From family life at the margins of society to a mermaid in Georgian London, from an inspiring celebration of food and literature that grew out of anorexia to an epic voyage down the Yukon River – four outstanding writers have today been named on the shortlist for The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award, in association with the University of Warwick:
- The Reading Cure: How Books Restored My Appetite by Laura Freeman (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
- The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (Harvill Secker)
- Elmet by Fiona Mozley (John Murray)
- Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey by Adam Weymouth (Particular)
The judges have chosen two novels and two works of non-fiction to be in the running for the prize, which rewards the best work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by a British or Irish author aged between 18 and 35. All four shortlisted books are debuts. This year, the award-winning novelist Kamila Shamsie and the novelist and non-fiction writer Susan Hill are judging the prize, alongside Andrew Holgate, Literary Editor of The Sunday Times.
“The shortlisted books take us from the Yukon river to Georgian London via the Yorkshire woods and the pages of literature; for all their variety, they are united in their qualities of ambition, insight, and ability to surprise. Most excitingly, they all come from writers at the start of their careers who allow us to close the pages of their books and think with wonder: ’This is only the beginning’.” – Kamila Shamsie
This year’s shortlist shows the enormous versatility of this generation of writers: In The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, the Women’s Prize for Fiction-shortlisted debut novelist Imogen Hermes Gowar conjures up a Georgian London of illusion and fantasy, while The Reading Cure is a luminous memoir about recovery and how Laura Freeman discovered an appetite for food – and life more broadly – through reading. Fiona Mozley was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and won a Somerset Maugham Award and the Polari First Book Prize for Elmet, her Yorkshire-set debut about a family trying to find their place at the margins of society, while Adam Weymouth went on a four-month canoe odyssey through the untrammelled wilderness of the Yukon River for Kings of the Yukon, his lyrical portrait of the people and landscapes he encountered.
“Submissions to the prize were varied and the standard of both fiction, non-fiction and poetry was high. This shortlist represents unanimous choices: two brilliant but very different novels, and two works of non-fiction which also could not be less alike, but are both wonderfully well written and as absorbing and gripping as any thrillers. Selecting the winner is not going to be easy.” – Susan Hill
The four writers on the shortlist are in the running to become the 20th winner of the award, which has consistently picked future greats at the beginning of their careers, from Robert Macfarlane to Zadie Smith, from Sarah Waters to Simon Armitage. Last year, the Irish writer Sally Rooney was awarded for her debut novel Conversations with Friends.
The 2018 winner will be revealed with a ceremony at the London Library on 6 December.