On Thursday, Waterstones hosted an event to highlight 11 debut novelists who they think have a good chance of making it big in 2011. I was lucky enough to be invited along, and even had a chance to chat away to a couple of the authors and other lovely literary types. I also snaffled a copy of the the pamphlet with extracts from the novels, which I have been leafing through the last couple of days.
The extracts are varied but the quality of writing is uniformly excellent, however I can’t help but have a bit of a gut-feeling about the writing I’m more naturally drawn to. One extract that stood out to me in particular was from Sophie Hardach’s The Registrar’s Manual for Detecting Forced Marriages (Simon & Schuster). Just a couple of pages into the story I went from a state of amusement to feeling quite devastated by the tragic consequences of a group of Kurdish refugee’s desperate struggle to reach the shores of Europe. In the bit that I read, Hardach’s writing was engaging and moving and I really felt as if I wanted to know what would happen in the rest of the story.
Bizarrely enough, I quite enjoyed a piece from Shehan Karunatilaka’s Chinaman (Jonathan Cape) which is the first-person narrative of a man living on borrowed time because of alcohol abuse. He has decided to write “a halfway decent documentary on Sri Lankan cricket” before he dies. I have absolutely no interest in cricket or most sport for that matter, however I found the few pages that I read entertaining and really quite poignant. Quite honestly I’m not sure that I would ever read the whole book because of the sport-related subject matter but I was pleasantly surprised by Karunatilaka’s writing style.
Pigeon English, by Stephen Kelman (Bloomsbury) looks to be another dark bit of fiction. It opens with two boys observing a dead body and casually wondering whether they should nick his nearly-new Nikes – “He don’t need ’em no more”. The style is gritty and the voices authentic.
Slightly more cheerful perhaps is When God Was a Rabbit (Headline) which opens with a conversation between a precocious child and his parent about just how far God’s love extends (Murderers? Robbers? Poo…?). The extract suggests a more serious discussion underlying the humour. I suspect that some former acting in TV’s Holby City will help to boost writer Sarah Winman’s profile.
The full list of authors and extracts from their novels can be found here if you are interested. I wonder which of the books on this list will do well this year? The support of such a big bookseller should definitely be a bonus for these up-coming authors!
I’ll definitely be looking to see if I can spot them out on the shelves in the coming months and whatever happens, I wish them well.