Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (HarperCollins) by Gail Honeyman is one of three books in the running for the 2018 Desmond Elliott Prize for first-time novelists, alongside Paula Cocozza's How to be Human (Hutchinson) and Preti Taneja's We That Are Young (Galley Beggar Press).
Honeyman's shortlisted novel, which scooped the Costa First Novel Award in January, has attracted widespread acclaim for its exploration of loneliness and is now on course to be adapted for a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon.
The Prize described it "a coming to life rather than a coming of age". Chair of the judges Sarah Perry - joined on the judges panel by journalist Samira Ahmed and Waterstones fiction buyer Chris White - praised the voice of its unlikely heroine "so vital that the reader accepts without question her intense loneliness, so that her tentative journey towards a redemptive kindness becomes profoundly moving".
Meanwhile, Cocozza is shortlisted for How to be Human, a psychodrama about the breakdown of a woman's marriage and her relationship with a magnificent fox, with themes of obsession and delusion. Its author, a feature writer for the Guardian, was praised by the Prize for having created "a persona as winning and as wily as her invited guest". Perry commented: "In evocative and elegant prose Cocozza delves deep into the psyche of a strange and troubled woman. The reader is invited to share in her intense connection to a fox and will admire the author's mordantly witty dissection of contemporary manners.”
Finally, Taneja is shortlisted for We That Are Young, a retelling of "King Lear" in contemporary India (the title of the book comes from the end of Shakespeare's play). While charting the downfall of a family dynasty, it impressed for its "sensual" and "revelatory" prose, including "gems of pure poetry". Perry commented: "The scope of Taneja's ambition is breathtaking. We That Are Young is both universal in its themes of familial duty and personal failing, and exquisitely specific in its depiction of contemporary Indian society.”
The winner of the Prize will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on 20th June, where they will be presented with a cheque for £10,000.
The chairman of the Prize’s trustees, Dallas Manderson, said: “Each year, our judges are asked to select just three authors from a longlist of 10 that they believe show the most promise for the future. It is never an easy task and the authors featured in this year’s longlist were all exceptional. Sarah, Samira and Chris have done a tremendous job and it is with great joy that we present their chosen shortlist. I look forward to finding out which of the three titles they deem most worthy of winning in June.”
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