Animal theme dominates writers’ awards

An all-female winners’ list for the 2013 Commonwealth Book and Short Story Prizes has championed stories set in locations as diverse as Glasgow, Trinidad and Tobago, and British Columbia.

The debut novel of UK writer Lisa O’Donnell won the Commonwealth Book Prize. The Death of Bees is a story of two young sisters living in Glasgow’s Hazlehurst estate, trying to hold the world at bay after the mysterious death of their parents.

Godfrey Smith, chair of the judges, said:

The Death of Bees emerged as the overall winner virtually by acclamation. This coming-of-age novel is at once a grim, dark, entertaining story about gnawing emotional neglect in the lives of the young protagonists as they struggle to keep their deadly secret.”

Meanwhile, two joint winners have been awarded the Short Story Prize. Judges chair Razia Iqbal said: “It was impossible to decide between them, though each one is quite distinctly different from the other. Both fulfilled our criteria of excellence in style, originality and tone.”

The winners were Sharon Millar, Trinidad and Tobago, for The Whale House and Eliza Robertson, Canada, for We Walked on Water.

The Whale House is a story of a woman recovering from a miscarriage, which in turn resurrects an old conflict and a long-kept secret.

We Walked on Water is about a boy who loses his twin sister during the Ironman competition in Penticton, BC.

The awards – the Book Prize is worth £10,000 and the Short Story Prize £5,000 – were presented by John le Carré at Hay Festival in Wales. The competition is organised by the Commonwealth Foundation.


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