By Roger Tagholm
White women writers dominate ‘Waterstones 11′, the chain’s pick of debut novels that it believes are potential prize-winners. The authors include a bookseller from Alaska, a former Royal Shakespeare Company actress, and a woman who grew up in a fundamentalist religion in Wales.
The list was revealed at a party at the chain’s flagship store on London’s Piccadilly on Thursday night, with many of the authors in attendance. MD James Daunt said: “There is a singular excitement to the discovery of a new writer of rare talent. For us booksellers, the process of introducing and guiding readers to the very best new work is one of the most important roles we perform. This year’s 11 are once again a marvellous selection. It is hard to believe these are debut novels, so assured and alive the writing.”
The full list, and their UK publishers, is as follows:
The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan (William Heinemann)
Absolution by Patrick Flanery (Atlantic,
Shelter by Frances Greenslade (Virago,)
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (Fourth Estate)
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Headline Review,)
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (Doubleday)
The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen (Chatto & Windus)
Signs of Life by Anna Raverat (Picador)
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (Virago)
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (Simon & Schuster)
Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles (Harper Press)
Ivey works at Fireside Books, an independent bookstore in Palmer, Alaska; Joyce had a 20-year career in the theatre in the UK, including leading roles with the RSC; and McCleen grew up in a fundamentalist religion in Wales and had little contact with non-believers.
The chain hopes the books will perform as well as last year’s picks, which included an Orange Prize winner (The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht) and titles that made the shortlists of the Man Booker (Stephen Kelman’s Pigeon English), the Guardian First Novel (Pigeon English) and the Costa First Novel (City of Bohane by Kevin Barry). Not forgetting Sarah Winman’s When God Was a Rabbit which Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, was photographed clutching.
Publishers were asked to submit ‘great literary debuts and the chain received nearly 100 submissions. A committee led by Waterstone’s Janine Cook read them and whittled them down to the final 11. Cook commented: “Is this a golden age of female writing? The presence of eight female writers out of 11 on our list might indicate so. Whatever their gender, this year’s Waterstones 11 have a lot to live up to given the success, both critically and commercially, of last year’s list, but I have no worries on that count – these are all truly wonderful novels.”
One wonders, though, what black writers like Zadie Smith, Monica Ali, Andrea Levy and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie might make of the list.