Nina Stibbe has won this year’s Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction with her “pitch-perfect romp” Reasons to be Cheerful (Viking).
The award was “rolled over” this year after judges witheld the 2018 prize, saying none of the entries made them unanimously laugh out loud. It means Stibbe wins not one, but two, rare breed pigs named after her book, a methuselah of Bollinger Special Cuvée, along with a case, plus a complete set of the Everyman’s Library collection of P G Wodehouse books.
Judge and publisher of Everyman’s Library David Campbell said: “With Reasons to be Cheerful Nina Stibbe has written a comic tour de force. We withheld the prize in 2018 and so were eager to find a book this year that would make each of the judges laugh out loud. Nina Stibbe has achieved that with aplomb. Reasons to be Cheerful is a moving and funny pitch-perfect romp that takes us back to the 1980s, which serves as a fitting tribute to the inimitable PG Wodehouse.”
The book saw off competition from Vacuum in the Dark by Jen Beagin (Oneworld), In at the Deep End by Kate Davies (The Borough Press, HarperCollins), Charlie Savage by Roddy Doyle (Vintage, Jonathan Cape), Old Baggage by Lissa Evans (Transworld, Doubleday) and Francis Plug: Writer in Residence by Paul Ewen (Galley Beggar Press).
“I have always wanted a pig — my own Empress of Blandings — and now I shall have two,” joked Stibbe. “I’m overjoyed to have been awarded the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse prize. To win against such talented competition, to be honoured with the pigs and to go home with a family-sized bottle of Bolly, and the complete works of Wodehouse is a dream come true for any writer.”
Her novel tells the story of Lizzie Vogel, an 18-year-old about to embark on the first major step of grown-up life as she moves from her sheltered village existence “into the big, wide, metropolis that is Leicester”. Stibbe is the author of two novels and two works of non-fiction, including Love, Nina (Penguin) which won Non-Fiction Book of the Year at the 2014 National Book Awards and was adapted by Nick Hornby into a BBC series starring Faye Marsay and Helena Bonham-Carter.
The win for Stibbe comes after the prize faced criticism from Marian Keyes that it was very rarely won by a woman. A new contest, the Comedy Women in Print Prize, was launched in the wake of the row.
Stibbe will discuss her winning book with judge and BBC broadcaster James Naughtie on 26th May at the Hay Festival. She will then be presented with her prize and introduced to the two locally-bred pigs, newly named Reasons and Cheerful.
This year’s prize was judged by comedians Pippa Evans and Sindhu Vee, Naughtie, Campbell, and Justin Albert, vice president of the Hay Festival and Director of National Trust Wales.
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