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2022 Royal Society of Literature Christopher Bland Prize Shortlist Announced

The Royal Society of Literature, the voice for the value of literature in the UK, has today unveiled the shortlist for the 2022 RSL Christopher Bland Prize.

Now in its fourth year, the Prize is an annual award of £10,000 celebrating outstanding achievements for a debut novelist or non-fiction writer first published aged 50 or over. This year’s judges are David Baddiel (Chair), Caroline Criado Perez and Naga Munchetty.

The five shortlisted novels are:

Yvonne Bailey-Smith, The Day I Fell Off My Island (Myriad Editions)

John Carr, Escape From the Ghetto: The Breathtaking Story of the Boy Who Ran Away from Nazis (Hodder Studio)

Julia Parry, The Shadowy Third: Love, Letters, and Elizabeth Bowen (Duckworth

Charlotte Raven, Patient 1: Forgetting and Finding Myself (Jonathan Cape)

Peter Stott, Hot Air: The Inside Story of the Battle Against Climate Change Denial (Atlantic Books)

The judges commented:

The Day I Fell Off My Island ‘This book is about a young person on a journey. As culture shock is reflected in an abrupt shift from the sun-drenched, patois-filled first half of the book to the gray grimness of the second half, this is rich, absorbing and often shocking storytelling.’

Escape from the Ghetto ‘The incredible but true story of a young boy, the author’s father, who escapes from the Polish ghetto and travels through Nazi occupied Europe, narrowly avoiding capture. It’s a tense, thrilling read. If you didn’t know it was a true story, several passages would be literally unbelievable.’

The Shadowy Third ‘It’s about three people: Humphry House and Madeline Church, who are Julia Parry’s grandparents, and Elizabeth Bowen. Julia Parry goes on the trail of their relationship and what happened between these three people. It’s very epistolary and very beautiful, particularly with Bowen’s letters from her which are astonishingly beautiful, complex and intense. It’s like reading one of Elizabeth Bowen’s great novels.’

Patient 1 ‘This book is an honest, unflinchingly honest account of one woman living with Huntingdon’s disease. It’s a comical, sharply truthful and a sometimes painful self-examination. Without being shrouded in misery. An eye-opener.’

Hot Air ‘If you have ever wondered why it has taken so long for world leaders and scientists to agree on an effective strategy for tackling climate change. This book should offer some answers.’

The shortlisted authors commented:

Yvonne Bailey-Smith: ‘Being shortlisted for the RSL Christopher Bland Prize was totally unexpected, but very joyful news. I have not been able to stop smiling. I hope it inspires older people and older women in particular to pick up that pen and write. Thank you.’

John Carr: ‘Astonished, thrilled and honored probably just about covers it but mainly I suppose I am simply delighted as I guess this means more people will now get to meet my Dad. A small price to pay for revealing that, yes, I am over 50.’

Julia Parry: ‘I am so thrilled and honored to be shortlisted for the RSL Christopher Bland Prize. Elizabeth Bowen writes that things have a spooky habit of arriving in your life ‘at the hour arranged’. The material for my book came to me when I was mature enough to do it justice. That there is a prize for late bloomers like me is just wonderful.’

Charlotte Raven: ‘I am truly honored to be shortlisted for this award. I am delighted that what started as a personal blog has now ended up in indelible ink. Patient 1 has had a positive effect on scientists, pharmaceutical companies, and HD communities across the world.’

Peter Stott: ‘I am thrilled and honored to be shortlisted for the RSL Christopher Bland prize. My book was over twenty-five years in the making, telling the story of my time researching the nature of climate change and battling against the dark forces of climate change denial. Given the urgency of tackling the climate crisis, I am really delighted by this recognition for Hot Air.’

Raynor Winn won the Prize in its inaugural year for The Salt Path. The 2020 winner was Michele Kirsch with her memoir Clean. Last year’s winner was Peter Paphides for Broken Greek.

The RSL Christopher Bland Prize is one of nine annual awards and prizes presented by the RSL which bring the widest possible community of writers and readers together in celebration of the breadth of literature today. From debut works and unpublished short stories, through to the notoriously challenging second novel and outstanding contributions to literature, the RSL’s awards and prizes celebrate the value of writing in all its forms, whilst supporting emerging and established writers at some of the most challenging moments of their careers. The RSL’s other annual awards and prizes are: the Sky Arts RSL Writers Awards, the RSL International Writers awards, the RSL Ondaatje Prize, the Encore Award, the RSL Giles St Aubyn Awards for Non-Fiction, the RSL Literature Matters Awards, the VS Pritchett Short Story Prize and the Benson Medal.

The 2022 RSL Christopher Bland Prize winner will be announced on Tuesday 7 June.

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