Today, the Authors’ Club announces the shortlist for its annual Best First Novel Award.

YVONNE BAILEY-SMITHThe Day I Fell off My Island (Myriad Editions) The judges commented: An evocative account of growing up in poverty in Jamaica, before settling in England in the 1960s. Lyrical and beautifully crafted – a poignant debut about belonging and family ties.

A.K. BLAKEMOREThe Manningtree Witches (Granta Books) The judges commented: A compelling blend of fact and fiction about the Puritan witchfinder, Matthew Hopkins and his persecution of women during the Civil War. A glorious use of language and spell-binding imagery.

TISH DELANEYBefore My Actual Heart Breaks (Hutchinson HeinemannSet in rural Ireland during The Troubles, this is a stunning evocation of a woman emotionally stunted by an abusive childhood and her affecting rites of passage.

LUCY JAGOA Net for Small Fishes (Bloomsbury Publishing) The judges commented: A memorable portrayal of Lady Frances Howard and her friendship with Mrs Anne Turner. This is an impeccably researched and richly realised novel.

CATHERINE MENONFragile Monsters (Viking) The judges commented: An atmospheric and multi-layered tale involving several generations of a Malaysian family and a poignant exploration of how the past continues to haunt the present.

MELODY RAZAKMoth (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) The judges commented: Set in India at the time of partition, this is a beautifully written, sometimes harrowing, account of how war tears families apart and the redemptive power of love.


Lucy Popescu (chair of the judging panel) commented: “These terrific debuts cover an array of subjects from war and migration, betrayal and persecution and the importance of family ties, belonging and hope. By exploring the past, they remind us of the various ways historical narratives help us navigate the world today. We are transported from the misogyny of 17th century England to the brutal conflict of 1970s Northern Ireland and visit 20th century Malaysia, India and Jamaica. Alex Wheatle will decide the overall winner.”

Inaugurated in 1954, the Best First Novel Award is now in its 68th year, making it the longest-running UK prize for debut fiction.

The winner of the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award will be announced at a dinner at the National Liberal Club on 25 May 2022. The prize will be presented by this year’s guest adjudicator, novelist Alex Wheatle MBE.

Wednesday 25 May, 7 for 7.30 pm, Lady Violet Room, National Liberal Club, London SW1A 2HE

The three-course dinner with wine will cost £55.00 per person. There will be a complimentary glass of fizz on arrival.  

To book please contact the booking office at or call 020 7968 0912. Please book early and inform the club of any dietary requirements