The Authors' Club has revealed the shortlist for the Best First Novel Award 2020, with Beth O'Leary and Damian Barr among the nominees.
O'Leary is up for The Flatshare (Quercus). Focused on two people that share a flat but have never met, the shortlist called this book a "warm, funny, romantic comedy full of grace and humanity". Barr is nominated for You Will Be Safe Here (Bloomsbury). The novel was praised as "a powerful exploration of Afrikaner identity and toxic masculinity" by the panel.
Also shortlisted is Claire Adam for her debut Golden Child, published by Faber & Faber. The judges called the novel "tense, moving and richly atmospheric". The novel was already listed as one of BBCs most influential novels. Meanwhile, George Alagiah is shortlisted for The Burning Land. The political thriller set in modern day South Africa was called "vividly written and masterfully constructed" by the judges of the shortlist. Alagiah's debut was published by Canongate.
Joanna Glen's The Other Half of Augusta Hope (Borough Press) also made the list. Dubbed as a "dazzling tale of a precocious girl’s rites of passage" which provokes both tears and laughter. Last up is Only the Dead: A Levantine Tragedy by T J Gorton (Quartet) was also shortlisted. The panel called the author's attention to historical detail "superb".
Chair of the judges Lucy Popescu said: "We have a perfect gender balance. These remarkable debuts cover diverse subjects from South Africa’s troubles to a young woman’s rite of passage, from the Armenian genocide of 1915 to a father’s harrowing decision in Trinidad. The list encompasses romantic love and terrible loss and is truly international in scope. Andrew Miller will have his work cut out in deciding the overall winner."
The winner will be announced on 22nd May and the winning author will receive a £2,500 prize.