The Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award shortlist 2020

The Authors’ Club announces the shortlist for the annual Best First Novel Award 2020. The shortlisted titles are as follows, with the judges’ assessments:
  • CLAIRE ADAM Golden Child (Faber & Faber)
    On a sultry night in Trinidad, an Indian father sets out to find his missing son. Tense, moving and richly atmospheric, it explores how our dreams for our children may be fraught with danger.
  • GEORGE ALAGIAH, The Burning Land (Canongate)
    A first-rate political thriller set in modern-day South Africa. Vividly written and masterfully constructed, Alagiah’s assured debut is full of suspense and sudden drama.
  • DAMIAN BARR, You Will Be Safe Here (Bloomsbury)
    Compelling from start to finish. Even the most threatening characters are sympathetically drawn and the parallel stories form a powerful exploration of Afrikaner identity and toxic masculinity.
  • JOANNA GLEN, The Other Half of Augusta Hope (Borough Press)
    This dazzling tale of a precocious girl’s rites of passage – and her attempts to discover a wider world beyond her family and home town – provokes both tears and laughter, often at the same time.
  • TJ GORTON, Only the Dead (Quartet)
    From a shelled-out house during the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s, an old man looks back on an earlier conflict that shaped his destiny. Gorton’s attention to historical detail is superb.
  • BETH O’LEARY The Flatshare (Quercus)
    A man and a woman share a flat. One works days, the other nights. They have never met… What ensues provides the basis for a warm, funny, romantic comedy full of grace and humanity.
Lucy Popescu (chair of the judging panel) commented: “We have a perfect gender balance. These remarkable debuts cover diverse subjects from South Africa’s troubles to a young woman’s rite of passage, from the Armenian genocide of 1915 to a father’s harrowing decision in Trinidad. The list encompasses romantic love and terrible loss and is truly international in scope. Andrew Miller will have his work cut out in deciding the overall winner.”