Young Writer of the Year Shortlist

The embargo was lifted yesterday, when I was out of town, but it’s finally here! The official shortlist is as follows:


Outlandish Knight by Minoo Dinshaw: a biography of Steven Runciman, a historian of the Byzantine era. We did surprisingly well with this in the bookshop—I haven’t the faintest idea what the significance of Steven Runciman is, but from the cover photo he looks rather Sebastian-from-Brideshead. We’ve all been sent the hardback, which is intimidating everyone. (It’s been out in paperback for at least a month, but I guess sending us the hardbacks is a nice way of getting them out of the warehouses…?)

The End of the Day by Claire North: I’ve not read any of Claire North’s work before, but it seems to be a sort of crossover-sci-fi affair. The tagline for this book is, “Sooner or later, Death visits everyone. Before that, they meet Charlie”, which is charming in a Pratchett-esque sort of way. I think I’ll enjoy it.

The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachico: Just finished this, a terrifyingly polished, razor-sharp bunch of interlinked stories set in Colombia during the drug wars and paramilitary insurrections of the 1990s. It mostly follows the fates of a bunch of girls, school friends (or frenemies), and what happens to them during and after the war. Longer review to come soon.

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney: Contrary to most other panelists, this is the one I’m really not looking forward to. (Everyone else is dreading the Minshaw biography.) From what I’ve seen of this book, it’s very much about Young People living their Strange, Eccentric, Slightly Affectless Young People Lives, and I’m not sure I can put up with that since it is not a way of living that I (speaking with some authority as a Young Person) particularly recogise, either amongst myself or amongst many of the Young People I know. But maybe it’ll be terrific, I shall try to keep an open mind.

The Lauras by Sara Taylor: I read Taylor’s first book, The Shore, and it really knocked me out. This is equally wonderful—finished on the train last weekend—a mother-and-child road trip novel that captures sincerity without being sentimental, stoicism without being soulless. The story of Alex and Ma’s flight across the American continent is haunting, lovely, and enticing. Longer review to come soon.

I’m a bit disappointed not to see Homegoing and Elmet, but feel no great sense of rage about anything being left off. Have you read any of these? Have any strong feelings about any of them?

11 thoughts on “Young Writer of the Year Shortlist

  1. You’ve already read two! I’d best get cracking. I think I’ll finish The Lauras tonight or tomorrow. I’m not as wild about it as you or Annabel, though that might be mostly in comparison with The Shore. I’m also crawling along through the Minshaw biography. Rooney will probably be next for me. I, too, fear I’ll have trouble connecting with the particular segment of youth on display.

      1. I’ve gotten bogged down a bit in the Eton/Cambridge years, but I think it will take off soon. So far it’s most interesting for who he came into contact with: the prime minister’s son was one of his closest school friends; at uni he hung around with Cecil Beaton, who took the cover photo.

  2. I can’t remember the exact criteria but I wonder if Elmet was published too late to be eligible this year, especially as its original release date was brought forward after the Booker longlist was announced. I’m going to start the Pachico tomorrow – it sounds excellent.

    1. Ahhh, do you know, that might be it. I hope you enjoy the Pachico – I had no expectations one way or the other and was very impressed.

  3. I agree totally re the Rooney! Am alternating between Pachico and Dinshaw at the moment Loving both especially now the Pachico structure is coming clear.

  4. The rest all sound fantastic (though I don’t really read history/historiography for fun :p) and I know The Lauras is wonderful, but I’m underwhelmed by your description of Conversations with Friends. Have read too many books like that already. Let’s both hope that it exceeds expectations!

    1. Naomi from The Writes of Woman describes it as “very middle class people being middle class”, which doesn’t set the fibres of my heart alight…

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