RSL Ondaatje Prize 2021 - The Longlist

We are delighted to announce that Adam Mars-Jones, James Rebanks and Francesca Wade have been longlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2021. 

The Royal Society of Literature (RSL), the voice for the value of literature in the UK, has today unveiled the longlist for the 2021 RSL Ondaatje Prize. An annual prize of £10,000, the RSL Ondaatje Prize is awarded to an outstanding work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry that best evokes the spirit of a place. Thirteen authors across forms make up this year’s longlist, unanimously chosen by judges Lola, Baroness Young of Hornsey (chair), Helen Mort and Adam Rutherford.  


BOX HILL (Fitzcarraldo)  by Adam Mars-Jones 

On the Sunday of his eighteenth birthday, in 1975, Colin takes a walk on Box Hill, a biker hang-out. There he accidentally trips over Ray, a biker napping under a tree – and that’s where it all starts. This transgressive, darkly affecting love story between men, winner of the 2019 Fitzcarraldo Editions Novel Prize, is a stunning novel of desire and domination by one of Britain’s most accomplished writers. 


ENGLISH PASTORAL (Allen Lane) by James Rebanks 

TelegraphFinancial TimesNew Statesman, Independent, Telegraph, Observer and Daily Mail Book of the Year 2020

As a boy, James Rebanks's grandfather taught him to work the land the old way. Their family farm in the Lake District hills was part of an ancient agricultural landscape: a patchwork of crops and meadows, of pastures grazed with livestock, and hedgerows teeming with wildlife. And yet, by the time James inherited the farm, it was barely recognisable. The men and women had vanished from the fields; the old stone barns had crumbled; the skies had emptied of birds and their wind-blown song.

English Pastoral is the story of an inheritance: one that affects us all. It tells of how rural landscapes around the world were brought close to collapse, and the age-old rhythms of work, weather, community and wild things were lost. And yet this elegy from the northern fells is also a song of hope: of how, guided by the past, one farmer began to salvage a tiny corner of England that was now his, doing his best to restore the life that had vanished and to leave a legacy for the future.

This is a book about what it means to have love and pride in a place, and how, against all the odds, it may still be possible to build a new pastoral: not a utopia, but somewhere decent for us all.


SQUARE HAUNTING (Faber) by Francesca Wade 

Longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize

Mecklenburgh Square, on the radical fringes of interwar Bloomsbury, was home to activists, experimenters and revolutionaries; among them were the modernist poet H. D., detective novelist Dorothy L. Sayers, classicist Jane Harrison, economic historian Eileen Power, and writer and publisher Virginia Woolf. They each alighted there seeking a space where they could live, love and, above all, work independently.

Francesca Wade’s spellbinding group biography explores how these trailblazing women pushed the boundaries of literature, scholarship, and social norms, forging careers that would have been impossible without these rooms of their own.





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