We were in awe of the books shortlisted for this year’s Branford Boase Award and are so pleased to share a blog from the previous winner, Struan Murray, about being a judge! Best of luck to the judges and to the shortlisted authors and editors for their brilliant books!
This year’s shortlist is overflowing with skill — eight debut authors whose work demonstrates a real commitment to the craft of writing; eight ambitious and uniquely brilliant ideas powered by a fresh and compelling authorial voice.
In Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen, West African myth and history are blended dextrously, delivering an epic tale in which Bowen’s ambitious world-building and lyrical prose shine from every page.
Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths by Maisie Chan is a heartfelt tale that deftly explores inter-generational relationships and the disaporic experience, with stellar characterisation, warmth and wit, all so palpably infused with the author’s own love for the story.
In Grow, Luke Palmer delivers an unflinching exploration of grief and anger, in this story of a boy drawn into the clutches of white supremacy. The writing is raw and immersive while never excessive, with Josh’s emotions bubbling off every page.
The Valley of Lost Secrets by Lesley Parr is atmospheric storytelling at its best. A satisfying and at times frightening story in which Parr effortlessly creates an unforgettable sense of place through beautiful language and her compelling and utterly real characters.
In The Upper World by Femi Fadugba, the lives of two teenagers — set fifteen years apart — are ingeniously woven together, delivering a fast-paced thriller that also conveys fascinating scientific concepts, all told through two compelling and distinct teenage voices.
Digger and Me by Ros Roberts is a poignant and moving story about family, school, and a beloved pet dog, carried along by hundreds of tiny, brilliant observations that come together to deliver a truly emotional tale.
The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh by Helen Rutter treats us to the fantastically loveable character of Billy Plimpton, a budding stand-up comedian desperate to get rid of his stammer. Rutter brings across Billy’s struggle with true skill, giving the reader so much to empathise with, filling the pages with lovely touches of detail.
Grimwood by Nadia Shireen is weird, irreverent, chaotic and utterly hilarious. A uniquely disrespectful tale about a pair of foxes searching for peace in an un-peaceful animal world, with darkly brilliant humour that had me smiling throughout. Writing funny books is extremely difficult, but Shireen makes it look easy.
So there we have it — so many fantastic novels, each a masterclass in good storytelling. All eight authors deserve recognition for their consummate skill, commitment and for delivering such powerful pieces of work, and while I have loved reading them all I am terrified by the idea of having to pick just one to be the winner. They are all brilliant and I implore you to read them!