Women writers in the ascendant in Granta's once-a-decade Best of Young British Novelists list


Nick Clark
Tuesday 16 April 2013 18:03

The future of women’s fiction looks bright as the once-a-decade list of best young British authors was dominated, for the first time in its 40-year history, by female authors.

Literary magazine Granta yesterday published the fourth in its landmark series of the Best of Young British Authors.

The 20-strong list of novelists was made up of 12 women, up from eight on the previous list a decade earlier the highest so fare.

Jonathan Ruppin, web editor at book shop Foyles, said: “This is the first time there has been a majority of women. For a long time women have bought a lot of fiction. As a lot more women are reading, so a lot more are writing.”

“This list is a reflection that there are a hell of a lot of women writers out there, many of whom have been unrecognised so far,” he said: “I am reading many more interesting debuts from women at the moment.”

The Granta list has been famed for picking future literary stars. Alumni include Sir Salman Rushdie, Rose Tremain, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro and AL Kennedy.

The class of 2013 includes two who made the list a decade ago in Zadie Smith, author of NW and winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, and Adam Thirlwell.

New names selected include Taiye Selasi, whose debut novel Ghana Must Go caused a sensation on its release last month, Benjamin Markovits, a former professional basketball player in Germany, and Naomi Alderman. As well as writing three novels, she co-created fitness application Zombies, Run!.

John Freeman, the editor of Granta, said: “From satirists to humourists to sweeping epic-spinners, these writers have a command of language and their form which is simply astonishing.” He added: “They show that the novel has a bold and brilliant future in Britain.”

All of the authors are British citizens – except Kamila Shamsie who is in the process of getting citizenship – but many have backgrounds from all over the world. From Somalia and China, to Texas and Karachi.

Mr Ruppin said: “This list does reflect the ethnic diversity of British writing. It reflects that publishing is opening up to talented writers from different backgrounds.”

It includes Xiaolu Guo, who grew up in a small fishing village in southern China with no access to books, who has written novels in Chinese and English. Nadifa Mohamed, who was born in Somalia in 1981 and moved to London five years later, made the longlist for the Orange prize for Black Mamba Boy.

Mr Ruppin said: “In terms of reputation, this list does a huge amount. It can be tough for a young author to follow up a first time book, but this is about the writer.”

The youngest to make the list was 28-year-old Ned Beauman, whose second novel The Teleportation Accident was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Only a few months older is Helen Oyeyemi, who wrote The Icarus Girl while studying for her A levels and is working on her fifth novel.

Sunjeev Sahota had not read a novel until he was 18, picking up Granta alumnus Sir Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children in an airport on the way to visit relatives in India. His novel Ours are the Streets was published in 2011.

Other names include poet and novelist Adam Foulds, Evie Wyld, who runs an independent bookshop in Peckham and Sarah Hall, who has written four novels including one that made the Booker shortlist, and who Mr Ruppin has earmarked as a literary star.

Granta Best of Young British Novelists: the list in full

Naomi Alderman

Tahmima Anam

Ned Beauman

Jenni Fagan

Adam Foulds

Xiaolu Guo

Sarah Hall

Steven Hall

Joanna Kavenna

Benjamin Markovits

Nadifa Mohamed

Helen Oyeyemi

Ross Raisin

Sunjeev Sahota

Taiye Selasi

Kamila Shamsie

Zadie Smith

David Szalay

Adam Thirlwell

Evie Wyld

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