Wales Arts Review is delighted to be sponsoring and hosting the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award once again – where you, the public, get to have your say and vote for your favourite. To help you decide, we’re taking a closer look at the titles in each of the four categories. Today, we have a run down of the books shortlisted in the Fiction category.
Drift by Caryl Lewis
Nefyn has always been an enigma, even to her brother Joseph with whom she lives in a small cottage above a blustery cove.
Hamza is a Syrian mapmaker, incarcerated in a military base a few miles up the coast.
A violent storm will bring these two lost souls together – but other forces will soon try to tear them apart…
Moving between the wild Welsh coast and war-torn Syria, Drift is a love story with a difference, a hypnotic tale of lost identity, the quest for home and the wondrous resilience of the human spirit.
Caryl Lewis is a multi-award-winning Welsh novelist, children’s writer, playwright and screenwriter. Her breakthrough novel Martha, Jac a Sianco (2004) is widely regarded as a modern classic of Welsh literature, and sits on the Welsh curriculum. The film adaptation – with a screenplay by Lewis herself – went on to win six Welsh BAFTAS and the Spirit of the Festival Award at the 2010 Celtic Media Festival. Lewis’s other screenwriting work includes BBC/S4C thrillers Hinterland and Hidden. Lewis is a visiting lecturer in Creative Writing at Cardiff University, and lives with her family on a farm near Aberystwyth. Drift is her debut novel in the English language.
Fannie by Rebecca F. John
A feminist reimagining of the story of Les Miserables’ Fantine , from Costa-award shortlisted author.
Montreuil-sur-Mer, 1815. Life is hard for Fannie working at the factory, with only sweet memories of her ‘gentleman’ and daughter to sustain her. But when she is revealed as an unmarried mother and dismissed, she is forced to take greater and greater risks to earn money for her child. What can she sell? Who can she trust? Has she any escape? A story of desperation, but also of love and the soaring power of hope.
Rebecca F. John was born in Llanelli. Her first novel, The Haunting of Henry Twist (Serpent’s Tail, 2017) was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award. Her story ‘The Glove Maker’s Numbers’ was shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award 2015. She won the PEN International New Voices Award 2015, and was the British participant of the 2016 Scritture Giovani project. In 2017, she was on the Hay Festival’s ‘The Hay 30’ list. Her stories have been broadcast on Radio 4 and published in Clown Shoes (Parthian, 2015). She is launching her own press, Aderyn, in January and her children’s fantasy novel will be published by Firefly Press in 2022. She lives in Swansea with her dogs, where she writes, reads, and walks to excess.
This Is Not Who We Are by Sophie Buchaillard
1994, Iris and Victoria are pen friends. Iris writes about her life with her family in Paris. Victoria is in a refugee camp in Goma having fled the genocide in Rwanda in which thousands are being killed. One day Victoria’s letters stop, and Iris is told she has been moved.
Twenty years later Iris, a new mother, is working as a journalist in London. As she prepares to return to work, her thoughts turn to Victoria and what might have happened to her. She pitches a story to her editor which sets her on a journey to find her pen friend. But as she follows the story, things emerge that make her question her own past. Was her father, a French government official, somehow involved in the genocide? Are her childhood memories more fiction than fact? Why is she looking for Victoria, really?
For Victoria, the last twenty years have been ones of migration, to Goma, then to Paris and finally to London. There she starts a new life with her youngest brother Paul, and leaves the past behind. Or so she thinks until she is suddenly confronted with the decision to reconnect with her genocide-supporting middle brother Benjamin. How have the lives of these two women, who shared a moment in time, changed in the past twenty years? As the pressure of long-kept family secrets builds, will they ever find each other?
Sophie Buchaillard was born in Paris and lived in Bordeaux, Salamanca, Merrill (NY) and London, settling in South Wales in 2001, almost by accident. Her short stories and essays have appeared in Wales Arts Review, Murmurations Magazine, Other Side of Hope and Square Wheel Press. She co-hosts the Writers on Reading podcast and tutors in creative writing at Cardiff University.
You can view the full shortlist for this year’s prize, and cast your vote for this year’s People’s Choice Award, here.
You can find out more about this year’s Wales Book of the Year Awards, here.