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The Rathbones Folio Prize 2018

A photograph of the book spines of the Rathbones Folio Prize shortlist with the prize logo added to the top of the image

The Rathbones Folio Prize shortlist has been announced (27th March) and the winner will awarded on 8th May. Here you’ll find the relevant information followed by my thoughts.

Now in its fourth year, the Prize was sponsored by The Folio Society for its first two years in 2014 and 2015, then Rathbone Investment Management Ltd took over at the tail end of 2016 for a May 2017 beginning. It was when Rathbone came on board that the prize expanded to include all types of literature – poetry, and non-fiction, among others. The prize was founded to praise literary fiction, which the founders saw being pushed aside by the Man Booker. Margaret Atwood is recorded as saying the prize is, “much needed in a world in which money is increasingly becoming the measure of all things”.

This year’s judges are Jim Crace, Nikesh Shukla and Kate Summerscale. There is a jury consisting of 250 writers and critics, that take part; the judges are selected from this. Books are nominated by the jury. Last year’s winner was Hisham Matar’s The Return.

This year the eight books shortlisted are, with blurbs:

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Elizabeth Strout: Anything Is Possible (Penguin) – This book explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others. It tells the story of the inhabitants of rural, dusty Amgash, Illinois, the hometown of Lucy Barton, a successful New York writer who finally returns, after seventeen years of absence, to visit the siblings she left behind.

Sally Rooney: Conversations With Friends (Faber & Faber) – Frances, Bobbi, Nick and Melissa ask each other endless questions. In person and online, they discuss sex and friendship, art and literature, politics and gender, and, of course, one another. At the heart of it all is twenty-one year-old Frances, bringing us this tale of a complex ménage-à-quatre and her affair with Nick, an older married man.

Mohsin Hamid: Exit West (Hamish Hamilton) – In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace – or at least not yet openly at war – two young people notice one another. They share a cup of coffee, a smile, an evening meal. They try not to hear the sound of bombs getting closer every night, the radio announcing new laws, the public executions.

Richard Lloyd Parry: Ghosts Of The Tsunami (Jonathan Cape) – On 11 March 2011, a massive earthquake sent a 120-foot-high tsunami smashing into the coast of north-east Japan, causing the deaths of over 18,500 people. Even after the immediate emergency had abated, the trauma of the disaster continued to express itself in bizarre and mysterious ways. Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, lived through the earthquake in Tokyo, and spent six years reporting from the disaster zone.

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Xiaolu Guo: Once Upon A Time In The East (Chatto & Windus) – When Xiaolu Guo was born in 1973, her parents handed her over to a childless, peasant couple, in the mountains. Aged two, and suffering from malnutrition, they left her with her illiterate grandparents in a fishing village on the East China Sea. The book takes Xiaolu from a run-down shack, to film school in a rapidly changing Beijing, to a scholarship in Britain.

Jon McGregor: Reservoir 13 (Fourth Estate) – In the hills at the heart of England a teenage girl has gone missing. The villagers join the search, police set up roadblocks, and a crowd of news reporters descends. The search for the missing girl goes on, but so does everyday life. As it must.

Richard Beard: The Day That Went Missing (Vintage) – On a family summer holiday in Cornwall in 1978, Nicholas and his brother Richard are jumping in the waves. Suddenly, Nicky is out of his depth. He isn’t, and then he is. He drowns. Incredibly, the family soon stop speaking of the catastrophe, an epic act of collective denial which writes Nicky out of the family memory. Nearly forty years later, Richard Beard is haunted by the missing grief of his childhood.

Hari Kunzru: White Tears (Penguin) – New Yorkers Carter and Seth chop up old music to make it new again, ripping off black culture to line white pockets. But one day they stumble on an old blues song – an undiscovered gem – and land themselves in a heap of trouble.

I have been considering Guo’s memoir for a while, and have Rooney’s book on my shelves. When I went to look in Southampton’s library system to see about creating a library display for the one I go to, few of the books were available – this fact, whether intentionally coinciding with the award of not, highlighted how popular the books are. I keep finding my way back to the collection of Strout’s books; it’s one of those situations where it feels like everyone but you has read the author, and so many have recommended her. Having not read any of them yet I’ve no predictions but you can bet I’ll be reading at least some of them soon.

Have you read any of the shortlisted books, or other books by the authors? Do you have any predictions as to who will win?


Tracy Terry

April 23, 2018, 4:19 pm

Of all of the books nominated it is Anything Is Possible that really appeals to me though I also quite like the sound of Once Upon A Time In The East and Reservoir 13.

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