Akhil Sharma has won the 2015 Folio Prize for Fiction for his novel Family Life (Faber & Faber).
The prize, now in its second year, was awarded at a ceremony at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London this evening (23rd March).
The Folio Prize aims to recognise and celebrate the best English-language fiction published in the UK during a given year, regardless of form, genre or the author’s country of origin.
Family Life, which is the second-lowest selling of the eight titles shortlisted for this year’s prize through Nielsen Bookscan, selling 1,221 copies, took 13 years to complete and publish, and blurs the boundaries between memoir and fiction. It is the story of a family which moves from India to America in the 1970s, and what happens to them when tragedy strikes.
Sharma beat seven other authors to the £40,000 prize. He was given his winner trophy and cheque by Jean-Marc Rathé, of The Folio Society, which sponsors the award.
Announcing Sharma as the winner, chair of the Judges, William Fiennes said: “From a shortlist of which we are enormously proud, Akhil Sharma's lucid, compassionate, quietly funny account of one family’s life across continents and cultures, emerged as our winner. Family Life is a masterful novel of distilled complexity: about catastrophe and survival; attachment and independence; the tension between selfishness and responsibility. We loved its deceptive simplicity and rare warmth. More than a decade in the writing, this is a work of art that expands with each re-reading and a novel that will endure.”
Andrew Kidd, co-founder of The Folio Prize, said: “In this second year of the Folio Prize, our five judges have again lived up to every expectation, selecting from a glorious shortlist a heartbreaking and funny novel whose astonishing power is achieved in constantly surprising ways. Family Life is already a critically acclaimed bestseller in the US. We are delighted that the Folio Prize will now help it to find many more readers, both in the UK and around the world.”
The other shortlisted books were Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Granta); Outline by Rachel Cusk (Faber); 10:04 by Ben Lerner (Granta); Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill (Granta); How to be Both by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton); All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews (Faber); and Nora Webster by Colm Toibin (Viking).
The biggest selling of the shortlisted titles is Toibin’s Nora Webster, which has sold 60,392 copies through Nielsen BookScan.
It is followed by Smith’s How to be Both, which has so far sold 16,315 copies. All My Puny Sorrows has sold 2,717 copies through Nielsen BookScan; Dept. of Speculation 2,437; Outline 1,767; 10:04 1,487; and Family Life 1,221. Dust is yet to appear on the Nielsen BookScan TCM 5,000.
The judging panel for The Folio Prize 2015 was chaired by William Fiennes, and also included writers Rachel Cooke, Mohsin Hamid, A M Homes and Deborah Levy.
Last year’s Folio Prize was won by George Saunders for his collection of short stories Tenth of December (Bloomsbury).