Honor roll: Costa Book Award for First Novel

Each of these works has been nominated for one of these awards: Costa Book Award for First Novel, Whitbread Book Award for First Novel. They are ranked by honors received.

Book:Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel

Susanna Clarke

English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory.

But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England’s magical past and regained some of the powers of England’s magicians. He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French.

All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative-the very opposite…[more]

Book:Child 44

Child 44: A Novel

Tom Rob Smith

MGB officer Leo is a man who never questions the Party Line. He arrests whomever he is told to arrest. He dismisses the horrific death of a young boy because he is told to, because he believes the Party stance that there can be no murder in Communist Russia. Leo is the perfect soldier of the regime.

But suddenly his confidence that everything he does serves a great good is shaken. He is forced to watch a man he knows to be innocent be brutally tortured. And then he is told to arrest his own wife.

Leo understands how the State works: Trust and check, but check particularly on those we trust. He faces a stark choice: his wife or his life.

And still the killings of children continue…

Book:White Teeth

White Teeth: A Novel

Zadie Smith

On New Year’s morning, 1975, Archie Jones sits in his car on a London road and waits for the exhaust fumes to fill his Cavalier Musketeer station wagon. Archie—working-class, ordinary, a failed marriage under his belt—is calling it quits, the deciding factor being the flip of a 20-pence coin. When the owner of a nearby halal butcher shop (annoyed that Archie’s car is blocking his delivery area) comes out and bangs on the window, he gives Archie another chance at life and sets in motion this richly imagined, uproariously funny novel.

Epic and intimate, hilarious and poignant, White Teeth is the story of two North London families—one headed by Archie, the other by Archie’s best friend, a Muslim Bengali named Samad Iqbal. Pals since they served together in World War II, Archie and Samad are a decidedly unlikely pair. Plodding Archie is typical in every way until he marries Clara, a beautiful, toothless…[more]

Book:The Outcast

The Outcast: A Novel

Sadie Jones

A mesmerizing portrait of 1950s hypocrisy and unexpected love, from a powerful new voice

It is 1957, and Lewis Aldridge, straight out of prison, is journeying back to his home in Waterford, a suburban town outside London. He is nineteen years old, and his return will have dramatic consequences not just for his family, but for the whole community.

A decade earlier, his father’s homecoming has a very different effect. The war is over and Gilbert has been demobilized. He reverts easily to suburban life—cocktails at six-thirty, church on Sundays—but his wife and young son resist the stuffy routine. Lewis and his mother escape to the woods for picnics, just as they did in wartime days. Nobody is surprised that Gilbert’s wife counters convention, but they are all shocked when, after one of their jaunts, Lewis comes back without her. …[more]

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:Something Like a House

Something Like a House: A Novel

Sid Smith

This title is the extraordinary story of James Stuart Fraser, a British soldier who deserts during the Korean War, is captured and sent to live among the Miao, a minority tribe in the highlands of Communist China.

Book:Mosquito (Tearne)

Mosquito

Roma Tearne

This is a lyrical and profoundly moving story of love, loss and civil war, set in Sri Lanka, London and Venice.

When author, Theo Samarajeeva returns to his native Sri Lanka after his wife’s death, he hopes to escape his gnawing loss amidst the lush landscape of his increasingly war-torn country. But as he sinks into life in his beautiful, tortured land, he also finds himself slipping into friendship with an artistic young girl, Nulani, whose family is caught up in the growing turmoil—a friendship that gradually blossoms into love. Under the threat of civil war, their affair offers a glimmer of hope to a country on the brink of destruction!

But all too soon, the violence which has cast an ominous shadow over their love story explodes, tearing them apart. Betrayed, imprisoned and tortured, Theo is gradually stripped of everything he once held dear—his writing, his humanity and, eventually,…[more]

Book:The Tenderness of Wolves

The Tenderness of Wolves: A Novel

Stef Penney

1867, Canada. As winter tightens its grip on the isolated settlement of Dove River, a man is brutally murdered and a seventeen-year-old boy disappears. Tracks leaving the dead mans cabin head north towards the forest and the tundra beyond. In the wake of such violence, people are drawn to the township journalists, Hudson Bay Company men, trappers, traders but do they want to solve the crime, or exploit it?

Book:Eve Green

Eve Green: A Novel

Susan Fletcher

“Ten days before Christmas I lost her. What do I remember? Every little thing…. For twenty-one years I’ve picked away at my memory of it, lifting up moments, testing myself. Believing I might have finally healed to a neat white scar.”

Pregnant with her first child, Eve Green recalls her mother’s death when she was eight years old and her struggle to make sense of her parents’ mysterious romantic past. Eve is sent to live with her grandparents in rural Wales, where she finds comfort in friendships with Daniel, a quiet farmhand, and Billy, a disabled, reclusive friend of her mother’s. When a ravishing local girl disappears, one of Eve’s friends comes under suspicion. Eve will do everything she can to protect him, but at the risk of complicity in a matter she barely understands. This is a timeless and beautifully told story about family secrets and unresolved liaisons.

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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