Limberlost by Robbie Arnott (Atlantic Books)
Ned West dreams of sailing across the river on a boat of his very own. To Ned, a boat means freedom – the fresh open water, squid-rich reefs, fires on private beaches – a far cry from life on Limberlost, the family farm, where his father worries and grieves for Ned’s older brothers. They’re away fighting in a ruthless and distant war, becoming men on the battlefield, while Ned – too young to enlist – roams the land in search of rabbits to shoot, selling their pelts to fund his secret boat ambitions.
But as the seasons pass and Ned grows up, real life gets in the way. Ned falls for Callie, the tough, capable sister of his best friend, and together they learn the lessons of love, loss, and hardship. When a storm decimates the Limberlost crop and shakes the orchard’s future, Ned must decide what to protect: his childhood dreams, or the people and the land that surround him…
At turns tender and vicious, Limberlost is a tale of the masculinities we inherit, the limits of ownership and understanding, and the teeming, vibrant wonders of growing up. Told in spellbinding, folkloric spirit, this is an unforgettable love letter to the richness of the natural world from a writer of rare talent.
Robbie Arnott, Limberlost (Atlantic Books)
Robbie Arnott is the author of the novel Flames, which won the Margaret Scott Prize, was short-listed for the Victorian Premier's Literary Prize for Fiction and was long-listed for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, and The Rain Heron, which won the Age Book of the Year 2021 and was shortlisted for Miles Franklin Literary Award. He has been named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelist. He lives in Tasmania.
[Photo credit: Mitch Osborne]
Seven Steeples by Sara Baume (Tramp Press)
It is the winter following the summer they met. A couple, Bell and Sigh, move into a remote house in the Irish countryside with their dogs. Both solitary with misanthropic tendencies, they leave the conventional lives stretched out before them to build another--one embedded in ritual, and away from the friends and family from whom they've drifted.
They arrive at their new home on a clear January day and look up to appraise the view. A mountain gently and unspectacularly ascends from the Atlantic, 'as if it had accumulated stature over centuries. As if, over centuries, it had steadily flattened itself upwards.' They make a promise to climb the mountain, but - over the course of the next seven years - it remains un-climbed. We move through the seasons with Bell and Sigh as they come to understand more about the small world around them, and as their interest in the wider world recedes.
Seven Steeples is a beautiful and profound meditation on the nature of love, and the resilience of nature. Through Bell and Sigh, and the life they create for themselves, Sara Baume explores what it means to escape the traditional paths laid out before us - and what it means to evolve in devotion to another person, and to the landscape.
Sara Baume, Seven Steeples (Tramp Press)
Sara Baume is the author of four books. Her novels have been widely translated and won awards such as the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Rooney Prize for Literature and the E.M. Forster Award. In 2020 her non-fiction debut, handiwork, was shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize and in 2022 her third novel, Seven Steeples, was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize. She is based in West Cork where she works also as a visual artist.
[Photo credit: Kenneth O'Halloran]
God's Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu (Orion, Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
A man revisits the university campus where he lost his first love, aware now of what he couldn’t understand then. A daughter returns home to Lagos after the death of her father, where she must face her past – and future -relationship with his longtime partner. A young musician rises to fame at the risk of losing himself and the man who loves him.
Generations collide, families break and are remade, languages and cultures intertwine, and lovers find their ways to futures; from childhood through adulthood; on university campuses, city centres, and neighbourhoods where church bells mingle with the morning call to prayer.
Arinze Ifeakandu, God's Children Are Little Broken Things (Orion, Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Arinze Ifeakandu was born in Kano, Nigeria. An AKO Caine Prize for African Writing finalist and A Public Space Writing Fellow, he is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His work has appeared in A Public Space, One Story and Guernica. God’s Children Are Little Broken Things is his first book.
[Photo credit: Bec Stupak Diop for Black Rock Senegal]
I'm a Fan by Sheena Patel (Rough Trade Press / Granta)
In I'm A Fan single speaker uses the story of their experience in a seemingly unequal, unfaithful relationship as a prism through which to examine the complicated hold we each have on one another. With a clear and unforgiving eye, the narrator unpicks the behaviour of all involved, herself included, and makes startling connections between the power struggles at the heart of human relationships and those of the wider world, in turn offering a devastating critique of access, social media, patriarchal heteronormative relationships, and our cultural obsession with status and how that status is conveyed.
In this incredible debut, Sheena Patel announces herself as a vital new voice in literature, capable of rendering a range of emotions and visceral experiences on the page. Sex, violence, politics, tenderness, humour—Patel handles them all with both originality and dexterity of voice.
Sheena Patel, I'm a Fan (Rough Trade Press / Granta)
Sheena Patel is a writer and assistant director for film and TV who was born and raised in North West London. She is part of the 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE collective, has been published in 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE (Rough Trade Books) and a poetry collection of the same name (FEM Press). In 2022 she was chosen as one of the Observer's Top 10 best debut novelists. This is her first book.
[Photo credit: Salem Zaied]
Send Nudes by Saba Sams (Bloomsbury Publishing)
In ten dazzling stories, Saba Sams dives into the world of girlhood and immerses us in its contradictions and complexities: growing up too quickly, yet not quickly enough; taking possession of what one can, while being taken possession of; succumbing to societal pressure but also orchestrating that pressure. These young women are feral yet attentive, fierce yet vulnerable, exploited yet exploitative.
Threading between clubs at closing time, pub toilets, drenched music festivals and beach holidays, these unforgettable short stories deftly chart the treacherous terrain of growing up – of intense friendships, of ambivalent mothers, of uneasily blended families, and of learning to truly live in your own body.
With striking wit, originality and tenderness, Send Nudes celebrates the small victories in a world that tries to claim each young woman as its own.
Saba Sams, Send Nudes (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Saba Sams has been published in the Stinging Fly, Granta and Five Dials, among others. She was shortlisted for the White Review Short Story Prize in 2019. Send Nudes won the Edge Hill Short Story Prize 2022, and ‘Blue 4eva’ won the BBC National Short Story Award 2022. She is from Brighton.
[Photo credit: Sophie Davidson]
Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire (Chatto & Windus, [Vintage])
With her first full-length poetry collection, Warsan Shire introduces us to a girl who, in the absence of a nurturing guide, makes her own stumbling way toward womanhood. Drawing from her own life and the lives of loved ones, as well as pop culture and news headlines, Shire finds vivid, unique details in the experiences of refugees and immigrants, mothers and daughters, Black women and teenage girls. These are noisy lives, full of music and weeping and surahs. These are fragrant lives, full of blood and perfume and jasmine. These are polychrome lives, full of moonlight and turmeric and kohl.
The long-awaited collection from one of our most exciting contemporary poets is a blessing, an incantatory celebration of survival. Each reader will come away changed.
Warsan Shire, Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head (Chatto & Windus, [Vintage])
Warsan Shire is a Somali British writer and poet born in Nairobi and raised in London. She has written two chapbooks, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth and Her Blue Body. She was awarded the inaugural Brunel International African Poetry Prize and served as the first Young Poet Laureate of London. She is the youngest member of the Royal Society of Literature and is included in the Penguin Modern Poets series. Shire wrote the poetry for the Peabody Award–winning visual album Lemonade and the Disney film Black Is King in collaboration with Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. She also wrote the short film Brave Girl Rising, highlighting the voices and faces of Somali girls in Africa’s largest refugee camp. Shire lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children. Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head is her full-length debut poetry collection and was shortlisted for the Forward Felix Dennis Prize 2022.
What the judges say
Prajwal Parajuly on Limberlost by Robbie Arnott (Atlantic Books)
“We loved this book for its stunning sentences, its quiet meditation on masculinity, and its ability to conjure up (as well as transport us to) 1940s Tasmania. There’s a beautiful tenderness to Robbie Arnott’s Limberlost that impressed us. We are thrilled to have it on the 2023 shortlist.”
Jon Gower on Seven Steeples by Sara Baume (Tramp Press)
“This beautifully quiet and quietly beautiful novel maps out two lovers’ lives with custodial care and in delicate, precision prose. In Bell and Sigh, Sarah Baume has created a marvellously shambolic and memorable pair of characters, setting them in a creaking house in a wind-blown Irish landscape, where they walk their dogs and grow ever closer. Tender and true, this is a book that lingers like the coconut scent of gorse in full flower.”
Maggie Shipstead on God's Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu (Orion, Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
“Arinze Ifeakandu’s story collection, God’s Children Are Little Broken Things, brings incisive authorial insight and compassionate, compelling humanity to the lives of its characters. The persistence of queer love and desire in the face of oppression is beautifully rendered.”
Di Speirs on I'm a Fan by Sheena Patel (Rough Trade Books)
“We loved Patel’s book for its immediacy, vibrancy and shafts of spikey humour. While no-one would want the relationship within the pages, we found ourselves compelled to read on, rooting for our narrator, hoping she’d execute an escape from it all – the man, the woman and the shallow ephemera she captures so pithily. A memorable and exciting new voice on the literary scene, we are sure we’ll hear more of Sheena Patel.”
Rachel Long on Send Nudes by Saba Sams (Bloomsbury Publishing)
“An exciting, empowering collection of short stories, full of knowing, daring, wit and range. I could not put this book down! Each story its own unique universe of what it is/can be to navigate and experience girl/womanhood. My only gripe is that I wish this book existed when I was in my teens or in my twenties!”
Maggie Shipstead on Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire
“Bless the Daughter Raised By a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire is the kind of poetry collection that takes up residence in your psyche and becomes a part of you, echoing when you least expect it. Shire’s words are deeply specific but also full of inclusive—even universal—resonance about the complexities of family, self, and home."