Irenosen Okojie has been shortlisted for the Betty Trask Prize 2016 for her debut novel, Butterfly Fish, the Society of Authors announced on 1 June. Okojie is one of four authors shortlisted for the prize, which celebrates the best debut novel by a first time author under the age of 35.
Butterfly Fish is a part historical, part contemporary novel which follows the story of a young woman, Joy, coming to terms with the sudden death of her mother. When Joy inherits an ancient artefact leading back to 19th Century Benin, she is compelled to discover more about its origins, taking the reader on a journey through time and space, revealing long buried family secrets along the way. Judge Michèle Roberts said of the novel, “A bittersweet story uniting different traditions of narrative to create a whole new geography of the imagination.”
The Betty Trask Prize will be announced at a special ceremony on 21st June 2016. The winner will receive £10,000 with runners up receiving a Betty Trask Award of £5,000 each. The judges this year were Simon Brett, Joanne Harris and Michèle Roberts. The Prize and the Awards will be presented by John Agard.
Butterfly Fish, which published in hardback in 2015, will be newly released in paperback this month, followed by her short story collection Speak Gigantular in September 2016. Okojie will also be appearing at the Edinburgh Literary Festival in August and the Henley Literary Festival in October.
2016 SHORTLIST & JUDGES’ COMMENTS
ALEX CHRISTOFI GLASS (Serpent’s Tail) A marvellously funny, original story, written with immense charm and humour – Joanne Harris
IRENOSEN OKOJIE BUTTERFLY FISH (Jacaranda Books Art Music) A bittersweet story uniting different traditions of narrative to create a whole new geography of the imagination – Michèle Roberts
NATASHA PULLEY THE WATCHMAKER OF FILIGREE STREET (Bloomsbury Circus) A fascinatingly imaginative and enchanting book set in a Victorian London that builds up a completely self-consistent world only slightly out of kilter with the real one – Simon Brett
LUCY WOOD WEATHERING (Bloomsbury) An emotionally mature consideration of generational love, loss and change – Michèle Roberts
Betty Trask left a bequest to the Society of Authors in 1983 to celebrate young authors writing in a traditional or romantic style. This year a total of £25,000 in prize money will be distributed.