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Desmond Elliott Prize

Launched in 2007, The Desmond Elliott Prize has quickly become established as the premier prize for new fiction.

Every year, a panel of three judges are asked to look for a novel which has a compelling narrative, arresting characters and which is both vividly written and confidently realised. Books from all fiction genres are considered.

In 2020, the thirteenth year of the prize, The Desmond Elliott Prize moved into the care of National Centre for Writing, as the flagship in its Early Career Awards portfolio, a new year-round platform of support and mentorship, alongside financial assistance for exceptional early-career writers.

Find out more about The Desmond Elliott Prize here.

Winner for the 2021 Desmond Elliott Prize

Chair of the Judges, Lisa McInerney

‘The Manningtree Witches is a stunning achievement. Blakemore takes limited historical detail and, with what seems like effortless grace and imagination, crafts a breathing, complex world full of wrenchingly human characters, and tells us their stories in language that bears endless rereading, so clever and unexpected and pleasurable it is.’  Read more »

The Manningtree Witches - A. K. Blakemore

Fear and destruction take root in a community of women when the Witchfinder General comes to town, in this dark and thrilling debut. England, 1643. Parliament is battling the King; the war between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers rages.

Puritanical fervour has gripped the nation, and the hot terror of damnation burns black in every shadow. In Manningtree, depleted of men since the wars began, the women are left to their own devices. At the margins of this diminished community are those who are barely tolerated by the affluent villagers - the old, the poor, the unmarried, the sharp-tongued.

Rebecca West, daughter of the formidable Beldam West, fatherless and husbandless, chafes against the drudgery of her days, livened only by her infatuation with the clerk John Edes. But then newcomer Matthew Hopkins takes over the Thorn Inn and begins to ask questions about the women of the margins. When a child falls ill with a fever and starts to rave about covens and pacts, the questions take on a bladed edge.

£12.99

£10.65

2021 Desmond Elliott Prize Shortlist

Chair of the Judges, Lisa McInerney

Each of these books stood out not only because of their writers’ distinctive voices, but because they feel vital in the way great literature should: defiant in theme and tone, curious, and utterly lovable. Read more »

little scratch : Shortlisted for The Goldsmiths Prize 2021 - Rebecca Watson

little scratch tells the story of a day in the life of an unnamed woman, living in a lower-case world of demarcated fridge shelves and office politics; clock-watching and WhatsApp notifications. In a voice that is fiercely wry, touchingly delicate and increasingly neurotic, the protagonist relays what it takes to get through the quotidian detail of that single trajectory - from morning to night - while processing recent sexual violence. little scratch is about the coexistence of monotony with our waking, intelligent lives.

It is a powerful evocation of how the external and internal aspects of our lives exist in a helix, and what it means to live out the course of a single day consumed by trauma.

£12.99

£9.85


The Liar's Dictionary : A winner of the 2021 Betty Trask Awards - Eley Williams

Swansby's New Encyclopaedic Dictionary is riddled with fictitious entries known as mountweazels penned by Peter Winceworth, a man wishing to make his lasting mark back in 1899. It's up to young intern Mallory to uncover these mountweazels before the dictionary can be digitised for modern readers.

Lost in Winceworth's imagination - a world full of meaningless words - will Mallory finally discover the secret to living a meaningful life?

'Made me almost tearful with gratitude that a book as clever as this could give such uncomplicated pleasure... And when you find a book like this, you grab it, and you hold it close.' John Self

'Deft and clever, refreshing and rewarding... An assured and satisfying writer, her language rich and intricate and her characters rounded enough to be sympathetic and lampoonist enough to be terribly funny.' Literary Review

£8.99

£6.99


The Manningtree Witches - A. K. Blakemore

Fear and destruction take root in a community of women when the Witchfinder General comes to town, in this dark and thrilling debut. England, 1643. Parliament is battling the King; the war between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers rages.

Puritanical fervour has gripped the nation, and the hot terror of damnation burns black in every shadow. In Manningtree, depleted of men since the wars began, the women are left to their own devices. At the margins of this diminished community are those who are barely tolerated by the affluent villagers - the old, the poor, the unmarried, the sharp-tongued.

Rebecca West, daughter of the formidable Beldam West, fatherless and husbandless, chafes against the drudgery of her days, livened only by her infatuation with the clerk John Edes. But then newcomer Matthew Hopkins takes over the Thorn Inn and begins to ask questions about the women of the margins. When a child falls ill with a fever and starts to rave about covens and pacts, the questions take on a bladed edge.

£12.99

£10.65

2021 Desmond Elliott Prize Longlist

Programme Director, National Centre for Writing, Peggy Hughes

We’re delighted to announce a longlist that asks questions of us, with this year’s debut novels exploring themes of self-discovery and language, as well as the nuances of British history and culture through the lens of female and Black experience. Read more » 

The Manningtree Witches

A. K. Blakemore

£12.99

£10.65

Crow Court

Andy Charman

£16.99

£12.35

Open Water

Caleb Azumah Nelson

£12.99

£9.75

A Ghost In The Throat

Doireann Ni Ghriofa

£12.99

£12.05