Debut novelists at 2011 Edinburgh International Book Festival

This article is from 2011

Julya Rabinowich

Julya Rabinowich

Rebecca Hunt, Adam Levin and Mary Horlock among visiting authors

Charlotte Square Gardens will be teeming with quality first novels for the whole of August, one of which will receive the EIBF's Newton First Book Award. Brian Donaldson looks at the cream of this year's debutants

What's in a first novel? If debuts such as Catch-22, Lord of the Flies or Fever Pitch are anything to go by, we'd say quite a lot. Unfortunately, all to often first-time publications are overlooked by publishers who favour the reliable sales of more established authors.

The Newton First Book Award, sponsored by Newton Investment Management and with The List as its media partner, is hosted at this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival with the aim of recognising the talent of one debut novelist from a series of forty-five nominees.

You couldn't find a more mixed bag in terms of both the novels and authors in this year's selection. Whatever their profile, The List has no favourites. That's the beauty of the Newton First Book Award, voting is based entirely on readers votes: no critic opinions (or egos) getting in the way.

You can place your vote, including a short review of your chosen book here.

Votes will automatically be entered into a prize draw for a signed copy of each of the forty-five nominated titles. Voting will close 7 October 2011.

Below is a summary of just some of the novels by debut authors visiting the book festival in 2011.

Mary Horlock - The Book of Lies

Five-word pitch: Guernsey secrets reveal dark past
Main character: When 15-year-old Catherine Rozier lost her best friend on the cliffs near her home, it echoed a dark episode within her family. At that time, the Nazis ruled the island, but can those two stories be closely connected?
Who liked it? 'An unforgettable and brilliant debut': Hanif Kureishi

Ned Beauman - Boxer, Beetle

Five-word pitch: For people with wrong impulses
Main character: Kevin Broom runs errands for a mysterious property developer, one of which results in the discovery of a dead private investigator, a note written by Hitler and the strange tale of a Jewish boxer called Sam Roach.
Who liked it? 'An astonishing debut fizzing with ideas': Jake Arnott

Stephen Kelman - Pigeon English

Five-word pitch: Surviving the modern urban jungle
Main character: Newly arrived in the UK from Ghana, 11-year-old Harrison Opoku is an aspiring athlete who draws designer logos on his trainers. A gangland killing springs Harri into brave action as he seeks to discover the truth behind this callous slaying.
Who liked it? 'This fantastical love letter to the world made me laugh and tremble': Emma Donoghue

Julya Rabinowich - Splithead

Five-word pitch: Can you escape your roots?
Main character: Seven-year-old Mischka and her family have fled the oppressive USSR for Austria. But even as she's busy with her Barbie, perfecting German, and chomping on fresh fruit, Mischka is aware that she'll forever be connected to her homeland's history, prejudices and secrets.
Who liked it? 'The importance of folklore in German-language writing is both honoured and subverted in this stunning debut':

Sunjeev Sahota - Ours are the Streets

Five-word pitch: On the road to fanaticism
Main character: Sheffield-born Imtiaz Raina is a young father and husband, and son of loving parents who has convinced himself that he believes in a cause that must end in his death. But before he takes that final journey, he wants his family to understand the reasons behind it.
Who liked it? 'A moral work of real intelligence and power': John Burnside

Luke Williams - The Echo Chamber

Five-word pitch The woman who hears everything
Main character Evie Steppman, a middle-aged lady with an almost supernatural sense of hearing, has locked herself away in a decaying house in Gullane to write her memoirs, telling the story of everything from Nigeria's fight for independence to a Ziggy Stardust-esque US tour.
Who liked it? 'Original, brilliant and inconceivable': Ali Smith

Chan Koonchung - The Fat Years

Five-word pitch: China has banned this book
Main character: Noir fan Lao Chen narrates a sardonic and disturbing fictional analysis on the 'harmonious society' engineered by the Beijing leadership since the tumultuous events of 1989. Set in 2013, this has been dubbed 'China's 1984'.
Who liked it? 'A compelling, dry-humoured, vividly-drawn story': China Heritage Quarterly

Adam Levin - The Instructions

Five-word pitch: 1000 pages of literary pyrotechnics
Main character: At the age of ten, the highly precocious Gurion Maccabee has already been expelled from three Jewish day-schools for acts of violence and messianic tendencies. Separated from his flock, Gurion becomes a leader whose aim is to create an almighty revolution.
Who liked it? 'A hysterical, heartfelt journey of self-discovery': Village Voice

Rebecca Hunt - Mr Chartwell

Five-word pitch: Churchill, depression, a talking dog
Main character: Mr Chartwell is an enormous, noisy, clumsy, smelly black canine who pays regular visits to Britain's wartime leader just as he is set to announce his resignation from Parliament, and to Esther, a young library clerk at the House of Commons who has recently been widowed.
Who liked it? 'A darkly comic debut that hits all the right notes': Lesley McDowell

Nat Segnit - Pub Walks in Underhill Country

Five-word pitch: Strolling into a fictional land
Main character: Graham Underhill is a rambler, local councillor and watercolourist dubbed the 'Wainwright of the West Midlands' who delivers pointed analysis of the times he lives in and an exposŽ of his own domestic story through the bogs and proposed bypasses of the Malvern region.
Who liked it? 'If Vladimir Nabokov had written The Archers, then he might just have struck a note that chimed with the peculiar music of this beguiling first novel': Boyd Tonkin

Adam Levin

The Instructions was a massive hit in the US last year and is sure to strike a chord here. It’s the story of 10 year old Gurion Maccabee, a lover, fighter, scholar, and truly spectacular talker who can’t stop being expelled from Jewish day schools as his search for righteousness sparks an unstoppable rebellion.

Carol Birch & Luke Williams

The British novel is in rude health. Anyone who doubts it should join this event to hear two writers with exuberant and magical stories. Birch – longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2003 – has written Jamrach's Menagerie a rip-snorting tale of a Victorian boy's journey on the high seas, while Williams' debut, The Echo…

Chan Koonchung

Is it possible to live in China today, and to raise an eyebrow about the country's political ambitions? Chan Koonchung, resident in Beijing for a decade, has done precisely that with his political fable The Fat Years. A portrait of China in 2013, when capitalism in the West has self-destructed, this novel paints a vivid…

Faïza Guène & Stephen Kelman

Hailed as the 'Françoise Sagan of the highrise', Faïza Guène has given voice to the 'invisible' immigrant communities of suburban Paris. Her third novel, Bar Balto is a jaunty whodunnit and an insight into everyday racism. Across the Channel, Stephen Kelman's Pigeon English tells the story of an 11 year old Ghanaian…

Helen Oyeyemi & Nat Segnit

When were romances ever simple? Nat Segnit’s debut novel, Pub Walks in Underhill Country, is ostensibly a walking guide, each chapter tracing the route of a walk in the West Midlands – except the author gives away far more of himself (and his doomed love affair) than he might have wished. Helen Oyeyemi’s fourth novel, Mr…

Mary Horlock & Paul Wilson

Former curator of the Turner Prize, Mary Horlock has crafted an artful debut novel about the trials of growing up and the repressed histories we all harbour. The Book of Lies is set in 1980s Guernsey and narrated by a 15 year old murderer whose family lived through the German Occupation, and which has bequeathed untold…

Ned Beauman & Zoë Strachan

Ned Beauman's uproarious debut novel Boxer, Beetle follows the tale of a gay Jewish boxer in 1930s London. Shortlisted for the 2010 Guardian First Book Award, it was described by the Independent as 'a debut with the whiff of a cult classic'. Glasgow-based author Zoë Strachan’s brand new novel, Ever Fallen in Love, tells…

Rebecca Hunt & Cornelius Medvei

It is often said that those with depression can gain solace from their relationships with animals. Winston Churchill referred to his bouts of depression as his 'black dog', and in Rebecca Hunt's story the dog is made flesh in the form of a massive black hound with the power of speech. Cornelius Medvei's Caroline is a…

Robert Bickers, Wang Hui & Chan Koonchung with Allan Little

The arrest of Ai Weiwei appeared to form part of a concerted Chinese crackdown in response to protests in the Middle East and North Africa. But what are the chances of a similar uprising in China? As part of his guest-selected series on revolution in the 21st century, Allan Little discusses the issues with Chan Koonchung…

Sunjeev Sahota & Naomi Wood

Born in Sheffield to Pakistani parents, Imtiaz is considering blowing himself and many others to smithereens. With wit and compassion, Sahota takes us through Imtiaz’s story in Ours Are the Streets to explore how he could have reached this point. Wood’s The Godless Boys is an equally unflinching fictional account of a…

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