London: Tom Crewe Wins the Sunday Times’ Young Writer Award

In News by Porter Anderson

Jury comments about the Sunday Times Young Writer-winning debut, ‘The New Life,’ call Tom Crewe’s book a ‘tenderly sensual account of masculine sexuality.’

Tom Crewe at the March 19 awards event in London. Image: Charlotte Aitken Trust Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, Camilo Queipo

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘A Writer of Rare Promise’
Overnight in London (March 19), the Sunday Times Charlotte Aitken Young Writer of the Year Award for writers 35 and younger has named author and journalist Tom Crewe its 2024 winner for his debut publication, The New Life (Penguin Random House UK/Vintage).

This is Crewe’s debut publication, and he holds a PhD in 19th-century British history from Cambridge. An editor at the London Review of Books, Crewe has seen his novel previously win the 2023 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction and the South Bank Sky Arts Award for Literature.

The book, as you may remember, is also part of a four-title shortlist entirely published by Penguin Random House UK imprints in this year’s iteration of the Young Writer of the Year honor, something of interest to the many publishing executives in our international readership. Despite the United Kingdom being home to a generous majority of the world’s vast number of book and publication awards, it’s a rare thing to see a single publisher end up with an entire list of nominees at any competition stage, even in this market.

This contest has benefited from the sponsorship of the Charlotte Aitken Trust, the purses again being set at £10,000 (US$12,695) for the winner and £1,000 for each shortlisted author. In addition to the trust’s support, the program works with Waterstones as a retail partner, and with the British Council.

This award’s nearest competitor for press attention, as you’ll remember, is Swansea’s Dylan Thomas Prize, recipients of which are aged 39 or younger, with its winner’s purse of £20,000 (US$25,372). For those of our readership who follow the Dylan Thomas competition, its shortlist is to be released on Thursday (March 21).

This year’s jury chair is Johanna Thomas-Corr, and she’s joined on the panel by:

  • Anne Enright
  • Mendez
  • James McConnachie
  • Daljit Nagra
  • Catriona Ward

Thomas-Corr, in commenting on the jury’s rationale, says, “‘Sometimes a debut novel comes along that feels like an immediate classic—a book that you suddenly can’t imagine not existing.

Johanna Thomas-Corr

“If you’ve read Tom Crewe’s bold and beautifully observed debut The New Life, you’ll know that it’s just such a book. He’s a writer of rare promise.’

Crewe’s book is a work of historical fiction, set in 1894 against the trial of Oscar Wilde and the struggle for the legalization of homosexuality in England. Not until 1967 would homosexuality be decriminalized in Britain.

Catriona Ward on the jury panel, says, “We’ve waited so long for a big debut novel of ideas that captures perfectly a suspended moment of thought and progress in history.

Catriona Ward

“Now, with Tom Crewe’s The New Life, it has arrived.

“There were so many exciting voices in this year’s submissions, selecting a winner was an agonizing task. All the writers on the shortlist use form and language in compelling, singular ways, all sear the heart. We’re lucky to have them, and I’m very glad to have played a small part in their journey.

“Congratulations to Tom, whose unique, mesmerizing novel still won’t let me go.”

James McConnachie

Juror James McConnachie, in talking about Crewe’s work, says, “Novelizing history is always risky, especially if the topic is political, and The New Life definitely has a polemical understory: it conjures and celebrates the first, late-Victorian stirrings of the movement for gay rights and sexual freedom more generally.

“But if ever a novelized treatment was justified, it’s here. Tom Crewe makes you feel how much was at stake.

“You share the suffering and yearning of his paired protagonists, and the risks under which they labored. Most of all, though, this is a compassionate and tenderly sensual account of masculine sexuality—a subject that does not always get the most sympathetic treatment. A shockingly good debut, and an argument in itself for the value of fiction.”

The 2024 Young Writer Of the Year Shortlist

Repeating for you now the full shortlist for this year’s edition of the UK’s Young Writer of the Year contest.

At the March 19 Young Writer of the Year 2024 award program, the shortlistees are, from left, winner Tom Crewe; Noreen Masud; Momtaza Mehri; and Michael Magee. Image: Charlotte Aitken Trust Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, Camilo Queipo

This is one of the many awards programs administered by the Society of Authors, and its sponsorship by the Charlotte Aitken Trust began in 2021.

More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book prizes is here, more on the Sunday Times Young Writer Award is here, more on the Dylan Thomas Prize is here, and more from us on the United Kingdom’s market is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.