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: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:The Impressionist

The Impressionist

Hari Kunzru

Fathered, through circuitous circumstances, by an Englishman, Pran Nath Razdan, the boy who will become the Impressionist, was passed off by his Indian mother as the child of her husband, a wealthy man of high caste. Growing up spoiled in a life of luxury just down river from the Taj Mahal, at fifteen the news of Pran’s true parentage is revealed to his father and he is tossed out into the street—a pariah and an outcast. Thus begins an extraordinary, near-mythical journey of a young man who must reinvent himself to survive—not once, but many times.

Imprisoned by a brothel and dressed in women’s clothes, his sensuous beauty is exploited as he is made to become Rukhsana, a pawn in a game between colony and empire. To a depraved British Major he becomes Clive, an object of desire taught to be a model English schoolboy. Escaping to Bombay he begins a double life as Robert, dutiful foster child to a Scottish missionary couple…[more]

Book:Beauty (Raphael Selbourne)

Beauty

Raphael Selbourne

Beauty—in both name and appearance—is a twenty-year-old Bangladeshi, back in England having disgraced her family by fleeing an abusive arranged marriage. Placed on the jobseekers’ treadmill, and under continuing domestic pressure, in desperation, she runs away.

Her encounters with officialdom, fellow claimants, and passers-by in the city streets, complicated by the restrictions and comfort of her language and culture, place her at the mercy of such unlikely helpers as Mark, a friendly, Staffordshire Bull Terrier-breeding ex-offender, and Peter, a middle-class underachiever on the rebound from a bitter relationship.

Determined and spirited, yet tormented by doubts, Beauty is forced to examine her own beliefs and think seriously about her future. While her brothers search for her across the city, the conflict between her desire for personal freedom and her sense of family duty deepens. What will she do?

A sharply rendered, compassionate and challenging portrait of a fragmented, multicultural urban England.

Book:What Was Lost

What Was Lost

Catherine O'Flynn

It is the 1980s, and Kate Meaney is a serious-minded and curious young girl—who spends her time with her toy monkey acting out the role of a junior detective. She notes goings-on at the Green Oaks shopping centre and in her street, particularly the newsagent’s where she is friends with the owner’s son Adrian. When she disappears, Adrian falls under suspicion and is hounded by the press.

It’s 2004 and thirty-something Lisa is at work in a cut-price record store, tearing her hair out at customers’ bizarre requests and the even more bizarre behaviour of her colleagues. While at home, the futility of her relationship is slowly becoming apparent. Over shared fishpaste sandwiches, she strikes up a friendship with security guard Kurt—and, following CCTV glimpses of Kate, they become entranced by the lost little girl and her connections with the strange history of Green Oaks itself.

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:The Song of Names

The Song of Names

Norman Lebrecht

Martin Simmonds’ father tells him, “Never trust a musician when he speaks about love.” The advice comes too late. Martin already loves Dovidl Rapoport, an eerily gifted Polish violin prodigy whose parents left him in the Simmonds’s care before they perished in the Holocaust. For a time the two boys are closer than brothers. But on the day he is to make his official debut, Dovidl disappears. Only 40 years later does Martin get his first clue about what happened to him.

Book:The Finest Type of English Womanhood

The Finest Type of English Womanhood

Rachel Heath

It’s 1946, and seventeen-year-old Laura Trelling is stagnating in her dilapidated Sussex family home, while her quietly eccentric parents slip further into isolation. Then she meets Paul Lovell—a chance encounter that will change the course of her destiny, and bring her a new life in pre-apartheid South Africa.

Three years earlier, and many miles north, sixteen-year-old Gay Gibson is no less desperate to escape England. Gay’s heart is set on stardom—but first she must find a way out of Birkenhead and the dreary prospect of secretarial college.

When their paths cross in Johannesburg, Laura is exposed to Gay’s wild life of parties and liaisons. Thrown together, each with her own agenda, the girls find their lives inextricably entangled, with fatal consequences…

A highly accomplished, startling debut, The Finest Type of English Womanhood is a chilling portrait of racial tension, social immorality, betrayal and love, and an assured and atmospheric examination of the end of innocence.

Book:The Girl with Glass Feet

The Girl with Glass Feet: A Novel

Ali Shaw

An inventive and richly visual novel about young lovers on a quest to find a cure for a magical ailment, perfect for readers of Alice Hoffman.

Strange things are happening on the remote and snowbound archipelago of St. Hauda’s Land. Unusual winged creatures flit around the icy bogland, albino animals hide themselves in the snow-glazed woods, and Ida Maclaird is slowly turning into glass. Ida is an outsider in these parts, a mainlander who has visited the islands only once before. Yet during that one fateful visit the glass transformation began to take hold, and now she has returned in search of a cure.

Midas Crook is a young loner who has lived on the islands his entire life. When he meets Ida, something about her sad, defiant spirit pierces his emotional defenses. As Midas helps Ida come to terms with her affliction, she gradually unpicks the knots…[more]

Book:John the Revelator

John the Revelator: A Novel

Peter Murphy

This is the story of John Devine—stuck in a small town in the eerie landscape of Southeast Ireland, worried over by his single, chain-smoking, bible-quoting mother, Lily, and spied on by the “neighborly” Mrs. Nagle. When Jamey Corboy, a self-styled Rimbaudian boy wonder, arrives in town, John’s life suddenly seems full of possibility. His loneliness dissipates. He is taken up by mischief and discovery, hiding in the world beyond as Lily’s mysterious illness worsens. But Jamey and John’s nose for trouble may be their undoing and soon John will be faced with a terrible moral dilemma.

Joining the ranks of the great novels of friendship and betrayal—A Separate Peace, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha John the Revelator grapples with the pull of the world and the hold of those we love. Suffused with family secrets, eerie imagery, black humor, and hypnotic prose, John the Revelator is a novel to fall in love with and an astounding debut.

Book:The Behaviour of Moths

The Behaviour of Moths

Poppy Adams

From her lookout on the first floor, Ginny watches and waits for her adored younger sister to return to the crumbling mansion that was once their idyllic childhood home. Vivien has not stepped foot in the house since she left, forty seven years ago; Ginny, the reclusive lepidopterist, has rarely ventured outside it. The remembrance of their youth, of loss, and of old rivalries plays across Ginny’s mind. Why is Vivi coming home? Ginny has been selling off the family furniture over the years, gradually shutting off each wing of the house and retreating into the precise routines and isolation that define her days. Only the attic remains untouched. There, collected over several generations, are walls lined with pinned and preserved Bordered Beauties and Rusty Waves, Feathered Footmen and Great Brocades, Purple Cloud, Angle Shades, the Gothic and the Stranger… With Vivien's arrival, long-forgotten memories are stirred up, and the secrets that have separated the sisters threaten to disrupt much more than Ginny's carefully ordered world.

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