We are fancying reading these eight winners of the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize. It’s an annual prize awarded to eight British writers of outstanding works of fiction – novels, short stories and graphic novels worth £40,000 and is divided equally between the eight winners. Here’s 2014’s list
Ben Brooks – Lolito – A love story about a 15-year-old boy who meets a middle-aged woman on the internet. When his long-term girlfriend and first love, Alice, betrays him at a house party, Etgar goes looking for cyber solace in the arms of Macy, a stunning but bored housewife he meets online. What could possibly go wrong?
Bernardine Evaristo – Mr Loverman – Barrington Jedidiah Walker is 74 and leads a double life. Born and bred in Antigua, he’s lived in Hackney since the 60s. A flamboyant, wise-cracking local character with a dapper taste in retro suits and a fondness for quoting Shakespeare, Barrington is a husband, father and grandfather – but he is also secretly homosexual, lover to his great childhood friend, Morris. His deeply religious and disappointed wife, Carmel, thinks he sleeps with other women. When their marriage goes into meltdown, Barrington wants to divorce Carmel and live with Morris, but after a lifetime of fear and deception, will he manage to break away?
Lesley Glaister – Little Egypt – Lesley Glaister’s fourteenth novel is a gothic tale of secrets and damaged families. In the 1920s, twins Isis and Osiris live in Little Egypt, the country house of their Egyptologist parents, Evelyn and Arthur. It’s just the siblings, the staff, the cats, and the occasional visit from Uncle Victor – until Evelyn and Arthur send word from Egypt that they’re getting close to a major discovery, and they want the twins to see. None of the characters will come through the ensuing events unscathed. In the present day, both siblings still live in Little Egypt, although they haven’t seen each other for years.
Cynan Jones – The Dig – This is a searing short novel, built of the interlocking fates of a badger-baiter and a disconsolate farmer, unfolding in a stark rural setting where man, animal, land and weather are at loggerheads. Their two paths converge with tragic inevitability
Gareth R Roberts – Whatever Happened to Billy Parks? – October 17th 1973: the greatest disaster in the history of English football. All England had to do was beat Poland to qualify for the World Cup. They didn’t. Left on the bench that night was a now forgotten genius, West Ham’s Billy Parks: beautiful, gifted and totally flawed. Fast-forward forty years, Billy’s life is a testament to wasted talent. His liver is failing and he earns his money selling memories on the after-dinner circuit to anyone who’ll listen and buy him a drink. His family has deserted him and his friends are tired of his lies and excuses. But what if he could be given a second chance? What if he could go back in time and win the game for England?
Naomi Wood – Mrs. Hemingway – In the dazzling summer of 1926, Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley travel from their home in Paris to a villa in the south of France. They swim, play bridge and drink gin. But wherever they go they are accompanied by the glamorous and irrepressible Fife. Fife is Hadley’s best friend. She is also Ernest’s lover. Hadley is the first Mrs. Hemingway, but neither she nor Fife will be the last. Over the ensuing decades, Ernest’s literary career will blaze a trail, but his marriages will be ignited by passion and deceit. Four extraordinary women will learn what it means to love the most famous writer of his generation, and each will be forced to ask herself how far she will go to remain his wife
Gerard Woodward – Vanishing – Kenneth Brill is an unremarkable schoolboy but he has one remarkable talent, his ability to draw. Through this he is thrown into Bohemian 30s London. This talent also leads him to become part of the allied camouflage group in North Africa, tricking the Germans through elaborate concealment. Alongside this he is introduced to sex (via life drawing classes in Soho brothels) and his own fumblings with his future wife April. What Gerard does uniquely is to take great subject matter and provide a surreal take based on true stories
Evie Wyld –All the Birds, Singing – Rated 5* by 6 readers Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed British island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It’s just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be. But something is coming for the sheep – every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags. It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake’s unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, in a landscape of different colours and sounds