Three biographies published by Penguin Random House, including ones of poet Sylvia Plath and Haitian general Toussaint Louverture, are competing on the five-strong shortlist for the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize.
In the running for the £2,500 prize are two books from PRH's Vintage division: Heather Clark's "meticulous, compassionate" biography Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath (Jonathan Cape) and Shelley Klein's memoir of her father Bernat, a celebrated textile designer, The See-Through House: My Father in Full Colour (Chatto & Windus).
From Penguin Press' Allen Lane imprint is Sudhir Hazareesingh's "gripping" biography of the leader of the slave revolt that led to Haiti’s independence, Toussaint Louverture, in Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture.
Also shortlisted for the prize is Hadley Freeman's House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family (Fourth Estate), a "richly researched" book reflecting on identity and force of circumstance, in which the author writes on the origins of her scattered family, from their shtetl in Poland to Paris and Long Island.
Jonathan Lichtenstein's "deeply moving memoir" The Berlin Shadow: Living with the Ghosts of the Kindertransport (Canongate), in which the author retraces his father Hans’ journey from Berlin as a child refugee and documents their return many decades later, completes the shortlist.
The prize is judged this year by Rupert Christiansen, author and the former arts and opera critic of the Daily Telegraph; Selina Hastings, journalist and biographer of Nancy Mitford, Evelyn Waugh, Rosamond Lehmann, Somerset Maugham and Sybille Bedford; and author Alexander Masters, the recipient of the Biographers’ Club Exceptional Contribution to Biography Award.
It will be awarded on 9th March 2021 with an online prize-giving celebration.
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