Claire Adam, Michael Donkor and Anna Mackmin have all made the 2019 Desmond Elliott Prize shortlist for debut novelists, with the winner in line for £10,000.
The prize, whittled down from a 10 title longlist to just to three, is judged this year by Alan Hollinghurst, Robbie Millen, literary editor of the Times, and Meryl Halls, m.d. of the Booksellers Association. The winner will be revealed at a ceremony in Fortnum & Mason on 19th June.
Adam is nominated for Golden Child (Faber), the story of a family with twin boys, Peter and Paul, with differing personalities. When the ‘misfit’ twin, Peter, is abducted, their father must race to save the son he never really understood.
Hollinghurst said: “Golden Child is a superbly controlled narrative of a family cracking under unbearable pressures, and a remarkable study in violence, always latent, sometimes horrifically real. It combines the tang of harsh reality with the luminous strangeness of a dream.”
Hold by Donkor (Fourth Estate) explores the conflict between a person’s heritage and the culture in which they grew up, taking inspiration from the author’s own childhood experiences of being a London-born Ghanaian.
“Hold is a captivating study of cultural displacement and generational change, seen, remarkably, entirely through female eyes,” said Hollinghurst. "In the house-girl Belinda, Michael Donkor has created a memorably funny and poignant portrait of a young woman making sense of a life she is not in charge of.”
The final shortlisted book is Devoured by Mackmin (Propolis) a semi-autobiographical tale of a girl growing up in a commune in Norfolk. The novel comes from Norwich-based indie Propolis, founded by Henry Layte who co-published the 2014 Desmond Elliott Prize-winning A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride.
Hollinghurst said: “She shows us the variously pompous, randy and self-deluded adults in a 1970s Norfolk commune through the eyes of drolly observant child on the cusp of puberty. Devoured is absorbing, unnerving and extremely funny.”
Last year’s prize was won by to Preti Taneja for We That Are Young (Galley Beggar Press), which has since been published in the US, Canada, India, Germany and France, while rights have also been acquired for a TV adaptation.