Thursday, February 18, 2010

Commonwealth Writers' Prize shortlist

2010 is the year to show the rest of the world what we can do!

Listed below are the books from Africa that made the Commonwealth cut:

(find the rest of the finalists here)

The shortlisted writers for Africa's Best Book are:
Trespass by Dawn Garisch (South Africa)
The Double Crown by MariƩ Heese (South Africa)
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)
Eyo by Abidemi Sanusi (Nigeria)
Tsamma Season by Rosemund Handler (South Africa)
Refuge by Andrew Brown (South Africa)
Kings of the Water by Mark Behr (South Africa)

The shortlisted writers for Africa's Best First Book are:
I Do Not Come to You by Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani (Nigeria)
The Shape of Him by Gill Schierhout (South Africa)
The Shadow of a Smile by Kachi Ozumba (Nigeria)
Come Sunday by Isla Morley (South Africa)
Sleepers Wake by Alistair Morgan (South Africa)
Jelly Dog Days by Erica Emdon (South Africa)
Harmattan Rain by Aysha Harunna Attah (Ghana)

Some cherry-picks below; just let me know if you would like info on any of the others.

The Thing Around Your Neck
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Paperback, 217 pages
September 2009
Published by Fourth Estate
Available to order – 3 weeks

From Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Orange Prize-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun, come twelve dazzling stories in which she turns her penetrating eye on the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Nigeria and the West. Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow and longing, this collection is a resounding confirmation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's prodigious storytelling powers.

Tsamma Season
Rosemund Handler
Paperback, 289 pages, June 2009
Published by The Penguin Group (SA) (Pty) Ltd
Available to order – 1 week

An intrepid couple spurn their former lives to take on the challenge of building a home in the Kalahari Desert. The family’s story is told by their precocious daughter, Emma. Tsamma Season explores the themes of love and loss of love, challenge and betrayal. Handler’s prose vividly evokes the limitless horizons and rugged beauty of the Kalahari.

Kings Of The Water
Mark Behr
Paperback, 243 pages
October 2009
Published by Abacus
Available to order – 6 – 8 weeks

When Michiel Steyn returns to the family farmstead in South Africa for his mother's funeral, he has spent close to half his lifetime abroad. But even after fifteen years' absence, neither Michiel nor those he left behind have truly come to terms with his terrible flight from the farm they called Paradise.
Elegant and chilling, poignant and profoundly thoughtful, Kings Of The Water is at once a lament both personal and political, and a meditation on the potency of reconciliation.

I Do Not Come to You by Chance
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
Paperback, 368 pages
4 March 2010
Published by Phoenix
Available to order – 3 - 4 weeks

In Adaobi Nwaubani's vivid, often hilarious debut novel, we learn how one young man gets sucked into the 419 world, losing himself in the process. Kingsley is fresh out of university, eager to find an engineering job so he can support his family--descended into poverty after his father fell ill--and marry his sweetheart, Ola. But jobs are not easy to come by, and out of desperation he turns to his uncle, Cash Daddy, who runs a successful empire of 419 scams. Unconditional family support is the Nigerian way, but the hand Cash Daddy extends in charity has consequences. As Kingsley is drawn into this outlandish milieu, he soon realizes that nothing in Nigeria comes for free. Like Monica Ali, Kiran Desai, and Lisa See, Adaobi Nwaubani captures her distinct world in unputdownable ways. Accomplished, lyrical, and enlightening, this is a debut that is destined to stand out.

The Shape of Him
Gill Schierhout
Hardcover, 224 pages
June 2009
Published by Jonathan Cape
Available to order – 1 – 2 weeks

Sara Highbury, now forty-eight years old and the manageress of a boarding house, is living in the aftermath of a love affair with Herbert Wakeford, a one-time diamond digger who suffers from a degenerative brain disease. Years after their relationship ended, Sara is still haunted by Herbert and what passed between them. With the backdrop of a rural landscape and characters that are as memorable as they are unexpected, "The Shape of Him" introduces a writer whose spare, exquisitely crafted prose places her deservedly in the tradition of the best of South African literary fiction.

Sleeper's Wake
Alastair Morgan
Paperback, 180 pages
July 2009
Published by The Penguin Group
Available to order – 1 – 2 weeks

The novel is set in modern day South Africa and is the story of 46-year-old John Wraith, a freelance journalist, who regains consciousness after a car accident to learn that his wife and 5-year-old daughter died in the same accident. What is all the more traumatic for him is that he was driving the car.
At the urging of his sister, John decides to recuperate in her holiday chalet in Nature’s Valley, on the South African coast. It is winter and Nature’s Valley is mostly deserted - except for a disturbed young woman of twenty one called Jackie and her equally strange brother and her father, who is a born again Christian. John's uneasy yet intense involvement with this trio, particularly with Jackie, to whom he is sexually attracted, and with the few other characters that inhabit Nature’s Valley, provides the novel with its driving narrative and tense denouement. It is a haunting, evocative, disturbing and very powerful study of man at his most naked and vulnerable.

Jelly Dog Days
Erica Emdon
Paperback, August 2009
Published by The Penguin Group (SA) (Pty) Ltd
Available to order – 1 – 2 weeks

Jelly dog days is a story told through the eyes of a young girl, Theresa, who grows up in the racist working class suburbs of Johannesburg during the 1960s and 1970s. After living in Turfontein, Bez Valley, Little Falls and Malvern, the family moves to Claremont when Theresa is eight where they seem to settle down. She is forced to confront challenges that no young person should have to deal with and maintain some kind of mechanism to survive. The story is set in white Johannesburg of the period; it is a tale of trust and treachery. But most importantly, it is about survival and to some extent redemption.

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