‘The UK’s most prestigious award for first-time novelists.’

The Telegraph

Presented by the National Centre for Writing

WINNER OF THE DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE 2022

Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies

Maddie Mortimer

Picador

NCW is delighted to announce Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies (Picador) by Maddie Mortimer as the winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize 2022.

The book — a lyrical exploration of one woman’s body and the illness that inhabits it — was described by judges as a ‘precious and personal’ work from a ‘new and spectacular talent’. Mortimer’s debut has been selected as the best first novel published in the UK and Ireland this year from a strong shortlist of three, which also featured Iron Annie by Luke Cassidy and Keeping the House by Tice Cin.

In addition to the £10,000 prize money, Mortimer will receive tailored, year-round support and mentorship from NCW, which runs the Desmond Elliott Prize as part of its Early Career Awards portfolio.

About the novel

Something gleeful and malevolent is moving in Lia’s body, learning her life from the inside out. A shape-shifter. A disaster tourist. It’s travelling down the banks of her canals. It’s spreading.

When a sudden diagnosis upends Lia’s world, the boundaries between her past and her present begin to collapse. Deeply buried secrets stir awake. As the voice prowling in Lia takes hold of her story, and the landscape around becomes indistinguishable from the one within, Lia and her family are faced with some of the hardest questions of all: how can we move on from the events that have shaped us, when our bodies harbour everything? And what does it mean to die with grace, when you’re simply not ready to let go?

Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies is a story of coming-of-age at the end of a life. Utterly heart-breaking yet darkly funny, Maddie Mortimer’s astonishing debut is a symphonic journey through one woman’s body: a wild and lyrical celebration of desire, forgiveness, and the darkness within us all.

Buy now

 

What the judges said

‘With Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies, Maddie Mortimer has penetrated the body and spirit of literature, taking an experience, one familiar to so many of us, and making it completely unique. The experimentation with language, form and ideas, offers us something that is precious and personal to each writer: human truth. It’s a courageous feat, and one executed with the wisdom of a sagacious observer.

This is a book full of poetry and wonder, interior and exterior examination, sadness, though without the pessimism that sometimes accompanies it, love, and through all things, hope. You’ll re-read passages like pulling a song back to its start, wanting to evoke and experience those chills, or be enlightened again and again. Though not easy to choose a winner – we went back and forth for days after the decision was due – when we finally came to an agreement, we felt confident that we would be assisting with, and bearing witness to, the launching of a new and spectacular talent.’ – Derek Owusu, chair of judges

‘Even in a very strong list, Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies was a standout read. To craft both a coming of age and a death narrative in one; create a moving and astute portrait of a family dealing with terminal illness in a way that is both sensitive and wise beyond the author’s years, and employ dazzlingly inventive elements that push the form of the novel, and yet remain in complete command of the narrative in hand would be hugely impressive even for an author much further in their career. Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies marks Maddie Mortimer as a major new literary voice, and I Iook forward to seeing her career flourish.’ – Lyndsey Fineran

‘It’s an incredibly inventive and, at times, genius novel, seamlessly blending competing values from science and religion to bluntness and subtlety. The style of Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies is incredibly creative and literary, really taking form and pushing it to its limits in a way that remains still easily consumable for readers.’ – Symeon Brown

Further praise for Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies

‘Here is a book to dance and sing about. An extraordinary, kaleidoscopic dive into language’ – Daisy Johnson, Man Booker-shortlisted author of Everything, Under

‘Both expansive and intimate, Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies is an intricate portrait of a life hurtling towards the inevitable. An extraordinary debut.’ – Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Sunday Times bestselling author of The Mercies

About Maddie Mortimer

Maddie Mortimer was born in London in 1996. She received her BA in English Literature from the University of Bristol. Her writing has featured in The Times and her short films have screened at festivals around the world. In 2019 she completed the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course. Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies is her first novel.

 

SHORTLIST

Discover the three titles selected by this year’s judges for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2022 shortlist.

Iron Annie

Iron Annie

Luke Cassidy

‘A queer underworld Thelma & Louise with better jokes […] Cassidy keeps tight control of a story that’s simultaneously state of the nation, romance and crime.’ – Sarah Moss, Irish Times

Keeping the House

Keeping the House

Tice Cin

‘Tice Cin has arrived. With a style all her own and a confidence that radiates off each page, poetry that renders settings and characters incredibly vivid. No impression will escape you.’ – Derek Owusu, author of That Reminds Me

Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies

Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies

Maddie Mortimer

‘Here is a book to dance and sing about. An extraordinary, kaleidoscopic dive into language.’ – Daisy Johnson, author of Sisters

LONGLIST

Discover the ten titles selected by this year’s judges for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2022 longlist.

Somebody Loves You

Somebody Loves You

Mona Arshi

Somebody Loves You is alive with rare subtlety and tensile strength, and infused with the kind of beauty that brings every quiet moment into sharp relief.’ – Preti Taneja

Assembly

Assembly

Natasha Brown

‘Natasha Brown’s exquisite prose, daring structure and understated elegance are utterly captivating. She is a stunning new writer.’ – Bernardine Evaristo

Iron Annie

Iron Annie

Luke Cassidy

‘A queer underworld Thelma & Louise with better jokes […] Cassidy keeps tight control of a story that’s simultaneously state of the nation, romance and crime.’ – Sarah Moss, Irish Times

Lessons in Love and Other Crimes

Lessons in Love and Other Crimes

Elizabeth Chakrabarty

‘One of the most gripping and powerful books I’ve ever read; I feel so represented as a queer, brown woman.’ – Nikita Gill, author of Wild Embers

Keeping the House

Keeping the House

Tice Cin

‘Tice Cin has arrived. With a style all her own and a confidence that radiates off each page, poetry that renders settings and characters incredibly vivid. No impression will escape you.’ – Derek Owusu, author of That Reminds Me

Hourglass

Hourglass

Keiran Goddard

‘This book glows in the heart of the reader’ – Max Porter, author of Lanny

Violets

Violets

Alex Hyde

‘Beautiful, inventive, and deeply moving… captured my heart and imagination’ – Liz Berry

Fault Lines

Fault Lines

Emily Itami

‘A brilliant modern love story. I found it atmospheric and transporting but also wise, clever and universal in its exploration of love, family and identity. I loved it.’ – Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love

Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies

Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies

Maddie Mortimer

‘Here is a book to dance and sing about. An extraordinary, kaleidoscopic dive into language.’ – Daisy Johnson, author of Sisters

Moth

Melody Razak

‘Every character springs from the page, involving the reader completely in their triumphs and sufferings – the writer’s skill and sympathy are immense. I loved it.’ – Clare Chambers, author of Small Pleasures

JUDGES

The judges for the 2022 Desmond Elliott Prize are Derek Owusu (chair), Symeon Brown and Lyndsey Fineran.

Derek Owusu (Chair)

Derek Owusu is an award-winning writer and poet from North London. He discovered his passion for literature late in life while studying exercise science at university. Unable to afford a change of degree, he began reading voraciously and sneaking into English Literature lectures at the University of Manchester.

In 2019, Owusu collated, edited and contributed to SAFE: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space, an anthology exploring the experiences of Black men in Britain.

His first novel, That Reminds Me, and the first work of fiction to be published by Stormzy’s Merky Books imprint, won the Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction, the judges praising it as a ‘transcendent work of literature.’ His second solo work, Losing The Plot, is due to be published in 2022 with Canongate Books. Owusu was also one of the founding members of the Black Writers Guild, whose formation was due to the lack of representation and inequalities that exist within mainstream publishing in the UK. Website / Twitter

Derek says:

‘It’s an honour to judge any prize but it’s even more special to work with a prize that did so much for my career and continues to do so for others. And I’m very happy I can be a part of that – I’m really looking forward to reading so many incredible books.’

Symeon Brown

Symeon Brown is an award-winning news correspondent on Channel 4 News, covering culture and home affairs. His writing been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize and the British Journalism Awards. He is also the curator of the Good Readers Book Club, reviewing and interviewing leading British literary talent. He was also editor-in-chief of Channel 4’s News critically acclaimed #blacktofront season. His debut book, Get Rich Or Lie Trying, is published by Atlantic Books in March 2022. Twitter

 

Lyndsey Fineran

Lyndsey Fineran is the Programme & Commissions Manager for The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival – the oldest, and one of the largest, book festivals in the world. In her time with the Festival she has been responsible for building a live literature programme, talent development (including founding the flagship ‘Debuts and Cocktails’ event which champions debut novelists), commissions, and international partnerships, and was part of the team that delivered a pioneering hybrid edition of the 2020 Festival that won ‘Event of the Year’ at The Bookseller’s FutureBook Awards, as well as three separate ‘Event of the Year’ wins at the SoGlos Awards between 2018 and 2021.

Originally from the North-East and now Bristol based, she holds degrees in Literature from Durham and St Andrews Universities, is on the board of the British Arts Festivals Association, chairs literary events and is a Society of Young Publishers Mentor. In 2019 she was selected for The Bookseller’s Rising Stars programme, which identifies and champions the future leaders of the book industry and was recently named as one of The Top 50 Most Inspirational Women in Gloucestershire in 2021 by SoGlos. Twitter

@WritersCentre #DEP2022 #EarlyCareerAwards

 

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