The entire Anansi team wants to send our biggest (and loudest) congratulations to Claire Fuller for winning the Desmond Elliott Prize for her debut novel Our Endless Numbered Days.
Launched in 2007, The Desmond Elliott Prize has quickly established itself as the premier prize for new fiction. Claire Fuller joins a list of winners that includes Eimear McBride (A Girl is a Half-formed Thing), Grace McCleen, Anjali Joseph, Edward Hogan, and Ali Shaw, among others.
Every year, a panel of three judges are asked to look for a novel that has a “compelling narrative, arresting characters and which is both vividly written and confidently realised.” Claire was awarded £10,000 (~$15,600 USD) for winning.
You can hear Claire Fuller speaking on winning the Desmond Elliott Prize on BBC’s FrontRow (the interview starts at the 18:52 mark), and be sure to read her guest-post on Things About Canada.
Full details about Claire Fuller winning the Desmond Elliott Prize can be found below, sourced from the Desmond Elliott Prize website:
The Desmond Elliott Prize has this evening (1 July) announced that Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller has emerged triumphant as the best debut novel of the year. This dark story is set in the British survivalist movement of the 1970s, and features a father who keeps his daughter captive in the German wilderness for nine years, under the pretence that they are the last people alive on earth.
Fuller was selected as the winner of the £10,000 Prize from a shortlist which also featured Elizabeth is Missingby Emma Healey and A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray. Chair of Judges and award-winning author Louise Doughty said: “Our Endless Numbered Days is both shocking and subtle, brilliant and beautiful, a poised and elegant work that recalls the early work of Ian McEwan in the delicacy of its prose and the way that this is combined with some very dark undertones.”
While Fuller’s novel has been hailed by critics, it was not a breakout bestseller – something Doughty pointed out is typical of most debut novels. Doughty – who was joined by Foyles bookseller Jonathan Ruppin and journalist Viv Groskop on the judging panel – called for UK publishers to offer sustained support for novelists, far beyond their first books.
Doughty said: “Ian Rankin and Hilary Mantel both wrote for years before making the big time with sales. Ian Rankin famously succeeded with his seventh novel – and Hilary Mantel wrote brilliant, strange and wonderful books time and time again before Wolf Hall, her tenth. Her publishers not only kept publishing her, they kept faith with her as she wrote the books she wanted to write.”
She added: “I call on the publishers of all the books on our wonderful shortlist to support these writers not only with their sparkling debuts but with their fourth, fifth, sixth novels. Short-termism in publishing is not only devastating for the authors who don’t get the support they deserve, it’s bad for business. The publishing industry needs to commit to its authors for the long-haul or we risk letting the next Hilary Mantel or Ian Rankin slip through our fingers. I fully expect to see Claire Fuller, Emma Healey and Carys Bray on prize shortlists, bestseller lists and in the literary pages of our newspapers for years to come and if they aren’t, we should be asking why. Publishers, I am watching you.”
Fuller, 48, came to fiction writing later in life. She originally studied sculpture at Winchester School of Art, specialising in wood and stone carving, then ran her own marketing company for 23 years. She began writing fiction in her forties, spurred on by National Novel Writing Month (or “NaNoWriMo”), an online phenomenon which challenges participants to write a novel in a month. She belongs to a club of authors who have published their debut books in their 40s or later, called The Prime Writers.
In the tradition of Winter’s Bone and The Outlander, Our Endless Numbered Days is a powerful and mysterious debut about a father and his eight-year-old daughter who abandon their family to live alone in the forest for nine years.
In 1976 Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children, and listening to her mother’s grand piano. But her life is about to change.
Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions to prepare for the end of the world, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared. She is not seen again for another nine years.
In 1985, Peggy has returned to the family home. But what happened to her in the forest? And why — and how — has she come back now? Our Endless Numbered Days is the most unputdownable and extraordinary novel you will read this year.