Abi Daré, Okechukwu Nzelu, and Derek Owusu are on the shortlist for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2020 revealed on June 2, 2020.

The Desmond Elliott Prize is awarded annually for the best first full-length work written by an author whose permanent place of residence is in the UK or Ireland. Running from 2008, the prize is named in honour of the distinguished late publisher and literary agent, Desmond Elliott. Some of the previous winners of the award have been Claire Adam (2019), Preti Taneja (2018), and Francis Spufford (2017).

Chairing the panel of judges for 2020 is writer, academic and former Desmond Elliott Prize winner Preti Taneja, who is joined by Chief Lead Writer at The Observer Sonia Sodha and writer Sinéad Gleeson. Collectively the three judges are tasked with finding the novel they believe is most deserving of being designated the best debut novel of the last 12 months.

Preti Taneja said: ‘These three outstanding debuts approach narrative form in very different and exhilarating prose, each mining the possibilities of language to give exceptional voice to unforgettable characters. From Ghanaian story myths to Nigerian patriarchy; from the violence within Cambridge’s ivory towers to the bonds of London’s streets and the longed-for liberation of a night out in Manchester’s gay village, each writer pays careful attention to the nuances of speech between people of different generations, cultures and class and succeeds in making worlds we do not want to leave. These novels are striking, intimate studies of bodies in flux and transit through our linked histories; they show us how to seek new families and ways of being whole. They stand as powerful testimonials to individual and collective survival against institutional violence, and the current deprivations of our world.’

The 2020 Desmond Elliott Prize shortlist:

  • The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré (Sceptre)
  • The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney by Okechukwu Nzelu (Dialogue Books)
  • That Reminds Me by Derek Owusu (#Merky Books)

Reactions from some of the shortlistees

The winners of the awards will be announced on 2nd July.