Four debut novels are featured on the Glass Bell shortlist alongside Colum McCann’s Booker-longlisted Apeirogon (Bloomsbury) and Stuart Turton’s second novel The Devil and the Dark Water (Raven Books).
Now in its fifth year, the award recognises the best storytelling across contemporary fiction, regardless of genre, featuring a prize of £2,000 and a handmade, engraved glass bell.
The six-strong shortlist is dominated by debut voices. The Girl with the Louding Voice (Sceptre) by Abi Daré (pictured), a novel about a young Nigerian housegirl fighting for her freedom and her education, is nominated alongside former Waterstones bookseller Alex Pavesi’s Golden Age-inspired Eight Detectives (Penguin Michael Joseph). Judges also selected People of Abandoned Character (Head of Zeus) by Clare Whitfield, a historical thriller about a woman who suspects her husband of being Jack the Ripper, and Kester Grant’s The Court of Miracles (Harper Voyager), a fantastical reimagining of the French Revolution.
Of the two more established authors, McCann’s Apeirogon explores the Israel-Palestine conflict and was longlisted for the Booker last year. Turton's second novel, The Devil and the Dark Water, is set in 1634 and follows the world’s greatest detective Samuel Phipps, who is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, facing trial and execution for a mysterious crime. Turton's debut The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Raven Books) was longlisted for the 2019 Glass Bell, as well as winning the Costa First Novel Award.
The titles have been whittled down from the longlist of 12 titles announced in June, which featured Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club and Rosamund Lupton’s Three Hours (both published by Viking).
David Headley, Goldsboro Books m.d. and founder of the Glass Bell, said: “For five years now, the Glass Bell Award has sought to celebrate the best of contemporary fiction, regardless of genre or stage of the author’s career, and this year is no exception. The 2021 shortlist may be the most innovative and outward-looking yet, with its international focus and the way it plays with the literary canon. Our judging discussions are always lively, but with these powerful literary novels, imaginative historical thrillers, whirlwind bestsellers—and four superb debuts which deserved more attention in a very busy year. I’m sure we’ll all have a lot to say this year.”
Judged by Headley, and his team at Goldsboro Books, the Glass Bell is awarded annually to a novel with "brilliant characterisation and a distinct voice that is confidently written and assuredly realised". The winner will be announced on 30th September.