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:City of Bohane

City of Bohane

Kevin Barry

A blazingly original, wildly stylish, and pulpy debut novel.

Thirty or so years in the future. The once-great city of Bohane on the west coast of Ireland is on its knees, infested by vice and split along tribal lines. There are the posh parts of town, but it is in the slums and backstreets of Smoketown, the tower blocks of the North Rises, and the eerie bogs of the Big Nothin’ that the city really lives. For years it has all been under the control of Logan Hartnett, the dapper godfather of the Hartnett Fancy gang. But there’s trouble in the air. They say Hartnett’s old nemesis is back in town; his trusted henchmen are getting ambitious; and his missus wants him to give it all up and go straight.

Book:The Innocents (Francesca Segal)

The Innocents

Francesca Segal

A smart and slyly funny tale of love, temptation, confusion, and commitment; a triumphant and beautifully executed recasting of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.

Newly engaged and unthinkingly self-satisfied, twenty-eight-year-old Adam Newman is the prize catch of Temple Fortune, a small, tight-knit Jewish suburb of London. He has been dating Rachel Gilbert since they were both sixteen and now, to the relief and happiness of the entire Gilbert family, they are finally to marry. To Adam, Rachel embodies the highest values of Temple Fortune; she is innocent, conventional, and entirely secure in her community—a place in which everyone still knows the whereabouts of their nursery school classmates. Marrying Rachel will cement Adam’s role in a warm, inclusive family he loves.

But as the vast machinery of the wedding gathers momentum, Adam feels the first faint touches of claustrophobia, and when…[more]

Book:Tiny Sunbirds Far Away

Tiny Sunbirds Far Away

Christie Watson

When their mother catches their father with another woman, twelve year-old Blessing and her fourteen-year-old brother, Ezikiel, are forced to leave their comfortable home in Lagos for a village in the Niger Delta, to live with their mother’s family. Without running water or electricity, Warri is at first a nightmare for Blessing. Her mother is gone all day and works suspiciously late into the night to pay the children’s school fees. Her brother, once a promising student, seems to be falling increasingly under the influence of the local group of violent teenage boys calling themselves Freedom Fighters. Her grandfather, a kind if misguided man, is trying on Islam as his new religion of choice, and is even considering the possibility of bringing in a second wife.

But Blessing’s grandmother, wise and practical, soon becomes a beloved mentor, teaching Blessing the ways of the midwife…[more]

Book:Witness the Night

Witness the Night

Kishwar Desai

In a small town in the heart of India, a young girl is found tied to a bed inside a townhouse where thirteen people lie dead. The girl is alive, but she has been beaten and abused. She is held in the local prison, awaiting interrogation for the murders she is believed by the local people to have committed. Visiting social worker Simran attempts to break through the girl’s mute trance to find out what happened that terrible night. As she uncovers more and more, Simran realises that she is caught in the middle of a terrifying reality, where the unwanted female offspring of families are routinely disposed of. Brilliantly atmospheric, hauntingly real, this is a major debut from an exciting new author.

Book:Idiopathy (Sam Byers)

Idiopathy: A Novel

Sam Byers

A debut novel of love, narcissism, and ailing cattle

Idiopathy (ĭdē-ŏpǝ-thē): a disease or condition which arises spontaneously or for which the cause is unknown.

Idiopathy: a novel as unexpected as its title, in which Katherine, Daniel, and Nathan—three characters you won’t forget in a hurry—unsuccessfully try to figure out how they feel about one another and how they might best live their lives in a world gone mad. Featuring a mysterious cattle epidemic, a humiliating stint in rehab, an unwanted pregnancy, a mom–turned–media personality (“Mother Courage”), and a workplace with a bio-dome housing a perfectly engineered cornfield, it is at once a scathing satire and a moving meditation on love and loneliness. With unusual verbal finesse and great humor, Sam Byers neatly skewers the tangled relationships and unhinged narcissism of a self-obsessed generation in a remarkable, uproarious first novel.

Book:Marriage Material

Marriage Material: A Novel

Sathnam Sanghera

If you’ve approached Bains Stores recently, you’d be forgiven for hesitating on doing so. A prominent window advert for a discontinued chocolate bar suggests the shop may have closed in 1994. The security shutters are stuck a quarter-open, adding to the general air of dilapidation. A push or kick of the door triggers something which is more grating car alarm than charming shop bell.

To Arjan Banga, returning to the Black Country after the unexpected death of his father, his family’s corner shop represents everything he has tried to leave behind—a lethargic pace of life, insular rituals and ways of thinking. But when his mother insists on keeping the shop open, he finds himself being dragged back, forced into big decisions about his imminent marriage back in London and uncovering the history of his broken family—the elopement and mixed-race marriage of his aunt Surinder, the betrayals…[more]

Book:Meeting the English

Meeting the English

Kate Clanchy

It’s the searing hot summer of 1989 and revolution is in the air—though not just for the Prys family…

Literary Giant seeks young man to push bathchair. Own room in Hampstead, all found, exciting cultural milieu. Modest wage. Ideal ‘gap year’ opportunity. Apply Prys Box 4224XXC.
‘It’s only England,’ said Mr Fox, ‘just a few hours on the train. You can always come home.’
‘Ah’ve never been though,’ said Struan, ‘never been South.’
‘Then you should,’ said Mr Fox, ‘you really should.’

So it is that Struan Robertson, orphan, genius, and just seventeen, leaves his dour native town of Cuik, and arrives in London in the freakish fine summer of 1989. His job, he finds, is to care for Phillip, dumbfounded and paralysed by a massive stroke,…[more]

Book:The Shock of the Fall

The Shock of the Fall

Nathan Filer

“I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.”

There are books you can’t stop reading, which keep you up all night.

There are books which let us into the hidden parts of life and make them vividly real.

There are books which, because of the sheer skill with which every word is chosen, linger in your mind for days.

The Shock of the Fall is all of these books.

The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man’s descent into mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.

Book:The Bellwether Revivals

The Bellwether Revivals

Benjamin Wood

A sophisticated debut novel about the hypnotic influence of love, the beguiling allure of money and the haunting power of music.

Bright, bookish Oscar Lowe has escaped the squalid urban neighborhood where he was raised and made a new life for himself amid the colleges and spires of Cambridge. He has grown to love the quiet routine of his life as a care assistant at a local nursing home, where he has forged a close friendship with its most ill-tempered resident, Dr. Paulsen.

All that changes one fateful day when Oscar, while wandering the bucolic grounds of Cambridge, is lured into the chapel at Kings College by the otherworldly sound of an organ. It is here that he meets and falls in love with Iris Bellwether, a beautiful and enigmatic medical student. Drawn into the world of scholarship and privilege, Oscar soon becomes embroiled in the strange…[more]

Book:The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder

The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder

J.W. Ironmonger

Maximilian Ponder is lying face up, dead, on the dining table in his own front room. This is something you really should know, right from the start.
Max would also have wanted you to know that this is a Henri II style, French, walnut extending dining table, standing on solid turned legs with fretwork decor to the middle, also with ebony and sandalwood inlay, designed by the French furniture maker Nicolas Rastin and probably dating from around 1900…

Maximilian Ponder shut himself away for thirty years in an attempt to record every memory he ever had. Now he lies dead, surrounded by his magnum opus—The Catalogue—an exhaustive set of notebooks and journals that he hopes will form the map of one human mind. But before his friend Adam Last can call the police and inform them of Max’s death, one rather gruesome task remains…[more]

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