Over its lifespan of 15 years (2008-2022), the Desmond Elliott Prize gained a reputation as the most prestigious award for debut novelists in the UK and Ireland. Publishers were encouraged to submit literary fiction debuts for consideration, of which one author each year was awarded £10,000 to shape their developing career.
The Prize is named after the literary agent and publisher, Desmond Elliott, in memory of his passion for discovering and nurturing emerging authors, and has a track record of spotting outstandingly talented novelists at the beginning of their careers. Former winners include Eimear McBride for A Girl is a Half-formed Thing and Preti Taneja for We That Are Young, as well as Derek Owusu for That Reminds Me.
In 2020, the thirteenth year of the prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize moved into the care of the National Centre for Writing and became central to a suite of three awards from NCW celebrating and supporting early-career writers.
In 2022 NCW launched Season of Debuts, a legacy of the Desmond Elliott Prize designed to champion and support first-time novelists. This included the opportunity to win one of three fully-funded residencies at the Dragon Hall Cottage for those fiction writers based in the UK or Ireland who published their first novel between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023. Meet our Desmond Elliott residents.
The UK’s most prestigious award for first-time novelists.
Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies wins the Desmond Elliott Prize 2022
Maddie Mortimer wins the award for her ‘precious and personal’ exploration of one woman’s body and the illness that inhabits it.
The Manningtree Witches wins the Desmond Elliott Prize 2021
A. K. Blakemore’s historical fiction novel set during the English witch trials of the 17th century is praised by judges as ‘clever and unexpected’.
That Reminds Me wins the Desmond Elliott Prize 2020
Derek Owusu’s debut novel-in-verse, praised by judges as a ‘transcendent work of literature’, is chosen as the best debut novel across the UK and Ireland this year.
2022 Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer (Picador)
2021 The Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore (Granta)
2020 That Reminds Me by Derek Owusu (#MerkyBooks)
2019 Golden Child by Claire Adam (Penguin Randomhouse)
2018 We That Are Young by Preti Taneja (Galley Beggar Press)
2017 Golden Hill by Francis Spufford (Faber)
2016 The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney (John Murray)
2015 Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller (Penguin)
2014 A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (Faber)
2013 The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber (Sceptre)
2012 The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen (Chatto and Windus)
2011 Saraswati Park by Anjali Joseph (Fourth Estate)
2010 The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw (Atlantic Books)
2009 Blackmoor by Edward Hogan(Simon & Schuster)
2008 Gifted by Nikita Lalwani (Viking)