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Novels by Luke Cassidy, Tice Cin and Maddie Mortimer have been shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize.
Named after the literary agent and publisher Desmond Elliott, the annual award goes to a first novel written in English and published in the UK.
Cassidy’s Iron Annie, Keeping the House by Cin and Mortimer’s Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies are the three books in the running for the £10,000 prize.
Each book is inventive, transportive and possesses the ability to elicit that feeling of awe that every reader recognises when they’re reading a profound piece of literature
“All three titles on the shortlist feature female protagonists who have been dealt a difficult hand, from heartbreak to economic deprivation to a devastating medical diagnosis,” a statement from the organisers of the prize said.
Derek Owusu, who won the prize in 2020, is chair of this year’s judging panel, which also features award-winning journalist and author Symeon Brown and Cheltenham Literature Festival’s programme and commissioning manager, Lyndsey Fineran.
Owusu said: “This was a difficult shortlist to pull together as there were so many incredible books to choose from, but the three that we have chosen we feel best reflect the spirit of the Desmond Elliott Prize.
“Each book is inventive, transportive and possesses the ability to elicit that feeling of awe that every reader recognises when they’re reading a profound piece of literature.”
Iron Annie tells the tragic yet hopeful story of Aoife, a woman who knows almost everyone in Dundalk’s underworld.
“Luke Cassidy takes us on a road trip through the gritty underworld and complicated elements of friendship, love and society,” said Owusu.
“With a language all his own, Cassidy has produced an incredible debut, filled with energy, oddball characters and a lot of compassion.”
Spanning three generations, Keeping the House offers a fresh take on the machinery of the North London heroin trade, lifting the lid on a covert world thriving just beneath notice.
Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies follows the story of Lia, after a sudden diagnosis upends her world, causing the boundaries between her past and her present to begin to collapse.
The winner of the award will be revealed on July 1.
Last year’s prize was won by AK Blakemore’s novel The Manningtree Witches.