s journey through a vast, unnamed country in search of her brother.

Raised in a remote village on the edge of a sugarcane plantation, fourteen-year-old Isabel was born with the gift and curse of “seeing farther.” When drought and war grip the backlands, her brother Isaias joins a great exodus to a teeming city in the south. Soon Isabel must follow, forsaking the only home she’s ever known, her sole consolation the thought of being with her brother again. But when she arrives, she discovers that Isaias has disappeared. Weeks and then months pass, until one day, armed only with her unshakable hope, she descends into the chaos of the city to find him.

Told with astonishing empathy, and strikingly visual, the story of Isabel’s quest—her dignity and determination, her…[more]

Book:The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Reluctant Fundamentalist: A Novel

Mohsin Hamid

At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful meeting…

Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by the elite “valuation” firm of Underwood Samson. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his infatuation with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.

But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his budding relationship with Erica eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.

Book:Salvage

Salvage

Gee Williams

A short break in a shoreline cottage is an ideal place to struggle with your demons. For Elly and Martin it is the chance to forgettheir hasty exit from Paradise following scandal. But Elly makes a life-changing find on the tideline. It is a huge pink diamond ring, finger bones still attached.

Scroll back a few months and at Martin’s place of work—a Chester hospital—we meet new nurse Hayley. Twenty-five; gorgeous (even by her own admission); she is a player, and totally turned off by the ward surgeon, Richard Congreve. Until, that is, she catches a whiff of something expensive in his Jag and is ensnared by a gift so desirable it may prove fatal. As we begin to question who the ring and its finger belong to, the cottage collects the secrets of those friends and strangers who have stayed there. Why has Elly such power over them all?

Ranging between Wales, the north of England and Goa, this is a novel about possession, betrayal, violence—and just how much we can afford to lose.

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