Founded in 1991, The Sunday Times Charlotte Aitken Young Writer of the Year Award recognises the best literary work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by a British or Irish writer of 35 and under. This year’s judges are spearheaded by the former Literary Editor of The Sunday Times Andrew Holgate, who remains as Chair of Judges, and the new Sunday Times Literary Editor, Johanna Thomas-Corr who are joined by critic and journalist Stig Abell, poet Mona Arshi, author Oyinkan Braithwaite, and novelist and earlier winner of the prize, Francis Spufford.
With Cal Flyn, Jay Bernard, Raymond Antrobus, Adam Weymouth, Sally Rooney, Max Porter and Sarah Howe as recent winners, the prize has spotted and supported an exceptional line-up of defining new voices since returning from a 7-year break in 2015, and its alumni list is a who’s who of the best British and Irish writing – from Robert Macfarlane to Zadie Smith, from Sarah Waters to Simon Armitage, from Naomi Alderman to Caryl Phillips and many others.
**The winner of The Sunday Times Charlotte Aitken Young Writer of the Year Award will be announced on 14th March 2023.
So who made it onto this very prestigious short-list?
Oxblood by Tom Benn
Wythenshawe, South Manchester. 1985.
The Dodds family once ruled Manchester ’s underworld; now the men are dead, leaving three generations of women trapped in a house haunted by violence, harbouring an unregistered baby.
Matriarch Nedra presides over the household, which bustles with activity as she prepares the welcome feast for her grandson Kelly’s return from prison.
Her grieving daughter-in-law Carol is visited by both the welcome, intimate ghost of her murdered lover, and by Mac, an ageing criminal enforcer, a man who may just offer her a real and possible future.
And then there is Jan – the teenage tearaway running as fast as she can from her mother, her grandmother, and her own unnamed baby.
Over the course of a few days, the Dodds women must each confront the true legacy of the men who have defined their lives; and seize the opportunity to break the cycle for good.
A blistering portrait of a family on fire, Oxblood lays bare the horror of violence, the exile of grief, and the extraordinary power of love.
About Tom Benn
Tom Benn’s first novel, The Doll Princess, was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Portico Prize, and longlisted for the CWA’s John Creasey Dagger. Benn’s creative nonfiction has appeared in the Paris Review and he won the BFI’s iWrite scheme for emerging screenwriters. His first film Real Gods Require Blood premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for Best Short Film at the BFI London Film Festival. Born in Stockport in 1987, he now teaches on the UEACrime Fiction Creative Writing MA and lives in Norwich.
Larger Than The Orange by Lucy Burns
This is the story of an abortion.
The days and hours before the first visit to the clinic and the weeks and months after.
The pregnancy was a mistake and the narrator immediately arranges a termination. But a gulf yawns between politics and personal experience. The polarised public debate and the broader cultural silence did not prepare her for the physical event or the emotional aftermath. She finds herself compulsively telling people about the abortion (and counting those who know), struggling at work and researching the procedure. She feels alone in her pain and confusion.
Part diary, part prose poem, part literary collage, Larger than an Orange is an uncompromising, intimate and original memoir. With raw precision and determined honesty, Lucy Burns carves out a new space for complexity, ambivalence and individual experience.
About Lucy Burns
Lucy Burns was born in 1991 and lives in Manchester, where she received her PhD on the history of Black Mountain College. Her reviews and essays have appeared in P.N. Review, Hotel, and elsewhere. She currently works as a lecturer. Larger than an Orange is her first book.
Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer
Something gleeful and malevolent is moving in Lia’s body, learning her life from the inside out. A shape-shifter. A disaster tourist. It ’s travelling down the banks of her canals. It’s spreading.
When a sudden diagnosis upends Lia’s world, the boundaries between her past and her present begin to collapse. Deeply buried secrets stir awake. As the voice prowling in Lia takes hold of her story, and the landscape around becomes indistinguishable from the one within, Lia and her family are faced with some of the hardest questions of all: how can we move on from the events that have shaped us, when our bodies harbour everything? And what does it mean to die with grace, when you’re simply not ready to let go?
Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies is a story of coming-of-age at the end of a life. Utterly heart-breaking yet darkly funny, Maddie Mortimer ’s astonishing debut is a symphonic journey through one woman’s body: a wild and lyrical celebration of desire, forgiveness, and the darkness within us all.
About Maddie Mortimer
Maddie Mortimer was born in London in 1996. She received her BA in English Literature from the University of Bristol. Her writing has featured in The Times and her short films have screened at festivals around the world. She is co-writing a TV series currently in development with Various Artists Ltd. In 2019 she completed the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course. Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies is her first novel.
Super-Infinite by Katherine Rundell
John Donne lived myriad lives.
Sometime religious outsider and social disaster, sometime celebrity preacher and establishment darling, John Donne was incapable of being just one thing. He was a scholar of law, a sea adventurer, an MP, a priest, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral – and perhaps the greatest love poet in the history of the English language. He converted from Catholicism to Protestantism, was imprisoned for marrying a high-born girl without her father ’s consent, struggled to feed a family of ten children and was often ill and in pain. He was a man who suffered from black surges of sadness, yet expressed in his verse electric joy and love.
From a standout scholar, a biography of John Donne: the poet of love, sex, and death. In Super-Infinite, Katherine Rundell embarks on a fleet-footed ‘act of evangelism’, showing us the many sides of Donne’s extraordinary life, his obsessions, his blazing words, and his tempestuous Elizabethan times – unveiling Donne as the most remarkable mind and as a lesson in living.
About Katherine Rundell
Katherine Rundell was born in 1987 and is currently a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. Her bestselling books for children have been translated into more than thirty languages and have won multiple awards. Rundell is also the author of a book for adults, Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise. She has written for, among others, the London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books and The New York Times: mostly about books, though sometimes about night climbing, tightrope walking, and animals.
The shortlist has been described as ‘immensely powerful’ by Chair of Judges Andrew Holgate, whilst the new Literary Editor of The Sunday Times, Johanna Thomas-Corr, praises the authors ‘who refuse to be bent into shape’.
Further details of the Young Writer of the Year Award are available at https://www.youngwriteraward.com/