Desmond Elliott Prize

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The Desmond Elliott Prize is an annual award for the best debut novel written in English and published in the UK.[1] The winning novel can be from any genre of fiction and must exhibit depth and breadth with a compelling narrative.[2] The winner receives £10,000. The prize is named in honour of the distinguished late publisher and literary agent, Desmond Elliott.[3]

History and administration[edit]

The Desmond Elliott Prize was inaugurated at the bequest of Desmond Elliott, who died in August 2003. He stipulated that his literary estate should be invested in a charitable trust that would fund a literary award "to enrich the careers of new writers".[4] The prize is therefore dedicated to supporting and celebrating aspiring authors and their fiction.[5]

The Desmond Elliott Prize was launched in 2007 as a biennial award for a first novel published in the UK. The inaugural prize was won by Nikita Lalwani for her novel, Gifted, in June 2008.[citation needed] After the successful launch of the prize, the trustees decided to make it an annual award.[6] Edward Hogan won the prize in 2009 for his novel Blackmoor,[7] Ali Shaw the 2010 prize for his novel The Girl with Glass Feet[8] and Anjali Joseph in 2011 for her novel Saraswati Park.[9]

The prize is administered by Emma Manderson and the trustees of The Desmond Elliott Charitable Trust, a UK charitable foundation.[10] The Trust is chaired by Dallas Manderson, former Group Sales Director of the Orion Publishing Group. He is joined by Christine Berry, a partner in the charities group at Taylor Vinters, a Cambridge-based law firm, and Liz Thomson, an arts journalist and author. Both Dallas and Christine worked with Desmond Elliott at Arlington Books.[citation needed]


The panel of three judges, which changes each year, is selected by the trustees of the prize.

When selecting a winner, the judges look for a novel with a compelling narrative, arresting character, and which is both vividly written and confidently realised.[11]

Previous chairs of the prize include author Sam Llewellyn (2012), BBC broadcaster and presenter Edward Stourton (2011), and authors Elizabeth Buchan (2010), Candida Lycett Green (2009) and Penny Vincenzi (2008).

Rules and entry[edit]

The prize is awarded annually for the best first full-length work of fiction written in English published in book form in the UK, written by an author whose permanent place of residence is in the UK or Ireland. Entries are considered from all fiction genres.

The prize is selected from a longlist of 10 titles, followed by a shortlist of three outstanding books. For inclusion in this shortlist, a novel must have the full support of at least one judge in whose opinion it is a valid contender for the Prize. Each shortlisted author receives a hamper from Fortnum & Mason.

The winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize is announced at an awards ceremony held at Fortnum & Mason, Desmond Elliott's local grocer.[12]

Winners and shortlists[edit]

year book author publisher
2008 Gifted Nikita Lalwani Penguin Books
Child 44 Tom Rob Smith Simon & Schuster
Sunday at The Cross Bones John Walsh Fourth Estate
2009 Blackmoor Edward Hogan Simon & Schuster
A Girl Made of Dust Nathalie Abi-Ezzi Fourth Estate
The Rescue Man Anthony Quinn Jonathan Cape
2010 The Girl with Glass Feet Ali Shaw Atlantic Books
Before the Earthquake Maria Allen Tindal Street Press
Talk of the Town Jacob Polley Picador
2011 Saraswati Park Anjali Joseph Fourth Estate
Boxer, Beetle Ned Beauman Sceptre
Pigeon English Stephen Kelman Bloomsbury
2012 The Land of Decoration Grace McCleen Chatto & Windus
The Last Hundred Days Patrick McGuinness Seren
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry Rachel Joyce Doubleday
2013 The Marlowe Papers Ros Barber Sceptre[13]
The Panopticon Jenni Fagan Heinemann
The Universe Versus Alex Woods Gavin Extence Hodder & Stoughton
2014 A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing Eimear McBride Galley Beggar Press[14]
The Letter Bearer Robert Allison Catapult Press
Ballistics D. W. Wilson Bloomsbury
2015 Our Endless Numbered Days Claire Fuller Penguin Books[15]
Elizabeth is Missing Emma Healey Harper Publishing
A Song for Issy Bradley Carys Bray Ballantine Books
2016 The Glorious Heresies Lisa McInerney John Murray[16]
Mrs. Engels Gavin McCrea Scribe Publications
The House at the Edge of the World Julia Rochester Penguin Books
2017 Golden Hill Francis Spufford Faber & Faber[17]
My Name is Leon Kit de Waal Viking Press
Harmless Like You Rowan Hisayo Buchanan Sceptre
2018 We that are Young Preti Taneja Galley Beggar Press[18]
How to be Human Paula Cocozza Metropolitan Books
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Gail Honeyman Viking Press
2019 Golden Child Claire Adam Faber & Faber[19]
Hold Michael Donkor Fourth Estate
Devoured Anna Mackmin Propolis Press
2020 That Reminds Me Derek Owusu Merky Books[20]
The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney Okechukwu Nzelu Dialogue Books
The Girl With The Louding Voice Abi Daré Sceptre


  1. ^ Richard Lea, "Anjali Joseph wins Desmond Elliott prize", The Guardian, 24 June 2011.
  2. ^ "Harper Collins". Archived from the original on 21 October 2011. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  3. ^ "'Overnight success' in line for Desmond Elliott prize". BBC News. 25 May 2011. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  4. ^ Katie Allen, "Shukla, Connolly, Kelman on Desmond Elliott longlist", The Bookseller, 19 April 2011.
  5. ^ "Book Prize Information - Desmond Elliott Prize". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  6. ^ Katie Allen, "Desmond Elliott Prize goes annual", The Bookseller, 23 June 2008.
  7. ^ "Leicester Square placard holder Edward Hogan becomes literary prize winner". The Telegraph. 25 June 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  8. ^ Maggie Hartford, "Desmond Elliott prize for novel goes to former Bodleian employee", The Oxford Times, 28 June 2010.
  9. ^ Anupama Krishnakumar, "Discovering Saraswati Park – An Interview with Anjali Joseph", Spark Magazine, 5 August 2011.
  10. ^ "THE DESMOND ELLIOTT CHARITABLE TRUST :: OpenCharities". Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  11. ^ "Foyles". Archived from the original on 17 January 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  12. ^ "About the Prize - The Desmond Elliott Prize". 20 December 2013. Archived from the original on 30 October 2013. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  13. ^ Alison Flood (27 June 2013). "Desmond Elliott prize goes to former computer programmer". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  14. ^ "The 2014 Prize". The Desmond Elliott Prize. 3 July 2014. Archived from the original on 25 July 2014. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  15. ^ "Claire Fuller wins debut-novel Desmond Elliott Prize". BBC News. 1 July 2015. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  16. ^ Alison Flood, "Lisa McInerney's 'astounding' debut novel wins Desmond Elliott prize", The Guardian, 22 June 2016.
  17. ^ Natasha Onwuemezi, "Golden Hill wins £10k Desmond Elliott Prize", The Bookseller, 21 June 2017.
  18. ^ "PRETI TANEJA WINS 2018 DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE FOR "AWE-INSPIRING" WE THAT ARE YOUNG". Archived from the original on 7 September 2018.
  19. ^ "Golden Child Claire Adam".
  20. ^ "Merky author Derek Owusu wins Desmond Elliott prize for 'profound' debut".