The third annual Desmond Elliott Prize, given for a first novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom, was awarded yesterday. British author Ali Shaw received the ten-thousand-pound prize (approximately fifteen thousand dollars) for his novel, The Girl With Glass Feet, published by Atlantic Books in the United Kingdom and Henry Holt in the United States.
The judges—author Elizabeth Buchan, bookseller James Daunt, and Observer editor William Skidelsky—praised Shaw's book, a hybrid work of myth and realism, for its "exploration of frozen landscapes, both interior and exterior" and "precisely detailed and articulated fantasy." The author, whose influences include the Italian fabulist fiction writer Italo Calvino and Franz Kafka (specifically The Metamorphosis), spent five years writing the book, centered on a woman who is turning, feet first, to glass.
Also on the shortlist for this year's award were Before the Earthquake (Tindal Street Press) by Maria Allen and Talk of the Town (Picador) by Jacob Polley.
The prize, given in past years to Edward Hogan for Blackmoor (Simon & Schuster) and Nikita Lalwani for Gifted (Penguin), is named for the late literary agent and publisher Desmond Elliott whose wish it was to have his estate establish an award to "enrich the careers of new writers." In September, the submission period for the prize will open for books published between April 2010 and April 2011.
The video below was posted on Shaw's blog under "Strange and Beautiful Things," a piece illuminating of the author's aesthetic that we couldn't help but share. Shaw reports an affinity for fantastical animals—images of his drawings of unicorn mice and winged livestock, some of which make appearances in his novel, are posted on his Web site—and told the Oxford Reporter that he hoped his book would be "a conversation of images."