2012’s Waterstones 11

The books for this promotion were announced on the evening of Thursday 19 January.  An extract from the press release follows.

The list in full (in alphabetical order):

  1. The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan (William Heinemann, 3rd May)
  2. Absolution by Patrick Flanery (Atlantic, 1st March )
  3. Shelter by Frances Greenslade (Virago, 2nd February)
  4. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (Fourth Estate, 19th January)
  5. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Headline Review, 16th February)
  6. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (Doubleday, 15th March)
  7. The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen (Chatto & Windus, 1st March)
  8. Signs of Life by Anna Raverat (Picador, 6th April)
  9. The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (Virago, 29th March)
  10. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (Simon & Schuster, 21st June)
  11. Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles (Harper Press, 6th February)

In detail:

The  Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

Anais Hendricks, 15, is in the back of a police car, heading for The Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can’t remember the events that led her here, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and there is blood on Anais’s school uniform. Inside The Panopticon, Anais soon finds herself part of an ad-hoc family, but becomes increasingly suspicious of social worker Helen, who is determined to force Anais to confront the circumstances of her birth. Looking up at the watchtower that looms over the residents, Anais knows her fate: she is part of an experiment, she always was, and the experiment is closing in.

“Everything one could hope for in a debut novel; a strong, distinctive heroine, moments that make you laugh and the deft touch of a writer who can leave you with a lump in your throat.” – Mark Burgess, Fiction Team, Waterstones

About the author:

Jenni Fagan was born in Livingston, Scotland, and lives in London. She graduated from Greenwich University with the highest possible mark for a student of Creative Writing and won a scholarship to the Royal Holloway MFA. A published poet, she has won awards from Arts Council England, Dewar Arts, and Scottish Screen among others. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice and shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize. Jenni works as a writer in residence in hospitals and prisons.

Absolution by Patrick Flanery

In her garden, ensconced in the lush vegetation of the Western Cape, Clare Wald, world-renowned author, mother and critic, prepares to confront her life. Sam Leroux has returned to South Africa to embark upon a project that will establish his reputation – writing Clare’s biography. But how honest is Clare prepared to be, and was she complicit in crimes lurking in South Africa’s past?

Shining a light on contemporary South Africa, Absolution explores the elusive nature of truth, self-perception and the mysterious alchemy of the creative process.

“A piercingly brilliant novel of loss, memory and guilt. The Man Booker panel will soon know Patrick Flanery’s name.” – Cathy Rentzenbrink, Publisher Liaison Manager, Waterstones

About the author:

Patrick Flanery was born in California in 1975 and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. After earning a BFA in Film from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts he worked for three years in the film industry before moving to the UK, where he completed a doctorate in Twentieth-Century English Literature at the University of Oxford.  As well as publishing articles on British and South African literature and film in a number of academic journals, he has written for Slightly Foxed and the Times Literary Supplement.  He lives in London.

Shelter by Frances Greenslade

Set forty years ago in Northern Canada, Shelter is the story of two girls, aged twelve and fourteen. Their mother was imaginative and wild, their father, ‘Mr Safety’, a logger who knew the ways of the woods and taught his youngest, Maggie, how to survive and how to make a shelter in any element. But when he is killed in an accident and their mother disappears, what kind of a shelter can two young girls make? Through Maggie’s distinctive voice, Shelter captures the fragile beauty of family, childhood and the poignant realisation that we may never fully understand the people we love.

“This is a novel about survival that goes to the very core of what it is to love and be loved. It is about sisters, about mother-daughter relationships and about what two abandoned girls do to make their own shelter. It’s funny and touching and quite unforgettable.” – Lennie Goodings, Publisher, Virago Press

About the author:

Frances Greenslade, one of six children, was born in southern Ontario, near Niagara Falls in 1961. She read English at the University of Winnipeg and took a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. Having lived in four Canadian provinces, she now lives with her husband and son in one of the most beautiful valleys in British Columbia. There, inspired by her surroundings, she read books about survival, about edible plants and about building homes in the wilderness and she began to imagine a novel about a woman who disappears into the mysterious landscape and leaves her two daughters to wonder and worry.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

In The Art of Fielding, we see young men who know that their four years on the baseball diamond at Westish College, “a little school in the crook of the thumb of the baseball glove that is Wisconsin,” are all they have left of their sporting careers. Only their preternaturally gifted fielder, Henry Skrimshander, seems to have the chance to keep his dream – and theirs, vicariously – alive, until a routine throw goes disastrously off course, and the fates of all five men are upended.

After his throw threatens to ruin his roommate Owen’s future, Henry’s fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his; Mike Schwartz, the team captain and Henry’s best friend, realizes he has guided Henry’s career at the expense of his own; college president Guert Affenlight, a long-time widower, falls unexpectedly and dangerously in love; and his daughter, Pella, returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.

“First novels like this are very rare. In fact it is one of the most poignant novels I have ever read.” – Nick Pearson, Publishing Director, Fourth Estate

About the author

Chad Harbach grew up in Wisconsin, and graduated from Harvard in 1997. He was a Henry Hoyns Fellow at the University of Virginia, where he received an MFA in Fiction in 2004. He is currently the Executive Editor of n+1 magazine, which he also co-founded, and lives in Brooklyn.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Jack and Mabel are drifting apart—he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm, she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone, but they catch sight of a blonde-haired girl running through the trees. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who seems to have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in the Alaskan wilderness, life and death are inextricable, and what they eventually learn about the snow child changes their lives forever.

“A dreamlike novel filled with characters and emotions of immense depth, with the harsh Alaskan wilderness the most powerful presence of all.  A lyrical and uplifting debut.” – Jamie Hodder-Williams, CEO Headline and Hodder and Stoughton

About the author

Eowyn Ivey was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters. Her mother named her after a character from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. She works at the independent bookstore, Fireside Books, and it was here when shelving books in the children’s section that she happened across a copy of Freya Littledale’s retelling of a Russian fairy tale with illustrations by Alaskan artist Barbara Lavallee. The story haunted Eowyn with its loneliness and magic in a landscape so similar to the one in which she grew up. She spent the next few months researching the original tale, and depictions of it in Russian artwork, before she began writing her novel.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Harold Fry would be the first to admit that he could have been better prepared. He had no walking boots nor map, let alone a compass or a mobile phone. The least planned part of his journey, however, was the journey itself. Leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, Harold nipped out to post a letter. He had no idea he was going to walk from one end of the country to the other until he started.

Quite unexpectedly, in a moment of impulse, Fry finds himself at the start of an extraordinary journey which will lead him to walk hundreds of miles from home, making chance encounters en route and reflecting on tragic events from his past which transform his life and, in turn, alter the lives of the people he meets.

“A truly moving novel about the power and importance of love, faith and friendship and the lengths people will go for them.” – Simon Burke, Publisher Liaison Manager, Waterstones

About the author:

The author, Rachel Joyce, has written over twenty original afternoon plays for BBC Radio 4, and has created major adaptations for the Classic Series and Woman’s Hour, as well as a TV drama adaptation for BBC2. In 2007 she won the Tinniswood Award for Best Radio Play. Joyce moved to writing after a 20-year career in theatre and television, performing leading roles for the RSC, the Royal National Theatre, The Royal Court and Cheek by Jowl and winning a Time Out Best Actress Award. She currently lives in Gloucestershire with her family and is at work on her second novel.

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

Judith and her father don’t have much – their house is full of dusty relics, reminders of the mother she’s never known. But Judith sees the world with the clear Eyes of Faith, and where others might see rubbish, Judith sees possibility. Bullied at school, she finds solace in making a model of the Promised Land – little people made from pipe cleaners, a sliver of moon and luminous stars, and a mirror sea – a world of wonder that Judith calls The Land of Decoration. Perhaps, she thinks, if she makes it snow indoors (using shaving foam, cotton wool and cellophane) there will be no school on Monday… Sure enough, when Judith opens her curtains the next day, the world beyond her window has turned white. She has performed her first miracle. And that’s when her troubles begin.

“Bold, brilliant and beautiful – The Land of Decoration is a magical book that will melt your heart and demand to be passed on to your dearest friend.” – Clara Farmer, Publishing Director, Chatto & Windus

About the author

Grace McCleen was born in Wales and grew up in a fundamentalist religion where she did not have much contact with non-believers. Her family moved to Ireland when she was ten, where she was schooled at home. She began to ask questions about how people knew things, about faith, about what was natural and about sin and redemption. When Grace and her family moved back to Britain she went back to school and her English teacher suggested she apply to Oxford. It was rare for someone from her group to go into further education, but it was important to Grace. She calls it ‘the biggest and best decision of my life’, and it opened up a whole new world to her. She now lives in London.

Signs of Life by Anna Raverat

‘Beginning this book, there is something you should know. This is not a confession.’

Ten years ago, Rachel had an affair. It spiralled out of control and left her and her life in pieces. Now, writing at her window, she tries to put those pieces back together. She has her memories, recollections of dreams, and her old yellow notebook. More than anything, she wants to be honest. She knows that her memory is patchy and her notebook incomplete. But there is something else. Something terrible happened to her lover. But is she telling us the truth?

“The first page of Signs of Life took my breath away, and I never really recovered it…a deeply affecting novel about the way we negotiate the world through the stories we tell about ourselves and the stories that we read. It’s bold, poised and utterly impossible to put down – stunning on every level.” – Kate Harvey, Editorial Director, Picador

About the author:

Anna Raverat was born in Cambridge and grew up in a farmhouse in North Yorkshire. She read English at King’s College, Cambridge University and works as a consultant in organisation development and leadership, with clients such as the Royal College of Art, the Premier League, Nike and the King Baudouin Foundation in Brussels. She lives in London with her three young children and is working on another book.

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

In the summer of 1914 the Empress Alexandra, a magnificent ocean liner, suffers a mysterious explosion on it voyage from London to New York City.  Somehow Henry manages to secure a place in a lifeboat for his new wife Grace.  But the survivors quickly realise the lifeboat is over capacity and could sink at any moment.  For any to live, some must die.

Over the course of three perilous weeks, the passengers on the lifeboat plot, scheme, gossip and console one another while sitting inches apart.  Their deepest beliefs about goodness, humanity and God are tested to the limit as they begin to discover what they will do in order to survive.

“Charlotte Rogan has created a central character who is both intricately drawn and a source of mystery, and a descriptive voice that makes you feel you are a fellow passenger, battling for survival along with Grace in unthinkable circumstances. A powerful and remarkable debut.” – Janine Cook, Chair of the Waterstones 11 selection committee

About the author:

Charlotte Rogan graduated from Princeton in 1975. She taught herself to write between working at various jobs and bringing up triplets. Her childhood vacations with a family of sailors provided inspiration for The Lifeboat. She lives in Connecticut, US.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

What if our 24-hour day grew longer, first in minutes, then in hours, until day becomes night and night becomes day? What effect would this slowing have on the world? On the birds in the sky, the whales in the sea, the astronauts in space, and on an eleven-year-old girl, grappling with emotional changes in her own life? One morning, Julia and her parents wake up in their suburban home in California to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth is noticeably slowing. The enormity of this is almost beyond comprehension. And yet, even if the world is, in fact, coming to an end, as some assert, day-to-day life must go on. Julia, facing the loneliness and despair of an awkward adolescence, witnesses the impact of this phenomenon on the world, on the community, on her family and on herself.

“If the end of the world inspires fiction as good as this, bring it on. I loved Walker’s description of a world moving inexorably towards extinction, told through the eyes of a young girl who thought the future was ahead of her: like some beautiful hybrid of The Lovely Bones and The Road.”  – Jon Howells, PR & Events Manager, Waterstones

About the author:

Karen Thompson Walker was born and raised in San Diego, California, where The Age of Miracles is set. She is a graduate of UCLA and the Columbia MFA program and a recipient of the 2011 Sirenland Fellowship as well as a Bomb magazine fiction prize. A former book editor, she wrote The Age of Miracles semi-secretly in the mornings before work, sometimes while riding the subway. She now lives in Brooklyn with her husband.

Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles

Oskar is a minimalist composer, best known for his piece Variations on Tram Timetables. His apartment, in an unnamed Eastern European city, is a triumph of minimalist interior design: all white walls, surgical steel, black leather furniture by dead Swiss architects and blonde wooden floors. In this perfect environment he has planned a perfect life.

But this book isn’t really about Oskar. Oskar is in Los Angeles, having his marriage to Laura, a Californian art dealer, dismantled by lawyers. While he’s away, he entrusts his apartment to an old university friend. His two cats, named after Russian composers, need feeding, after all. Despite the fact that Oskar has left dozens of surreally detailed notes covering every aspect of looking after the apartment, things do not go well.

“With a deftness and flair which eludes many more experienced writers, Will Wiles has the knack of being funny, moving and profound all at the same time.” – Chris White, Fiction Team, Waterstones

About the author:

Will Wiles was born in Orissa, India, in 1978. He is deputy editor of Icon, a monthly architecture and design magazine. In ten years as a journalist he has written about everything from Pot Noodles to the Voyager space probe. He once spent a week trying to source a chihuahua skeleton for a photoshoot. Care of Wooden Floors, a black comedy about death, destruction and interior decoration, is his first novel. He is writing a second, which is set in a chain hotel. Will is married and lives in east London.

4 thoughts on “2012’s Waterstones 11

  1. Marianne Wheelaghan (@MWheelaghan)

    So wonderful to see Jenni Fagen’s name here on this list. Jenni was one of my creative writing students before she went to Greenwich, when she was just starting out. Even then her writing was original and fresh, and never disappointed. I wish her well with The Panopticon because she deserves it!

  2. Anne Peck

    Just wondering about Patrick Flanery, and the Booker prize requirements for citizenship. Is he no longer an American citizen? Does that matter?

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