Author Preti Taneja has won the Desmond Elliott Prize for her first novel.
We That Are Young beat Gail Honeyman’s book Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and Paula Cocozza’s How To Be Human to claim the £10,000 award for best debut of the year.
A retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear set in modern day India, We That Are Young explores the play’s themes of severed relationships and warring families against the backdrop of the 2011 anti-corruption riots in India.
The novel was selected by a judging panel comprised of author Sarah Perry, broadcaster Samira Ahmed and Waterstones’ head of fiction and publisher liaison, Chris White.
At the award ceremony, Perry said: “Samira, Chris and myself were absolutely unanimous in our love and admiration for this novel, whose scope, ambition, skill and wisdom was, quite simply, awe-inspiring… all three of us sat together, shaking our heads, saying, ‘If this is her first novel, what extraordinary work will come next?’”
Before trying her hand at fiction writing, Taneja was a human rights correspondent and reported on Iraq and in Jordan, Rwanda, and Kosovo.
Dallas Manderson, chairman of the prize’s trustees, said: “We That Are Young is exactly the kind of novel that the Desmond Elliott Prize exists to discover and promote; this extraordinarily accomplished debut has flown somewhat under the radar thus far, not having received the attention and wide-spread acclaim that it so rightly deserves.
“Our hope is that winning the prize will help guarantee Preti’s long-term future as an author, as we’re sure it will be bright.”
The prize is presented in the name of late publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott.