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Patrick Flanery and Chibundu Onuzo Longlisted for 2012 Desmond Elliott Prize for New Fiction

Alert! Patrick Flanery and Chibundu Onuzo have been longlisted for the 2012 Desmond Elliott Prize for New Fiction for their novels Absolution and The Spider King’s Daughter respectively. American author Patrick Flanery, who has hit the literary ground running with his portrait of post-apartheid South Africa, will visit Cape Town in September to attend the second Open Book Festival. Nigeria’s Chibundu Onuzo is the youngest author on the longlist and reportedly the youngest woman to be offered a two-book deal with Faber & Faber. She wrote The Spider King’s Daughter at the age of 18.

The Spider King's DaughterAbsolution

Flanery and Onuzo are up against eight other debut novelists for the £10 000 award, including David Whitehouse (Bed), SJ Watson (Before I Go To Sleep), Benjamin Wood (The Bellwether Revivals), Will Wiles (Care Of Wooden Floors), Grace McCleen (The Land Of Decoration), Patrick McGuinness (The Last Hundred Days), Jennie Erdal (The Missing Shade of Blue) and Rachel Joyce (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry).

The shortlist will be revealed in May, followed by the announcement of the winner on 28 June at a ceremony in London. Last year’s prize went to Anjali Joseph for Saraswati Park. Best of luck to Flanery and Onuzo!

Press release:

Psychological thrillers, philosophical journeys and coming-of-age stories are amongst the ten debut novels longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize today, Tuesday 24 April 2012. With many of the books focusing on politics and social realism, this longlist reflects a trend in debut fiction of bringing contemporary resonance to some traditional heavyweight themes.

The longlist for The Desmond Elliott Prize 2012 is as follows:

Absolution by Patrick Flanery
Bed by David Whitehouse
Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood
Care Of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles
The Land Of Decoration by Grace McCleen
The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuinness
The Missing Shade of Blue by Jennie Erdal
The Spider King’s Daughter by Chibundu Onuzo
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the £10,000 award for a first novel published in the UK, set up in memory of the celebrated publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott to ‘enrich the careers of new writers’. The criteria of the Prize require longlisted novels to display confident and compelling narratives and feature original and arresting characters. This year’s longlist undoubtedly delivers, with a host of memorable protagonists from Mal of David Whitehouse’s tragi-comedy Bed to Judith McPherson, the child protagonist of Grace McCleen’s The Land of Decoration.

Two discernible themes emerge from the 2012 longlist: politically-oriented fiction and campus novels. Three novels are set in political landscapes: Patrick Flanery’s Absolution moves between past and present South Africa under the shadow of Apartheid; Patrick McGuinness’ The Last Hundred Days is set inBucharest in the dying days of communism, whilst Chibundu Onuzo’s The Spider King’s Daughter crosses the divide between rich and poor in Lagos. Closer to home, two of the books explore the world of British academia during the 1980s: Benjamin Wood’s The Bellwether Revivals plays out in the university city of Cambridge, whilst Jennie Erdal’s The Missing Shade of Blue explores the relationship between two donnish misanthropes in Edinburgh.

Also notable are the professions of this year’s longlisted writers. Rachel Joyce is an award-winning playwright and actress. The list includes two academics: Benjamin Wood, currently a lecturer in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London, and Patrick McGuinness, Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Oxford University and a prize-winning poet. Another previously published author is Jennie Erdal, whose 2004 memoir Ghosting exposed her long-serving career as ghostwriter for publisher Naim Attallah. Like the protagonist in The Missing Shade of Blue, Erdal has also worked as a translator. Will Wiles’ career as an architecture and design journalist will no doubt have influenced his novel about a minimalist Eastern European apartment.

Participation in the Faber Academy led to a change of career for former NHS audiologist S.J. Watson, whose debut has already been sold in over 30 languages and has been acquired for film by Ridley Scott’s production company. The youngest of this year’s longlisted authors is Chibundu Onuzo, who was 18 when she wrote The Spider King’s Daughter and is the youngest woman to be offered a two-book deal with Faber and Faber.

This year’s panel of judges is chaired by one of Desmond Elliott’s own protégés, the critically acclaimed author Sam Llewellyn. He is joined by Tom Gatti, Deputy Editor of The Times Review section and Caroline Mileham, Head of Books at

A shortlist of three books will be announced in May, followed by a winner announcement on Thursday 28 June at Fortnum & Mason, London.

The 2011 winner was Anjali Joseph for Saraswati Park, published by Fourth Estate. Other winners of the Prize were: The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw (2010); Blackmoor by Edward Hogan (2009) and Gifted by Nikita Lalwani (2008).


Book details

Images courtesy Desmond Elliott Prize, We Love This Book and Wasafiri


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