The Guardian First Book Award 2010 Long List

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Every year the Guardian award £10,000 to the best book written by a debut novelist. Past winners include Zadie Smith and Jonathan Safran Foer, so it is always interesting to see who will scoop the prize.

The 2010 long list has recently been announced. The five books in the running for best debut fiction are:

Mr Chartwell – Rebecca Hunt

Advances for literary debuts are quite rare, so the fact this book was bought at an auction as part of a two book deal for £100,000 makes it very intriguing to me. I’m not sure a book about Winston Churchill appeals, but the mysterious Mr Chartwell might well make up for that!

Boxer, Beetle – Ned Beauman

The literary genes are clearly strong in the Beauman family as this book is written by the son of Nicola Beauman, founder of Persephone Books. It is described as a dark, intelligent book and it’s packed with beetles. I’m really looking forward to reading it.

Things We Didn’t See Coming – Steven Amsterdam

Remember the millennium bug? Imagine if the world had collapsed with that clock change and you get the idea behind this book. Sounds like scary stuff!



Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto – Maile Chapman

Set in a Finnish mental hospital this book is said to have parallels to The Bacchae, a Greek play. The comparison of civilisation versus savagery makes this sound like my sort of book.


 Black Mamba Boy – Nadifa Mohamed

Based on the true story of the author’s father’s escape from Somalia in the 1930s, this book gives a fascinating insight into a period of history that isn’t very well known in the Western world. It was long listed for 2010 Orange Prize.


I wasn’t a fan of Black Mamba Boy, but have heard wonderful things about Boxer, Beetle. The rest of the list are all new to me.

Having researched the books they all appeal to me, but I’m going to resist working my way through another long list. I’m hoping that others will let me know which ones I’m most likely to enjoy.

Have you read any of these books?

Which appeals to you most?

The short list will be announced at the end of October and the winner will be revealed at the beginning of December.

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  1. Iris says:

    I haven’t read any of them (as always), but most of them appeal to me except for Things We Didn’t See Coming. Somehow, millenium bug? world collapse? not my kind of thing..

    1. Jackie says:

      Iris, LOL! World collapse has the opposite effect on me – I love it!!

    2. Yes, this is my favorite book – as far as descriptions go. I haven’t read any of them, I haven’t even heard of them!

  2. sakura says:

    I haven’t read any of them but they all sound varied and interesting. My first choice to read would probably be Mr. Chartwell followed by Things We Didn’t See Coming. I’ve also heard a lot of good things about Boxer Beetle on different blogs. Looking forward to seeing what you think as you’ll probably get to them much faster than me:)

    1. Jackie says:

      Sakura, I think I’ll read Boxer Beetle first and then see if I come across a copy of Mr. Chartwell. The rest can wait until someone I trust raves about them!!

  3. stuart evers says:

    I have read the Stephen Amsterdam and it is patchy, but engaging. Your Prescence . . . is quite wonderfully written, but doesn’t quit deliver on the promise. Boxer Beetle isn’t quite as clever as it thinks it is, and needed to be rather more fleshed out, but it is funny and atmospheric. I’m intrigued by Mr Chartwell so might have a go on that…

    1. Jackie says:

      Stuart Evers, I’m impressed by how many you’ve read. Thanks for the insight. It sounds as though Mr Chartwell is going to be the best of the bunch – or am I just being swayed by the money it was given as an advance? I’m still going to give Boxer Beetle a try. Funny and atmospheric is just what I need :-)

  4. Verity says:

    I haven’t read any of these though have enjoyed previous titles on the list – none immediately jump out but if I spot them in the library…

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, I look forward to reading your thoughts on them if you spot any of them in the library :-)

  5. Thanks for the link, Jackie.

    I am particularly averse to new fiction at the moment but may look into the ones I haven’t read at a later date (having read The Bacchae I’ll keep the Chapman in mind).

    I’ll admit though to not being enamoured with The Guardian First Book Award after reading last year’s winner.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, I didn’t try An Elegy for Easterly as I’m not a fan of short stories, but I’m hoping this years winner will be more to my taste.

      I have a copy of Boxer, Beetle and hope that I enjoy it as much as you did.

  6. Amy says:

    I’ve only heard of Black Mamba Boy which also won an the 2010 Betty Trask Prize which Kinna had posted about :) They all sound interesting… though not sure I’d want to read a book about beetles!

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, I forgot to mention the Betty Trask Prize in this post, but agree that is a far better advert for Black Mamba Boy :-)

      I love the sound of a book about beetles, but I’m not squeamish about them :-S

  7. Stephanie says:

    Not only have I not read any of these, I haven’t even heard of any of them. Shame!

    1. Jackie says:

      Stephanie, Don’t worry. You’ve heard of them now!

  8. Shannon says:

    I’ve only read Black Mamba Boy. It was interesting from a historical perspective (I love history and African history especially) but I felt it really lacked emotion, which if it had some, it would have been an amazing book!

    Things We Didn’t See Coming sounds right up my alley! That one is definitely going on my to read list.

    1. Jackie says:

      Shannon, I agree that Black Mamba Boy lacked emotion. It was a fantastic story, but ruined for me by the endless descriptions and emotional distance.

      I look forward to seeing your thoughts on Things We Didn’t See Coming.

  9. The only one that I’ve read is Black Mamba Boy, which I found challenging but rewarding: I’m curious to see what shape her next novel might take. The other four all sound interesting, but if they were all in front of me right now, I think I’d choose the Steven Amsterdam: perfect for a grey, wet, dismal Wednesday (workweek still not done) morning!

    1. Jackie says:

      BuriedInPrint, LOL! Not sure it would cheer you up though ;-) I prefer to save those darker books for when it is sunny. Weird aren’t I?!

      1. Heheh. It’s like that whole interesting-odd or interesting-annoying thing: can so easily go either way. Misery-begs-more-misery (read the potentially-grim book on a morbidly dull day) or misery-begs-distraction (choose it on the sunniest day ever)! On another miserable day, I might just as well have chosen the funny bug book. Oh, er, nevermind.

  10. Gina says:

    i read boxer, beetle and mr chartwell. I think both are very good books to read.

    1. Jackie says:

      Gina, That’s great to know! I look forward to reading them :-)

  11. Dan Holloway says:

    For me The Bacchae is the best thing ever written, and, 2500 years on, STILL reads like something that could be written tomorrow and be cutting edge, so I am going straight out to buy Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto.

    1. Jackie says:

      Dan, I don’t know about Suvanto, but you’ve persuaded me to read The Bacchae!

  12. Kathleen says:

    Things we didn’t see coming is jumping out as the first one I might choose. I like the idea of reading the first in an author’s work and then following them in their career.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, Agreed. It is always nice to be in from the beginning. I often think that debut books are more special as the author has put everything into it and has to write an amazing book to be noticed. Established authors can get away will producing average books.

  13. Alyce says:

    Most of these are new to me. I’ve only heard of the Mamba Boy one.

    1. Jackie says:

      Alyce, I’m sure you’ll hear a lot more about these books in the future. :-)

  14. Sandy says:

    Fascinating list! Things We Didn’t See Coming sounds like it is my style. I am very interested in reading that one.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, We have a very similar taste in books! On synopisis alone I’d pick that one too, but I’ve heard great things about Boxer, Beetle so it goes to the top of my little list :-)

  15. Jessica says:

    Mr Chartwell sounds really strange and a little werid so that one appeals right away :)

    I think though that Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto sounds the better read.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jessica, The problem is that strange/weird can very easily go either way! I hope someone else will experiment with it for us!!

  16. Karen says:

    The only from this list I have heard of is Things We Didn’t See Coming (I actually have a copy!) as it is by an Australian author and the book has received quite a bit of praise over here. I heard the author speak at the Sydney Writers’ Festival this year and I was really impressed by him.

    1. Jackie says:

      Karen, I didn’t realise that he is an Australian author. It is great to know that he gave an interesting talk. I hope that you decide to read it soon so that you can let me know if I’ll enjoy it :-)

  17. I loved Boxer, Beetle, but have Mr Chartwell waiting for me to read, so I’m hoping it will sweep me off my feet, too. Would also love to get my hands on Things We Didn’t See Coming – I’ve often wondered the same thing about anti-climactic Y2K.

    I noticed that I’m more impressed by debuts when they’re not the typical coming-of-age, semi-autobiographical thing (as much as I love those, too). Which is why I really had to give props to Ned Beauman.

    1. Jackie says:

      Lija, It was weird how scared everyone was around the Y2K bug. I remember being interviewed on the street by a local TV company about it. I didn’t think there would be a problem at all and they couldn’t believe I wasn’t worried. They didn’t use my interview – only included a load of people scared everything would colllapse. I love media scaremoungering ;-)

  18. Mr Chartwell and Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto are calling to me – thanks for drawing my attention to these, Jackie. :-)

  19. Jenners says:

    I haven’t read any of these. I could see why you wouldn’t want to commit to another long list of potential prize winners … but I guess that is as good a way to pick books to read as any.

  20. Jenners says:

    I haven’t heard of any of these. And I could see why you might not want to read more long lists of potential prize winners .. though that isn’t a bad way to choose books!

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