The 2015 Waterstones Book Prize Winner has been announced. We check out this year's winner and the must-read shortlist nominees that didn't quite make it (hint - you'll be VERY suprised some of these didn't win!)
This year’s winner of the Waterstones Book Prize is first-time author Coralie Bickford-Smith with her novel The Fox and The Star. An illustrator for Penguin by day, author by night; the designer took a six month sabbatical from her day job to complete the novel, and it’s certainly paid off…
(Image of the author)
A fable about a fox losing his only friend, a star in the sky, may be an unlikely front-runner for the prestigious award, especially when the shortlist includes bestsellers The Girl On The Train and Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, but the beautifully illustrated picture book contains a moving message about love, loss and learning to accept change. Waterstones boss James Daunt, who organised the judging panel, described the book as “a book of great physical beauty and timeless quality, one that will surely join that very special group of classic tales that appeal equally to children and adults”.
(An illustration from inside the book)
The author, who previously worked on the cloth bound editions of Penguin Classics, has cited poet William Blake and illustrator William Morris as her inspirations, as well as her own personal experience with the loss of her mother at an early age. Speaking about the book’s broad appeal, she notes that, “Children seem to love the idea of the friends and the crazy illustrations, while adults like the concept of things being tough, but coming out the other side.”
Here’s the stiff competition this moving fox fable had to beat to secure the prize:
SPQR – Mary Beard
Described as an ‘instant classic’, SPQR (short for Senatus Populusque Romanus – the Senate and People of Rome), takes a brilliantly engaging fresh look at the definitive history of Ancient Rome; appraising the rise and fall of the empire and dispelling myths accumulated over the centuries. Beard, one of the world’s foremost classicists, reflects on the theories of why the ancient civilisation’s values are still relevant to modern life. We wish we’d have this when we were in school – Latin probably would have been A LOT less of a snooze-fest!
My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
Despite having a beguiling identity shrouded in mystery, this acclamied Italian novellist has a mass following due to her beautifully written novel series. In this latest installment, she portrays the changing lives of two best friends who with each other. Coupled with portraying the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change, any story that details the beautiful intricacies of female friendships is a tick in our box!
Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig
Not a work of fiction and not a self-help manual; this moving yet remarkably funny memoir from Haig shows us how you can come out on the other side of depression. We join the author in his exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive. Following his journey as he overcomes crises, battles severe illness and comes out the other side determined to feel truly alive. An uplifting true story.
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The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
Perhaps the most commerically famous offering on the list, the psychological thriller that’s already being made into a major motion picture, starring our fave Brit Emily Blunt, needs no introduction (but we’ll give you one any way). Referred to as ‘the next Gone Girl‘, a case of mysterious disapperance, paired with the running theme of alcoholism, heartbreak and betrayal gives way to a gripping read that will have you holed up in your room for hours. We are given the story through the eyes of the three lead female characters, all play a vital part in the disappearance, all are intrinsically linked to each other. And Paula’s one of the Marie Claire Women At The Top 2015. Go buy it now if you haven’t already.
Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee
The hotly anticipated sequel To Kill A Mockingbird was apparently written years ago but only just published this year, with record-breaking pre-sale orders on Amazon. Describing the plotline, the book’s Harper Collins publisher says that the central character, Jean Louise (aka Scout) “is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s attitude toward society and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood”. Sorry Harper, but we found this one a disappointment.
The Shepherd’s Life – James Rebanks
A detailed account of the author’s life as a sheep farmer in the Lake District, a job his family has centred around for generations. We are given a series of blog style entries that narrate the memoir, providing us with a wonderfully individual, detailed and candid insight of a life typical of this often overlooked role in today’s urban life. A good read for some much needed escapism and an education to say the least.
A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
A heartbreaking coming-of-age stroy about four friends trying to make it in New York. The book follows their respective careers and personal highs and lows, reflecting the subsequent strengthening and weakening of their friendship bonds, and unveiling hidden traumatic pasts throughout. The book will put you through an emotional rollercoaster, have your tissues at the ready…
The shortlist for the Waterstones Book Prize was nominated by the company’s UK booksellers, the criteria being a book “that stands out in its field and speaks to the company’s core customers – those people who love reading and love books”. Previous prize winners in this category include:
– 2014: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
– 2013: Stoner by John Williams
– 2012: Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook by Russell Norman
Last year’s winner, The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, increased sales by more than 1000% in Waterstones stores.
Read about Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl On The Train here