Anna Mackmin's DEVOURED is shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2019
Photograph: Desmond Elliott Prize
We're absolutely delighted that DEVOURED, the debut novel by Anna Mackmin, which is a vivid semi-autobiographical tale of a girl growing up in a commune in Norfolk, has been shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2019! The central character, Nearly Thirteen, offers the reader a chance to experience a world that exists on the fringes of society through the eyes of a child with the innocence not to question the unusual behaviour she encounters. The novel comes from Norwich-based independent publisher Propolis, founded by Henry Layte who co-published the 2014 Desmond Elliott Prize-winning A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride. Alan Hollinghurst, Chair of Judges, said:
“An exuberant and technically inventive debut from Anna Mackmin. She shows us the variously pompous, randy and self-deluded adults in a 1970s Norfolk commune through the eyes of drolly observant child on the cusp of puberty. Devoured is absorbing, unnerving and extremely funny.”
The Chairman of the Prize’s trustees, Dallas Manderson said: “The purpose of the Desmond Elliott Prize is to support debut novelists, to raise their profile and provide them with a financial platform from which they can dive into their next novel. It is no easy task for our judges to whittle the longlist down from ten to a shortlist of three and I know every year there is a fierce debate in the judging room. It is with great joy that we present the Desmond Elliott Prize shortlist for 2019.”
Devoured by Anna Mackmin (Propolis Books)
Swallow’s Farmhouse in deep, rural Norfolk is home to Your People, a commune of free-thinkers and poets seeking a better way. But beneath the veneer of a nurturing, alternative lifestyle, an atmosphere of jealousy and threat is pushing their utopia towards the brink of its inevitable collapse.
Raising herself amidst the chaos is a 12-year-old survivor, desperately preoccupied with her transition into womanhood. With her mute sister, beloved dog and the re-defining force of her emerging appetites, she marches resolutely towards her future, venturing – with hilarious and horrifying results – through the minefield of an adult world built on hypocrisy and misplaced ideals.
Praise from the Desmond Elliott Prize
‘An opening fantastically theatrical, affectively true, but not a surprise for Devoured marks the fourth phase of an all-round artistic career for Anna Mackmin, from actor to designer to director – the last of these seeming directly to have informed the now-novelist: in the character of Nearly Thirteen; in her slightly adjacent stance as she addresses the audience in the second person; and in that clipping of an actor’s identity to the end of their speech – this a wrinkle once ironed into awareness that wondrously smooths the flow of her stream of consciousness, from one barnstorming script straight to the reader’s bloodstream, and on to the heart.’
‘A wonderful depiction of a 1970s commune of hopeless, beautiful, deluded people. The book is so funny, I haven’t laughed so much in ages. I can’t imagine I’ll enjoy a novel more this year.’ – Tim Pears.
‘Quite brilliant. So funny at times, and so horribly sad. Tragic and hilarious, an experiment in ’70’s new age living that could turn the hardiest biodynamic farmer into a Heinz soup guzzling rebel.’ – Esther Freud.
‘A fascinating portrait of a singular childhood. Highly accomplished and very enjoyable.’ – David Hare.
‘Funny, touching and extraordinarily consistent in sustaining the voice of an almost 13 year old girl. Full of optimism as well as hurt.’ – Sir Richard Eyre.
‘A dazzling debut, in equal parts hilarious and terrifying. An incredibly assured and superbly written evocation of an eccentric childhood that will nonetheless resonate powerfully those whose upbringings were more conventional.’ – Stephen Fry
About the Author
Anna Mackmin previously worked as a theatre director. Her first novel, Devoured, was published in June 2018 and won the Fiction category at the East Anglian Book Awards.
Alan Hollinghurst is joined on the judging panel by the literary editor of The Times, Robbie Millen, and managing director of the Booksellers Association, Meryl Halls. The winner will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on 19th June, where they will be presented with a cheque for £10,000.