On Tuesday 2 June the National Centre for Writing announced the three shortlisted in consideration for the £10,000 Desmond Elliott Prize, which recognises the most outstanding first novel of the past 12 months. The 2020 Prize shortlist exemplifies the extraordinary strength and breadth of UK and Irish debut fiction.
The Desmond Elliott Prize 2020 winner will be announced on Thursday 2 July.
Are you a bookshop looking to purchase any of the DEP titles? Download our guide to the shortlist below – including succinct selling points, bookshop discounts and a chance to win £500 for your shop
Meet Adunni, a fourteen-year-old living in a Nigerian village outside Lagos. She is a downtrodden daughter, desperately missing her deceased mother, and will soon become a despised third wife then an abused domestic servant.
She is expected to be meek, quiet, obedient.
Adunni is none of these things. She is determined and loyal and curious.
This is the story of Adunni’s pursuit of education. Her search to find her louding voice. So that she can speak for herself – and for all the girls who came before her.
‘[A] brave, fresh voice . . . Daré draws the reader in with a vivid character whose dire circumstances are contrasted with her natural creativity . . . Unforgettable’ – New York Times
Abi Daré grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and has lived in the UK for over 18 years. She studied law at the University of Wolverhampton and has an M.Sc. in International Project Management from Glasgow Caledonian University. Keen to improve her writing, Abi completed an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck University of London, achieving a Distinction. Her novel, The Girl with The Louding Voice won The Bath Novel Award in 2018 and was selected as a finalist in The Literary Consultancy Pen Factor competition in 2018. Abi lives in Essex with her husband and two children. Twitter @abidare_author
As Nnenna approaches womanhood she longs to connect with her Igbo-Nigerian culture. Her once close and tender relationship with her mother becomes strained as Nnenna begins to ask probing questions about her estranged father, who her mother who refuses to discuss.
Nnenna is asking big questions of how to ‘be’ when she doesn’t know the whole of who she is. Meanwhile, Joanie wonders how to love when she has never truly been loved. Their lives are filled with a cast of characters asking similar questions about identity and belonging whilst grappling with the often hilarious encounters of everyday Manchester.
‘Nzelu writes with a witty confidence rarely seen in debut fiction. Smart, serious and entertaining, I expect this writer to go far.’ – Bernadine Evaristo
Okechukwu Nzelu is a writer and teacher. He was born in Manchester in 1988, read English at Girton College, Cambridge and completed the Teach First programme. His work has been published in Agenda, PN Review, E-magazine and The Literateur and his essay ‘Troubles with God’ was published in the anthology Safe: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space (Trapeze, 2019). In 2015 he was the recipient of a New Writing North Award for The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney, which is his debut novel. Twitter @NzeluWrites
In That Reminds Me, Derek Owusu has created a wholly original fictional work charting a young man’s descent from childhood to mental collapse and recovery. Drawing upon universal themes from belonging to addiction, identity to sexuality, That Reminds Me brings to life these experiences with a fresh perspective.
‘Derek Owusu’s writing is honest, moving, delicate, but tough. Once you lock on to his words, it is hard to break eye contact. A beautiful meditation on childhood, coming of age, the now, and the media. This work is heartfelt.’ – Benjamin Zephaniah
Derek Owusu is a writer and poet from north London. Until recently, he was also one-third of the Mostly Lit podcast team. He discovered his passion for literature at the age of twenty-three while studying exercise science at university. Unable to afford a change of degree, Derek began reading voraciously and sneaking into English Literature lectures at the University of Manchester. Derek edited and contributed to Safe: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space (Trapeze). That Reminds Me is his first solo work.
Many of your favourite independent bookshops are continuing their business online or by phone and will deliver anywhere in the UK. These include:~
London – Burley Fisher Books, Daunt Books, Brick Lane Bookshop, Pages of Hackney, Dulwich Books, Stoke Newington Bookshop, South Kensington Books, Newham Bookshop, Pages of Cheshire Street, The All Good Bookshop, Pickled Pepper Books, Owl Bookshop, Persephone Books
Wadhurst – Barnetts Books
York – Ken Spelman Books
Petersfield – The Petersfield Bookshop
Stockton-on-Tees – Drake the Bookshop
Arundel and Chichester – Kim’s Bookshop
Nottingham – Five Leaves Bookshop
Hexham, Northumberland – Cogito Books