Who are the finalists in the 2015 New Angle Prize? Six of the best reads pulsing with the lifeblood of East Anglia
- Credit: Andrew Partridge
Six books with the flavour of East Anglia running through them like sticks of seaside rock have been announced as the finalists in the 2015 New Angle Prize for Literature.
They include work by authors Esther Freud, Ronald Blythe and jewellery designer Alex Monroe.
Between them the half-dozen titles feature a love story centred on maritime Harwich, an eerie tale set in wartime Suffolk, life in Aldeburgh in the 1950s, the arrival on the coast of quirky architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a year in the life of East Anglia’s wildlife, and an unconventional upbringing in wild Suffolk.
There are three fictional books (two of them debut offerings) and three non-fiction works shortlisted for the £2,000 New Angle Prize, which promotes and celebrates writing “associated with or influenced by the region of East Anglia”.
The judges describe their choice as a “remarkably strong” collection. “There is a wonderful mix of fiction and non-fiction, female and male authors and books based both inland and at the coast,” they say. “What they all have in common is an excellence of language and story-telling, about the cultures, communities and environments of East Anglia.”
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The six authors will be asked to appear at a book-reading event at the Ipswich Institute on Wednesday, July 1, during the Ip-Art Ipswich Arts Festival. Prize-winners will be announced at an awards dinner at Hintlesham Golf Club on September 9. The winner gets £2,000 and the runner-up £500.
The competition is organised by the Ipswich Institute, founded in 1824. The registered educational charity owns two historic buildings in the town centre, runs a lending library, and offers leisure learning courses, talks and trips to more than 2,000 members. It also has a café and restaurant.
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The New Angle Prize, sponsored by Gotelee Solicitors and Scrutton Bland accountants, was launched in 2009. It is held every two years.
The judges for 2015 are Dr Jules Pretty, professor of environment and society, and deputy vice-chancellor, at the University of Essex, and winner of the New Angle Prize in 2013 for This Luminous Coast; Suffolk writer Katie Ward, whose debut novel Girl Reading came out in 2011; and journalist and broadcaster Carol Bundock.
The super six
Ronald Blythe, The Time by the Sea
About Ronald Blythe’s life in Aldeburgh in the 1950s. He originally went to the Suffolk coast as an aspiring young writer, but found himself drawn into composer Benjamin Britten’s circle and began working for the Aldeburgh Festival. Publisher Faber & Faber calls it “a tale of music and painting, unforgettable words and fears”.
Blythe, who lives in the Stour Valley, is best known for Akenfield ? his study of rural life in villages around Wickham Market.
Esther Freud, Mr Mac and Me
This fictionalised account set in 1914 sees publican’s son Thomas Maggs meet a mysterious Scotsman who pitches up in Walberswick as England moves towards war. The eccentric visitor is the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whose curious behaviour attracts suspicion at this time of tension.
Esther Freud, whose family has long-established links with the area, trained as an actress before her first novel, Hideous Kinky, was published in 1992 and made into a film.
Alex Monroe, Two Turtle Doves ? A Memoir of Making Things
A memoir about where we find creativity, how we remember and why we make the things we do. Alex Monroe grows up in 1970s Suffolk in a crumbling house and makes nature his world. He creates go-carts and guns, crossbows and booby-traps, bikes and scooters ? and then jewellery. He set up his business in London in 1986 and Alex Monroe Jewellery is now an international brand.
Jason Hewitt, The Dynamite Room
In 1940, 11-year-old Lydia, wearing a gas-mask, walks through a Suffolk village. The shops and houses are empty, windows boarded up. She reaches the large Edwardian house where she grew up. Her family has gone. That night, a soldier comes ? heralding a German invasion. It’s the first novel from Jason Hewitt, who worked in the publishing industry and is both a playwright and actor.
Kate Worsley, She Rises
In 1740, dairymaid Louise Fletcher moves from an Essex farm to the busy port of Harwich, where she becomes maid to a wealthy captain’s daughter and falls in love with a teenager who is pressganged and sent to sea aboard a warship. Kate Worsley has worked as a journalist, a massage practitioner and follow-spot operator in the theatre. She lives near Harwich and this is her first novel.
Mark Cocker, Claxton ? Field Notes from a Small Planet
In a 12-month cycle of daily writings Mark Cocker explores his relationship to the East Anglian landscape, to nature and to all the living things around him: birds, plants, hoverflies, moths, butterflies, grasshoppers and more. There’s a strong awareness of change both through the seasons and over a longer period because of the changing climate. Wildlife, he suggests, is critical to our sense of well-being and rootedness.
The author, naturalist and environmental activist lives in Norfolk and his book Crow Country took the first New Angle Prize.