Costa First Novel Award Shortlist Round-up 2016

Some of the most exceptional British and Irish debut authors of the year have been honoured by being named in the Costa First Novel Shortlist 2016 - but which one will be the winner? Below is a round-up of these remarkable titles.

Invincible Summer

Alice Adams

The exciting highs and desperate lows of adulthood are illustrated in this beautiful, intricate work, which demonstrates how important lasting love and friendship can be in a hectic world. The story features a tight-knit group of friends - Eva, Lucien, Sylvie and Benedict - who graduate together in 1997, excited to pursue their hopes and dreams. Eva, deeply in love with party animal Lucien and desperate to escape the socialist politics of her upbringing, goes to work for a big bank. Eva's infatuated admirer Benedict goes on to do a PhD in physics, whilst siblings Sylvie and Lucien opt for a more laidback existence, Sylvie an artist and Lucien a club promoter. However, the group's dreams and aspirations are continually denied as they progress through the years, and they find themselves longing for their youth again. The four are drawn back together again by heartbreak and disappointment - but in ways they could never have foreseen.

The Good Guy

Susan Beale

This novel tells a captivating tale about marriage, love, deceit and self-delusion. Set in 1960s suburban America, the story features Ted, a car-tyre salesman, and his wife Abigail, who longs for more than the tedious life of a housewife. Then along comes Penny, a single girl who longs for everything that Abigail has - the husband, the house, the baby. When Ted and Penny are unexpectedly brought together, Ted becomes infatuated, and starts planning a whole new life with Penny at its core. But this is only fantasy, and when reality hits, the consequences threaten everything - and everyone - he treasures.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

Joanna Cannon

This entertaining, comical yet mysterious read stars Grace and Tilly, two ten-year-old girls determined to discover the whereabouts of their missing neighbour, Mrs Creasy. The girls decide that the best way to do this is through finding God, and so they go door-to-door to locate him. Several other mysteries are revealed throughout the novel - including an instance of arson and the enigma of what a group of neighbours did nine years ago - and, to explore these various threads, the story is told through six additional perspectives. This gives the reader a valuable insight into the lives of the neighbours, such as Dorothy, bullied by her menacing husband, Eric; Brian, who's clearly been drastically over-mothered; and John Creasy, Mrs Creasy's husband. Secrets abound in this particular community, making for an intricate, intriguing tale, in which all will be revealed.

My Name is Leon

Kit de Waal

This poignant tale about identity, love and heart-breaking loss wonderfully evokes the culture of 1980s suburban Britain and shares the story of nine-year-old Leon. He and his beloved baby brother Jake are taken into care when their mother is struggling to cope. Belong long, however, Jake, a baby born to two white parents, is whisked away by brand new parents, and Leon - born to a white mother and a black father - is inevitably left behind. Leon must learn to cope with this, but misses his brother intensely. Some things still make him happy, however, like Curly Wurlys and riding his bike really fast downhill and, most importantly, stealing enough coins so he can rescue his brother and mother someday. Featuring a wonderful childlike perspective, a lot of heartache but a lot of hope, this touching story gives readers a fascinating insight into adoption in 1980s London, and reveals the despair and disappointment some children must endure.

The Words in My Hand

Guinevere Glasfurd

This fascinating book re-imagines the true story of Helena Jans, a Dutch maid in 17th-century Amsterdam, who works for a pedantic English bookseller, Mr Sergeant. She yearns for knowledge and desperately wants to write, but, as a woman and a maid, she is held back by her position in society. When an enigmatic lodger arrives, however, things will change dramatically - particularly when it transpires that the mysterious Monsieur is French philosopher, Rene Descartes. This wonderful work weaves together the tales of Descartes' search for reason and Helena's desperation to write, as their worlds collide and overlap, and their feelings for each other deepen. Helena has lots to learn about literacy, but can teach Descartes much about emotion and love. But when Helena and Descartes face a terrible tragedy, can their love survive it? Historical fiction at its finest, The Words in my Hand gives voice to one of the many previously silent women of history.

The Sacred Combe: A Search for Humanity's Heartland

Simon Barnes

Everyone has a special place they hold very dear to their heart. Simon Barnes found this place in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia, when, on his first morning, he awoke to find elephants eating the roof of his hut. In this beloved place, he has known peace, danger, discomfort, fear and a deep sense of 'oneness' with the Valley, nature and the world. The Sacred Combe explores the special places of both the mind and the world, giving special attention to the Luangwa Valley and the support of Pam Carr, the Valley's great artist. It's about the search for paradise and the eternal quest to find such bliss everywhere.

The Many

Wyl Menmuir

This gritty and mysterious tale follows Timothy Buchannan, who buys a derelict house on the edge of a coastal village, and starts to renovate it so that his wife can join him there. The villagers are perturbed to see smoke rising from the chimney of the old house, becoming first intrigued, then obsessed. Timothy becomes more and more entangled in the uneasy life of the little village, particularly when he offers to take the fisherman Ethan out to sea. When Timothy begins to ask questions about the previous owner of the house, Perran, he is given only vague answers and confronted with an increasing animosity. Timothy starts to question why he really came to this isolated place, and must face an uncomfortable truth. The effects of loss are explored in this novel, as well as the anguish that strikes when our very foundations are swept away.

Golden Hill

Francis Spufford

Set in 1746, when New York was but a small town on the edge of Manhattan Island, this story features a delightful and handsome stranger, Mr Smith, just arrived from England. When he goes into a counting house on Golden Hill Street, it turns out he has an order for a thousand pounds which he wishes to cash - a perplexing yet compelling proposition. Can this unfamiliar man be trusted with his fortune, however, when he refuses to say what he will do with it, and in a place already full of financial corruption? It seems that a young man in fledgling New York can have it all, where a quick mind and a clever tongue can help him reinvent himself, fall in love - but also land himself in a whole lot of trouble. So what will happen when the enigmatic Mr Smith falls for Tabitha, his creditor's daughter?

A Quiet Life

Natasha Walter

Laura Leverett's double life began the moment she stepped onto the boat which would take her across the Atlantic in 1939. With dreams and aspirations to learn and to love, she was inspired by a Communist woman she met on the journey. In London, she finds herself caught between two worlds: the suave society of her cousins and their upper-class friends, and those who passionately strive to forge a new society. Then she comes across a man who seems to weave the worlds together - but he hides a secret she could never have imagined. She becomes entangled in his secretive life as both love and fear grow. This novel takes the reader on a journey from London to Washington to the potential respite of the English countryside - but Laura must confront the sinister consequences of her youthful idealism. Passionate, intense and enthralling, this novel grips the reader and doesn't let go until the final page is turned.

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    Wife. Mother. Spy. A double life is no life at all. Since the disappearance of her husband in 1951, Laura Leverett has been living in limbo with her daughter in Geneva. All others see is her conventional, charming exterior; nobody guesses the secret she is carrying. Her double life began years ago, when she stepped on to the boat which carried her across the Atlantic in 1939. Eager to learn, and eager to love, she found herself suddenly inspired by a young Communist woman she met on the boat. In London she begins to move between two different worlds - from the urbane society of her cousins and their upper class friends, to the anger of those who want to forge a new society. One night at a party she meets a man who seems to her to combine both worlds, but who is hiding a secret bigger than she could ever imagine. Impelled by desire, she finds herself caught up in his hidden life. Love grows, but so do fear and danger. This is the warm-blooded story of the Cold War. The story of a wife whose part will take her from London in the Blitz, to Washington at the height of McCarthyism, to the possible haven of the English countryside. Gradually she learns what is at stake for herself, her husband, and her daughter; gradually she realises the dark consequences of her youthful idealism. Sweeping and exhilarating, alive with passion and betrayal, A Quiet Life is the first novel from a brilliant new voice in British fiction.
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    Inseparable through university, Eva, Benedict, Sylvie and Lucien graduate into an exhilarating world on the brink of the new millennium. Eager to shrug off the hardships of her childhood, Eva breaks away to work in the City. Benedict stays behind to complete his PhD in Physics and pine for Eva, while siblings Sylvie and Lucien seek a more bohemian life of art, travel and adventure. As their twenties give way to their thirties, the four friends find their paths diverging as they struggle to navigate broken hearts and thwarted dreams. With every summer that passes, they try to remain as close as they once were - but this is far from easy. One friend's triumph coincides with another's disaster, one finds love as another loses it, one comes to their senses as another is changing their mind ...And who knows where any of us will be in twenty summers' time? A warm, wise and witty novel about finding the courage to carry on despite life not always turning out as expected, and a powerful testament to love and friendship as the constants in an ever-changing world, Invincible Summer is a dazzling depiction of the highs and lows of adulthood and the greater forces that shape us.
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    THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER 'Part whodunnit, part coming of age, this is a gripping debut about the secrets behind every door' RACHEL JOYCE 'A very special book' NATHAN FILER 'An utter delight' SARAH WINMAN 'A delight' PAULA HAWKINS 'A treasure chest of a novel' JULIE COHEN 'One of the standout novels of the year' HANNAH BECKERMAN 'I didn't want the book to end' CARYS BRAY 'An excellent debut' JAMES HANNAH 'Grace and Tilly are my new heroes' KATE HAMER 'A wonderful debut' JILL MANSELL 'A modern classic in the making' SARAH HILARY 'A stunning debut' KATIE FFORDE 'Phenomenal' MIRANDA DICKINSON England,1976. Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands. And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined...
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    Timothy Buchannan buys an abandoned house on the edge of an isolated village on the coast, sight unseen. When he sees the state of it he questions the wisdom of his move, but starts to renovate the house for his wife, Lauren to join him there. When the villagers see smoke rising from the chimney of the neglected house they are disturbed and intrigued by the presence of the incomer, intrigue that begins to verge on obsession. And the longer Timothy stays, the more deeply he becomes entangled in the unsettling experience of life in the small village. Ethan, a fisherman, is particularly perturbed by Timothy's arrival, but accedes to Timothy's request to take him out to sea. They set out along the polluted coastline, hauling in weird fish from the contaminated sea, catches that are bought in whole and removed from the village. Timothy starts to ask questions about the previous resident of his house, Perran, questions to which he receives only oblique answers and increasing hostility. As Timothy forges on despite the villagers' animosity and the code of silence around Perran, he starts to question what has brought him to this place and is forced to confront a painful truth. The Many is an unsettling tale that explores the impact of loss and the devastation that hits when the foundations on which we rely are swept away.
  • Golden Hill - Paperback - 9780571225200 - Francis Spufford
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    Winner of the Costa First Novel Award, Francis Spufford's debut fiction novel, Golden Hill, is a book that will transport you right back to New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan Island, in 1746.

    A charming stranger from England arrives and has a compelling (yet suspicious) proposition for the counting house on Golden Hill Street - he wishes to cash and order for #1,000...

    With questions hanging over whether he can be trusted, the young man has the gift of the gab and decides to create a new life for himself in a place that is just starting to develop its unique character. But then he falls in love and enters a whole new world of trouble...
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    Kit de Waal's debut novel, My Name is Leon was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2016 and is a heartbreaking story of love, identity and loss in 1980s Britain.

    Leon is a 9-year-old boy who has just welcomed a perfect baby brother called Jake. The brothers have gone to live with Maureen, who has funny, fuzzy red hair and a belly Santa would be proud of. However, Leon is aware something is going on - the adults are acting strangely. Could it be something to do with the fact Jake is white and Leon is not?

    Leon struggles to hide his anger but there are still many things that make him happy - Curly Wurlys, riding a bike and hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad). He's also stealing coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum...

    This is a poignant story all about the fierce bond between siblings and how we can find our way home, even when least expect it...
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    Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel award, Guinevere Glasfurd's The Words in My Hand is the reimagined true story of a 17th century Dutch maid.

    Despite the attitudes of the times, Helena is desperate to educate herself and use her mind. Working in a lodging house of an English bookseller, she finds herself renting out a room to French philosopher Ren Descartes. Helena dreams of being a writer, while Descartes quests for reason and the two soon form a bond that evolves into a full-blown affair.

    Descartes finds himself learning emotional lessons from Helena and her everyday life, but the couple struggle despite their love.. Soon it becomes apparent their only way of being together is to remain unseen? can their love conquer all these issues?
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    Susan Beale's debut novel The Good Guy has been shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and tells the story of a dreamer car-tyre salesman who lives in 1960s suburban New England.

    Ted craves admiration while his wife Abigail longs for a life of the mind and single girl Penny just wants to be loved. When a chance encounter brings Ted and Penny together, he begins to dream of a new life that revolves around her. However when this fantasy clashes with reality, Ted has to face up to the prospect of losing everything - and everyone - he holds dear.

    This is a compelling novel about love, marriage and the contrast between good intentions and self-deception.