The Authors’ Club has revealed the shortlist for its annual Best First Novel Award, featuring authors including Deepa Anappara, Gabriel Krauze and Ingrid Persaud.
Now in its 67th year, the £2,500 prize is the longest running UK award for debut fiction and was open to any debut novel written in English and published in the UK in 2020.
Anappara is on the shortlist with Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line (Chatto). The judges said: “Anappara draws us into a real-world horror story, yet there’s always a thread of hope and humanity in this richly realised novel.”
Krauze's Who They Was (Fourth Estate), which “grabs the reader by the throat and thrusts us into the heart of gang wars, drugs and violence”, also makes the six-strong list.
Persaud's Love After Love (Faber) was picked for its “vivid and atmospheric exploration of prejudice in Trinidad”.
Also making the cut is Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten (Bloomsbury), “a compelling blend of fact and fiction that creates a memorable portrait of the rise of Catherine I of Russia in the violent court of Peter the Great”.
The Book of Echoes by Rosanna Amaka (Doubleday) is also in contention, described by judges as a “vivid portrayal of two characters struggling to forge better lives for themselves”.
Stephanie Scott's What’s Left of Me is Yours (W&N) completes the list. Judges said: “Inspired by a real case in Japan, Scott’s multi-layered novel expertly weaves together a crime of passion and a love story.”
Lucy Popescu, chair of the judging panel, commented: “It’s lovely to see women dominating the shortlist. We are transported around the globe in these terrific debuts, which cover an array of subjects from love and murder in Japan to London’s gang culture, from Tsarist Russia to modern-day slavery in Nigeria, from the the plight of children in the slums of India to the struggle for acceptance in Trinidad. We are fortunate to have Michèle Roberts to decide the overall winner.”
The winning novel will be selected by guest adjudicator Michèle Roberts from a shortlist drawn up by a panel of Authors’ Club members, chaired by Popescu. The £2,500 prize winner will be announced at a dinner at the National Liberal Club on 30th June.