Last night, literary agent Madeleine Milburn announced the winner of the 2014 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize at the special Award Ceremony dinner held by the President of the College, Professor Janet Todd.
The prize was judged by Madeleine Milburn and Lindsey Traub, an Emeritus Fellow of the College who has been both the College Lecturer in English and Vice President.
Madeleine began her speech with a quote by Flannery O’Connor: ‘Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.’
She described how this is what she believes all writing should aspire to: ‘to plunge its readers into something ‘real’, something authentic and profound – whether that be a human sentiment, an emotional situation, relationships, hardships, and the multitude of hopes and fears that we face: to create a magnified reality that makes you think, that could be me.’
This is exactly what happened when Madeleine and Lindsey were presented with their five shortlisted entries out of a staggering 192 submissions.
The winning extracts by each author can be read on the Lucy Cavendish website.
Lilian Butterwick A SILENT WORLD
Annette Gordon WHEN I WAS LOVED
Joanna Merifield THE SECOND GARDEN
Anni Domingo BREAKING THE MAAFA CHAIN
Gail Honeyman ELEANOR OLIPHANT
The winner of the 2014 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize for best first novel was Joanna Merifield with THE SECOND GARDEN, a miniature portrait of a family in extreme pain, as experienced by the young teenage daughter, Stella, an only child who has become an emotional lightening rod for her parents’ in their unacknowledged loss of their miscarried children.
On the night, Madeleine said ‘The control in the writing is flawless. The child, Stella, has a complex point of view – some of it conscious and articulated, some intuitive, but her sensitivity is entirely convincing. This is a beautifully written observation of conflicted love; how we connect as human beings and how we fail to connect.’
A huge congratulations to Joanna, and to all of the wonderfully talented writers who made the shortlist.