Alex Hyde is one of ten emerging writers in the running for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2022,‘the UK’s most prestigious award for first-time novelists’ (Telegraph). The winning author will receive a £10,000 prize along with a year-long package of support with the National Centre for Writing to help them progress their career. Stay tuned for the shortlist announcement on Tuesday 7 June.
Alex Hyde is a former Daunt’s bookseller who now lectures at University College London. Violets is her debut novel and is a fictional reimagining of her father’s story, drawing on both family mythology and his personal archives. The novel follows two women named Violet living in the closing days of the war. As their lives intertwine, a story of women’s courage emerges, suffused with power, lyricism and beauty. Get to know the author behind the words below.
Discover how Alex’s father’s adoption story inspired Violets in her interview with The Bookseller →
Hyde, who is a lecturer in gender studies at UCL, says she always knew ‘if I was ever going to write something, I was going to start with this story’. But the ‘compulsion’ to write didn’t come until after her nan (her father’s adoptive mother) died in 2015.
‘My dad didn’t know the things that you take for granted about yourself or your parents and he has had to piece it together. I think those of us who grew up in normative, heterosexual families with a mum and a dad, with everything stable and certain, you can’t imagine what it feels like not to be sure of some foundational aspect of who you are, even though he grew up in a loving family.’
Read Alex Hyde discuss how she developed her prose style in her Author Q&A with Big Issue North →
I loved being able to write poetically in a way that was related to a broader story and offered another perspective woven in and out of the main plot. In terms of the prose, I always had the idea that I was writing ‘scenes’, not chapters, and wanted to make them focused and immediate, beginning and ending with some kind of action or gesture on the part of the two main characters. That part always felt like writing what I saw playing out in my head, like a film.
Read a review of Alex’s debut novel Violets in The Spectator →
Violets is a book of contrasts: the barren and the fecund; the drabness of England and the colourfulness of coastal Italy, where Welsh Violet lingers past VE Day to give birth; the mother who will adopt a baby and the mother who will gives hers away. Violets is a touching tribute, deftly written, to all women left struggling in similar situations.
Discover more of Alex Hyde’s writing with Notes on Craft on the online edition of Granta Books Writing →
‘The scrubbing of floors or rugs. People down on their knees, ‘tamping’ the stain.’ Alex Hyde on the everyday gestures that make a life.
Where can I buy Violets?
Check out your local bookshop to buy a copy of Alex’s ‘stunning and original‘ (Elizabeth Macneal) first novel. Or head to Bookshop.org to support independent bookshops countrywide. Here’s a hand-pick of our favourites:
Looking for more interesting books to add to your ‘to be read’ pile? Check out the full Desmond Elliott Prize longlist on our website! We’d love you to share your thoughts on social media and tag us on Instagram and Twitter. 🥰📚