Other Other Prizes

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

A few commenters on my post yesterday hadn’t heard of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, so I thought I’d give you a brief introduction. It is one of my favourite book awards, as I have loved all the winning books I’ve read.

The prize is awarded annually to the best book written by an author from one of the 53 countries of the Commonwealth. The judging is initially divided into four regions:  Africa, Europe and South Asia, The Caribbean and Canada, and South East Asia and the South Pacific. with a long list and then a short list being announced before the winner is finally revealed.

The 2010 short lists were:

Note: Book short listed for Best Book is on the left; Best First Book on the right.


Canada and the Caribbean

Europe and South Asia

South East Asia and South Pacific

Overall Winners 2010

Best Book:


Best First Book:

I have a copy of Under this Unbroken Sky here and hope to read it at sometime soon. The rest of the books appeal to me too, so as soon as I spot copies in my local library I’ll be checking them out.

Previous winners of Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

1987 – Olive Senior, Summer Lightning

1988 – Festus Iyayi, Heroes

1989 – Janet Frame, The Carpathians

1990 – Mordecai Richler, Solomon Gursky Was Here

1991 – David Malouf, The Great World

1992 – Rohinton Mistry, Such a Long Journey

1993 – Alex Miller, The Ancestor Game

1994 – Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy

1995 – Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

1996 – Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance

1997 – Earl Lovelace, Salt

1998 – Peter Carey, Jack Maggs

1999 – Murray Bail, Eucalyptus

2000 – John Maxwell Coetzee, Disgrace

2001 – Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang

2002 – Richard Flanagan, Gould’s Book of Fish  

2003 – Austin Clarke, The Polished Hoe

2004 – Caryl Phillips, A Distant Shore

2005 – Andrea Levy, Small Island stars4

2006 – Kate Grenville, The Secret River 

2007 – Lloyd Jones, Mister Pip  

2008 – Lawrence Hill, The Book of Negroes 

2009 – Christos Tsiolkas, The Slap stars4

2010 – Rana Dasgupta, Solo stars4

I have read seven CWP winning books and loved them all. Creating this list made me realise how much I have enjoyed books from this prize and so I’m going to try to read a few more in the future. I already have a copy of The Book of Negroes, so will try to fit it in next month.

Do you follow the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize?

Are there any books that you particularly recommend?

1990s Other Prizes

Fall on Your Knees – Ann-Marie MacDonald

Winner of the 1997 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book, Shortlisted for the 1997 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, Shortlisted for the 1996 Giller Prize

Fall on Your Knees is a long, complex story about 4 sisters living on Cape Breton Island in Canada. The sisters’ parents regret their marriage, as Materia was just a child when she married James. They are clearly mis-matched and Materia struggles to cope with being removed from her Lebanese family. The book begins in 1898 and follows the family as they deal with secrets, betrayal and tragedy.

It took me a long time to read this 560 page epic, but it was worth the effort. I loved the sisters and the complex relationships between them. All the characters were well developed, flawed and steeped with intrigue. I admit that I became confused on several occasions and had to re-read sections in order to understand what was happening. This was due to the fact that the book switched between several narrators and jumped forward and back in time, with no indication of who I was now reading about. I think that this confusion was key to the plot though – not knowing who was speaking at several points helped to maintain the secrets and meant the reader had a more interesting mystery to solve.

The atmosphere of the book was excellent. It had the feel of a Gothic novel, but the Canadian setting made it different from anything I’ve read before. The writing was of a very high standard, so I’m not surprised that it received so much recognition from the world’s book awards.

I must warn you that this book deals with some difficult subject matters: paedophilia, incest and rape are all present in this book along with discussions on religion and war. I thought it was all handled sensitively though, showing the shocking truth about what occurs in society, without sensationalising it.

Fall on Your Knees had me gripped throughout. I am very impressed with Ann-Marie MacDonald’s writing and will try to get hold of all her other books as soon as possible.

Highly recommended to anyone with the patience to understand what is happening!


Have you read anything by Ann-Marie MacDonald?

Which is your favourite?

Claire: Thank you for lending me your copy of this book! 

Booker Prize Recommended books

The Secret River – Kate Grenville

Winner of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize 2006
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2006




William Thornhill is born into poverty, in 19th century London; to survive he turns to crime. One night he is caught stealing from his employer, and sentenced to death.  He pleads for mercy, and manages to escape the rope by agreeing to be sent, with his family, to Australia. Once they arrive in this strange, hot country they find that they face new battles for survival, against the mysterious native black people.

This book is really easy to read, the simplicity of the prose was reminiscent of Mudbound, by Hilary Jordan, which although written about a different continent, contains many of the same powerful messages about the humanity of different cultures. 

The Secret River is a fascinating insight into what life was like for the first settlers of New South Wales.  William Thornhill is one of the first white people to cultivate the land, fencing in his crops. This quickly leads to animosity, and ultimately tragedy, as the nomadic society, who gather food wherever they can, object to their land being taken from them. Kate Grenville’s portrayal of the aboriginal people is touching; she shows them as a proud people, at one with nature. She beautifully describes the conflict between the two cultures; showing how each is affected by the others actions, and giving no prejudice to either side.

I really enjoyed reading this book, the characters were well developed, and I didn’t envy the difficult descisions they had to make.  The plot was fast moving, and the end rounded everything off well. I was pleased that it was tinged with hope, as I was expecting it to be very bleak.

Highly recommended to all fans of historical fiction.

This is the first book by Kate Grenville that I have read, but I will be keeping an eye out for all of her other books, as I enjoyed this one so much.

Have you read any books written by Kate Grenville? If so, which one did you enjoy the most?