Belfast Telegraph

Female author trio make Desmond Elliott prize shortlist

The three debut novels are in the running for the £10,000 prize.

Three debut novels by female authors make up the shortlist for the 2018 Desmond Elliott Prize.

How To Be Human by Paula Cocozza has made the three-book shortlist, alongside Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and We That Are Young by Preti Taneja.

The three books all address the impact of social isolation and withdrawing from relationships with family, friend and colleagues, and are all in the running to win the £10,000 prize which honours the best debut novel of the year.

How to be Human tells the story of Mary, a young woman who increasingly shuns human interaction in favour of a curious relationship with a fox.

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Sarah Perry, the chair of the judges, said: “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.”

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine follows the eccentric and isolated Eleanor as she is pulled from the security of her comfort zone and forced to come to terms with the dark events of her past.

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Already the recipient of the 2017 Costa First Novel award and longlisted for the 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction, Perry said of the book: “Eleanor Oliphant leaps fully formed into the reader’s imagination from the opening page.

“Her voice is so vital that the reader accepts without question her intense loneliness, so that her tentative journey towards a redemptive kindness becomes profoundly moving.”

Rounding off the shortlist is We That Are Young by Preti Taneja, which is an ambitious retelling of King Lear which explores the play’s themes of severed relationships and warring families within the setting of modern-day India.

Praising the work, Perry said: “The scope of Taneja’s ambition is breath-taking. 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.”

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Dallas Manderson, the chairman of the prize’s trustees, added: “The purpose of the Desmond Elliott Prize is to support first-time writers and provide them with a financial platform from which they can dive into their next novel.

“Each year, our judges are asked to select just three authors from a longlist of the 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.”

Broadcaster Samira Ahmed and head of fiction at Waterstones, Chris White, joined Perry on the judging panel.

Last year the prize was awarded to Francis Spufford for his debut novel, Golden Hill.

The winner will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on June 20, where they will be presented with a cheque for £10,000.

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