… Jessie Greengrass for her short story collection An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It.
Congratulations, Jessie. This is a hugely ambitious piece of work that demonstrates great talent and much promise for the future.
In my review, which I published last night, I described this book as “a tantalising collection of odd, often quirky, tales”.
There’s a deeply philosophical bent to them, perhaps no surprise given the author studied philosophy, and richly humane, filled with ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. They’re also hugely imaginative and quite unlike anything I’ve read before.
Of course, coming to this decision was not easy. This year’s shortlist was full of exciting, often experimental work, written by fresh, new voices. I loved reading all four (my reviews are gathered together here) and must admit that it was difficult to pick a favourite — although I championed Jessie’s work right from the start.
But as much fun as it was reading the books, it was almost more fun discussing them with my fellow shadow panel judges — Charlie, Eric, Naomi and Simon, pictured below with our chair Dan Dalton (third from left) — last Saturday afternoon. We had a brilliant and lively discussion, and even though we didn’t always agree, no one threw any punches and those ice packs I kept saying we might need never had to come out of the freezer! How very civilised of us.
It will be interesting to see if the real judges agree with our decision when they name their winner at the official ceremony on 8 December. Watch this space…
Thanks to marketing and publicity guru Maddy Pickard for organising the shadow panel — it’s been a blast!