Yesterday The Dylan Thomas Prize, the world’s largest literary prize for young writers, announced their 2012 shortlist. For those not familiar with the award, it is described as follows:
With a prize fund of £30,000, The Dylan Thomas Prize exists to nurture and inspire young writing talent from around the world – beginning on its very own doorstep. Starting this week, the Prize’s education programme, DylanEd, will be sending creative writing teachers out to 10 schools across Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthen and Powys. The Shortlisted authors will also participate in a programme of workshops and readings in the Welsh community in the week preceding the Winner Announcement. The Prize aims to bring Wales to the World, and the World to Wales by inspiring Welsh youngsters with visits from young international published authors, and turning the literary spotlight on Wales and its own great legacies.
The Winner of the Prize will be announced at a glittering ceremony on 9th November – the anniversary of Dylan’s death.
Below you’ll find a description of each of the five finalists. Check back for links to our review of each title as they become available.
The Spider King’s Daughter
A Novel by Chibundu Onuzo
The Spider King’s Daughter” is a modern-day Romeo and Juliet set against the backdrop of a changing Lagos, a city torn between tradition and modernity, corruption and truth, love and family loyalty. Seventeen-year-old Abike Johnson is the favourite child of her wealthy father. She lives in a sprawling mansion in Lagos, protected by armed guards and ferried everywhere in a huge black jeep. But being her father’s favourite comes with uncomfortable duties, and she is often lonely behind the high walls of her house. A world away from Abike’s mansion, in the city’s slums, lives a seventeen-year-old hawker struggling to make sense of the world. His family lost everything after his father’s death and now he runs after cars on the roadside selling ice cream to support his mother and sister. When Abike buys ice cream from the hawker one day, they strike up an unlikely and tentative romance, defying the prejudices of Nigerian society. But as they grow closer, revelations from the past threaten their relationship and both Abike and the hawker must decide where their loyalties lie. (from the hardcover edition)
The White Shadow
A Novel by Andrea Eames
‘Look after your sister, Tinashe’
Tinashe is a young Shona boy living in a small village in rural Zimbabwe. The guerilla war of the late 1960s haunts the bushlands, but it only infrequently affects his quiet life; school, swimming in the river, playing with the other kids on the kopje. When his younger sister, Hazvinei, is born, Tinashe knows at once that there is something special about her. Their life in the village, once disturbed only by the occasional visits of his successful uncle and city cousin, Abel, now becomes entangled with the dual forces of the Shona spirit world and the political turmoil of the nation. As Tinashe, Hazvinei and Abel grow older, their destinies entangle in ways they never expected. Tinashe is prepared to follow his sister anywhere — but how far can he go to keep her safe when the forces threatening her are so much darker and more sinister than he suspected? Andrea Eames weaves together folklore and suspense in this compelling tale of a boy struggling to do the right thing in an unpredictable world. (From the hardcover edition)
A Novel by Maggie Shipstead
A New York Times bestseller and longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize.
59-year-old patriarch Winn Van Meter is heading for his family’s retreat on the pristine New England island of Waskeke. Normally a haven of calm, for the next three days this sanctuary will be overrun with relatives and friends as Winn prepares to marry off his daughter Daphne to Greyson Duff.Winn has never really understood his daughters. Daphne is pleased to be settling down with a fine match, even though she’s heavily pregnant at her own wedding. Her sister Livia has foolishly allowed her heart to be broken by Teddy Fenn, the son of her father’s oldest social rival.
Winn’s wife Biddy has arranged the wedding with military precision. Winn loves her, but is this is enough? His unrequited yearning for Daphne’s lissom bridesmaid, Agatha, comes to boiling point as she taunts him at every turn, prompting him to ask questions about his life:Did he marry the right woman? Did he make the most of his youth? And most importantly, why is he still being refused entry to the Pequod Club?In silky, sensual prose, Maggie Shipstead lays bare the pretensions of a New England society with a wit and sophistication that heralds the début of an exciting new literary voice. (From the hardcover edition)
The Doll Princess
A Novel by Tom Benn
It’s Manchester, July 1996, the month after the IRA bomb, and the Evening News is carrying reports of two murders. On the front page there’s a photograph of a glamorous Egyptian woman, a socialite and heiress to an oil fortune, whose partially clothed body has been found in the basement of a block of flats. It would appear that she has been the subject of a sexual attack. In the back pages of the same paper there is a fifty-word piece on the murder of a young prostitute whose body has been found dumped on a roadside near the McVitie’s Factory.
For Bane – fixer, loanshark and legman for one of Manchester’s established ganglords – it’s the second piece of news that hits hardest. Determined to find out what happened to his childhood sweetheart, he searches through the tribes and estates of his bombed city for answers. It soon becomes clear that the two newspaper stories belong on the same page, and that Bane’s world belongs to others – those willing to profit from gun arsenals, human trafficking and a Manchester in decay.
The Doll Princess introduces the mesmeric narrator, Henry Bane, a conflicted man caught up in a mire of evil, and his creator, Tom Benn – an assured and exhilarating new voice in literary crime fiction. (From the hardcover edition)
Once You Break a Knuckle
A Novel by D.W. Wilson
Set in the remote Kootenay Valley in western Canada, Once You Break a Knuckle tells stories of good people doing bad things: two bullied adolescents sabotage a rope swing, resulting in another boy’s death; a heartbroken young man refuses to warn his best friend about an approaching car; sons challenge fathers and break taboos. Crackling with tension and propelled by jagged, cutting dialogue, the stories interconnect and reveal to us how our best intentions are doomed to fail or injure, how our loves can fall short or mislead us, how even friendship—especially friendship—can be something dangerously temporary. Wilson’s world is always dangerous, barbed with violence and the possibility of betrayal. And yet, in this small, finely-wrought universe, a dogged, wry dignity is usually enough to see us through.
An intoxicating alloy of adrenaline and the kind of vulnerability we would all admit to if we were honest, Once You Break a Knuckle is about the courage it takes just to make it through the day. (From the hardcover edition)
Have you read any of the five finalists for the 2012 Dylan Thomas Prize? Which was your favorite? Comment below!