It was an exciting afternoon last Thursday when I headed off to the FMcM offices near Kings Cross to meet with my fellow Sunday Times / University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award Shadow Panel Members Anne Cater, of Random Things Through My Letter Box, David Harris of Blue Book Balloon, Clare Reynolds of Years Of Reading Selfishly and Phoebe Williams of The Brixton Bookworm so that we could discuss the shortlisted books and choose our winner under the expert chairmanship of Houman Barekat.
Having debated the merits of each of the books in turn, sharing our thoughts and opinions, and with any one of the fabulous books having the potential to win, we were delighted to come to a decision.
The Sunday Times / University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award
Shadow Panel Winner
Our winner is the senstaional Salt Slow by Julia Armfield.
We chose Salt Slow because of the beautiful way in which Julia Armfield illustrated everyday situations with a fresh and new approach through her descriptive and lyrical writing. We found she entertained, disturbed and engaged her readers in equal measure through her compelling short stories.
I might add that we all found the cover of Salt Slow incredibly attractive too!
Here’s a little about Salt Slow:
Salt Slow by Julia Armfield
In her brilliantly inventive and haunting debut collection of stories, Julia Armfield explores bodies and the bodily, mapping the skin and bones of her characters through their experiences of isolation, obsession, love and revenge.
Teenagers develop ungodly appetites, a city becomes insomniac overnight, and bodies are diligently picked apart to make up better ones. The mundane worlds of schools and sleepy sea-side towns are invaded and transformed, creating a landscape which is constantly shifting to hold on to its inhabitants. Blurring the mythic and the gothic with the everyday, Salt Slow considers characters in motion – turning away, turning back or simply turning into something new entirely.
Winner of The White Review Short Story Prize 2018, Armfield is a writer of sharp, lyrical prose and tilting dark humour – Salt Slow marks the arrival of an ambitious and singular new voice.
In case you missed any of the other brilliant shortlisted books, here are the details you need:
The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus
An extraordinary debut from a young British-Jamaican poet, The Perseverance is a book of loss, language and praise. One of the most crucial new voices to emerge from Britain, Raymond Antrobus explores the d/Deaf experience, the death of his father and the failure to communicate. Ranging across history, time zones and continents, The Perseverance operates in the in betweens of dual heritages, of form and expression emerging to show us what it means to exist, and to flourish.
Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler
When your mother considers another country home, it’s hard to know where you belong. When the people you live among can’t pronounce your name, it’s hard to know exactly who you are. And when your body no longer feels like your own, it’s hard to understand your place in the world.
This is a novel of growing up between cultures, of finding your space within them and of learning to live in a traumatized body. Our stubborn archivist tells her story through history, through family conversations, through the eyes of her mother, her grandmother and her aunt and slowly she begins to emerge into the world, defining her own sense of identity.
Testament by Kim Sherwood
Of everyone in her complicated family, Eva was closest to her grandfather: a charismatic painter – and a keeper of secrets. So when he dies, she’s hit by a greater loss – of the questions he never answered, and the past he never shared.
It’s then she finds the letter from the Jewish Museum in Berlin. They have uncovered the testimony he gave after his forced labour service in Hungary, which took him to the death camps and then to England as a refugee. This is how he survived.
But there is a deeper story that Eva will unravel – of how her grandfather learnt to live afterwards. As she confronts the lies that have haunted her family, their identity shifts and her own takes shape. The testament is in her hands.
Kim Sherwood’s extraordinary first novel is a powerful statement of intent. Beautifully written, moving and hopeful, it crosses the tidemark where the third generation meets the first, finding a new language to express love, legacy and our place within history.
With the official Sunday Times / University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award being announced at a ceremony in London on 5th December, I can’t wait to attend to see whether judges Kate Clanchy, Victoria Hislop, Andrew Holgate, Gonzalo C. Garcia and Nick Rennison agree with our decision!