Browse the synopses of the shortlisted titles and read the first chapters here.
Room - Emma Donoghue
Jack is five and excited about his birthday. He lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures eleven feet by eleven feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real - only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits that there's a world outside...
The Memory of Love - Aminatta Forna
Adrian Lockheart is a psychologist escaping his life in England. Arriving in Freetown in the wake of civil war, he struggles with the intensity of the heat, dirt and dust, and with the secrets this country hides. Despite the gulf of experience and understanding between them, Adrian finds unexpected friendship in a young surgeon at the hospital, the charismatic Kai Mansaray, and begins to build a new life just as Kai makes plans to leave.
Grace Williams Says It Loud - Emma Henderson
This isn't an ordinary love story. But then Grace isn't an ordinary girl. 'Disgusting,' said the nurse. And when no more could be done, they put her away, aged eleven. On her first day at the Briar Mental Institute, Grace meets Daniel. He sees a different Grace: someone to share secrets and canoodle with, someone to fight for. Debonair Daniel, an epileptic who can who can type with his feet, fills Grace's head with tales from Paris and the world beyond.
Great House - Nicole Krauss
During the winter of 1972, a woman spends a single night with a young Chilean poet before he departs New York, leaving her his desk. It is the only time they ever meet. Two years later, he is arrested by Pinochet’s secret police and never seen again. Across the ocean, in the leafy suburbs of London, a man caring for his dying wife discovers a lock of hair among her papers that unravels a terrible secret. In Jerusalem, an antiques dealer has spent a lifetime reassembling his father’s study, plundered by the Nazis from Budapest in 1944; now only one item remains to be found.
Connecting these stories is a desk of many drawers that exerts a power over those who possess it or have given it away. As the narrators of Great House make their confessions, this desk comes finally to stand for all that has been taken from them, and all that binds them to what has disappeared.
The Tiger’s Wife - Téa Obreht
A tiger escapes from the local zoo, padding through the ruined streets and onwards, to a ridge above the Balkan village of Galina. His nocturnal visits hold the villagers in a terrified thrall. But for one boy, the tiger is a thing of magic - Shere Khan awoken from the pages of The Jungle Book.
Years later, in a Balkan country ravaged by conflict, Natalia, a young doctor, is visiting an orphanage when she receives word of her beloved grandfather’s death far from their home in mysterious circumstances. Remembering fragments of the stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia becomes convinced that he spent his last days searching for ‘the deathless man’ a vagabond who was said to be immortal. As Natalia struggles to understand why her grandfather, a deeply rational man, would go on such a far-fetched journey, she stumbles across a clue that leads her to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.
Annabel - Kathleen Winter
In 1968, into the beautiful, spare environment of remote coastal Labrador in the far north-east of Canada, a mysterious child is born: a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor girl, but both at once.
Only three people share the secret – the baby’s parents, Jacinta and Treadway, and a trusted neighbour, Thomasina. Together the adults make a difficult decision: to go through surgery and raise the child as a boy named Wayne. But as Wayne grows up within the hyper-male hunting culture of his father, his shadow-self – a girl he thinks of as ‘Annabel’ – is never entirely extinguished, and indeed is secretly nurtured by the women in his life.
As Wayne approaches adulthood, and its emotional and physical demands, the woman inside him begins to cry out. The changes that follow are momentous not just for him, but for the three adults that have guarded his secret.