2020 Winner & Shortlist

Here's our 2020 Winner & Shortlist

The Caledonia Novel Award 2020 Winner

We are delighted to announce that the winner of the Caledonia Novel Award 2020 is Her Name is Florence by Rachel Thompson.

Rachel has now signed with Jenny Hewson at Lutyens & Rubinstein Literary Agency.

2020 Winner of the Caledonia Novel Award

Her Name is Florence by Rachel Thompson

Rachel grew up in Belfast and read English at Trinity College Dublin. She spent the next eight years in London working as an editor across various publishing houses (most recently as an editor of travel books, despite her notably shaky grasp of geography). She currently lives in Toronto, following her partner’s secondment there, where she works as a freelance editor.

“Inspiration for Her Name is Florence arrived in the form of a local news leaflet. I was living in Streatham at the time, and one was delivered that related – fairly starkly – the story of an unsolved Victorian murder case, the events of which had taken place within a couple of streets of my flat. Four hours later I was deep at the bottom of an internet rabbit hole, and every new fact that I discovered was increasingly fantastic. I continued reading around the subject – it’s a story that has fascinated journalists and crime writers since the first accounts were published during the inquest in 1876 – and quickly realised that I wanted to write my own fictional account of Florence Bravo’s extraordinary life.”
Jenny Hewson: “I was utterly beguiled by this from the very first page. Rachel Thompson is a remarkable storyteller, immediately drawing the reader into the claustrophobic late-19th-century world in which Florence Bravo finds herself accused of the murder of her husband. I loved the writing and the sense of place, I adored the large, beautifully-drawn cast of characters around Florence. This is a brilliant page-turner of a story but also looks at the consequences of the intense personal and societal pressures on Victorian women of all classes. A worthy winner and absolutely one to watch!

I am delighted to announce that Rachel has accepted my offer of representation, and I am very excited about what lies ahead for Her Name is Florence.

Our 2020 Caledonia Novel Award Judge 

Our judge, Jenny Hewson of Lutyens & Rubinstein Literary Agency, commented: “In judging the Caledonia Novel Award 2020 I was hoping to find a wide range of talented new authors writing across genres and subjects, and I was not disappointed. We saw lots of excellent historical fiction in particular, also crime, psychological thrillers, and literary fiction. And I was especially pleased to see entries from so many different countries from around the world. The Caledonia Novel Award attracts the best and brightest unpublished writing talent, and it has been my absolute pleasure to be involved as a judge.”

HIGHLY COMMENDED

The Anatomist’s Wife by Charlotte Wightwick

Charlotte was born in London and has a degree in history from Oxford. Following university she became a civil servant, which was a great apprenticeship as a writer: she has written everything from government consultation papers to ministerial speeches. As well as novels, Charlotte writes book reviews, articles and blogs about historical fiction. She is a member of the Board of the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs and lives in Brighton with a loud and disruptive cat.

“Shortly after moving to Crystal Palace in south-east London, I went for a walk in my local park. I wasn’t expecting to find dinosaurs there. But there they were: a set of huge, weird nineteenth-century sculptures in the middle of an otherwise-normal suburban setting. Why were they there? Who were the people behind them? These were the questions which eventually led to The Anatomist’s Wife. Based on the true story behind the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, the novel follows the lives of two women, Mary Ann Mantell and Caroline Owen. It explores the damage that the compulsive rivalry between their husbands did to them and their relationships, and ultimately it seeks to demonstrate the redemptive nature of love, hope and forgiveness.”
Jenny Hewson: “A remarkable historical novel about palaeontology, professional envy and revenge. The Anatomist’s Wife is inspired by the real-life events of those who first discovered dinosaurs in 19th-century England. It also draws attention to the under-reported stories of the brilliant women who served as hidden and unrecognised scientists to their more famous husbands. I loved the freshness of perspective here and the richness of the storytelling.”

Kukolka by Kristen Loesch

Kristen Loesch grew up in San Francisco and Seattle. She attended university in London and obtained a first-class degree in History. She later completed a Master’s degree in Slavonic Studies with Distinction at the University of Cambridge, followed by a year of doctoral study. Her academic work in the areas of Russian politics and ethnic and cultural studies has appeared in a number of peer-reviewed journals. Though she has travelled extensively over the past decade, living, working and studying off the beaten track, nowadays nothing can compare to holing up in a quiet room with coffee and her laptop. She lives in the Pacific Northwest of the USA with her husband and their three children. Kristen has very recently signed with Sharon Galant of Zeitgeist Agency.

Kukolka is the point at which several threads of interest tie together. Firstly, family secrets. There are members of my own family who remain quite mysterious to me: My maternal grandfather, for example, had a very clear line that separated the two parts of his life: ‘before’ a very traumatic historical event and ‘after’. He never spoke of the ‘before’. This was something that always captivated and perhaps even frightened me. 

Secondly, given my background, I was always going to write at least one novel against the backdrop of Soviet Russia. It was a chance for me to dive deep into a period of history that I knew intimately, but to get lost in it in a way that I never could through academic writing. Thirdly, I have a lifelong obsession with abandoned, isolated country estates. Not the kind with any known or remarkable history, but quite the opposite, because it’s in that empty space, I think, that imagination tends to take over. These are questions that run all the way through the novel: What has been taken and what has been left behind? What can’t we see on the surface? What happened here?”
Jenny Hewson: “Kukolka is a sweeping, multigenerational story which takes us from contemporary London to the Russian Revolution. Especially good on mother/daughter relationships, it also considers how what happens on the world stage affects families and individuals in ways which reverberate for generations. I couldn’t stop turning the pages!”

The Clay Wife by Susan Reynolds

Sue Reynolds is a rural NSW based writer of literary and woman’s fiction, short stories, poetry and non-fiction therapy manuscripts for children and adults. She spent the 1980s on an isolated farm and then worked as a mental health social worker in a rural town with child and adult clients over a 23-year period. Her novel, The Clay Wife, won NSW Writers’ Varuna residency and the Byron Writers’ mentorship. She has three children and four grandsons and when not writing or working on their farm, she enjoys volunteering for Rural Aid and travelling Australia with her husband of many decades.

The Clay Wife began as a series of diary entries, written over 10 years, to survive a move from the city to the country I hadn’t wanted to make. I left behind everything I loved and thrived on, except for my immediate family, to move onto an isolated farm with my in-laws, seven adults and nine children in total. The first 18 months were in a small caravan, the barbwire fence my clothesline, the days potting plants in the heat of a tin shed surrounded by people whose beliefs and interests were foreign to me. 

The diary entries became short stories and years later I grew to love the farm and my in-laws, did a social work degree, and began the work with children and adults that I believe I was always meant to do. I wrote the first draft. But it was missing something. I thought about what I loved to read and added a mystery, upped the conflict, created a friend to become a threat, broke the main characters up and threw them back together again to add twists and turns, and edited it many, many times. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed the adventure of writing it.”
Jenny Hewson: “A subtle, psychological portrait of a marriage set against the backdrop of rural Australia. Libby awakens to independence through artistic practise, but finds herself stifled and trapped by circumstances. An affair with a local art curator doesn’t provide solace but steers Libby into greater danger. An evocative and moving literary debut. This is an author who writes especially well about relationships and place.”

The Taking of Colum Pyke by Joe Murphy

Joe Murphy was born in County Wexford, Ireland. In Enniscorthy Vocational College, he excelled at English, winning several awards and was shortlisted for National Young Science Fiction Writer of the Year. Joe studied English Literature at University College Dublin where he received 1st Class Honours and a scholarship to complete a Masters in Early Modern Drama. He went on to qualify as a secondary school teacher.

“I’m not sure why the macabre comes out in my writing. I did die, once. Maybe that has something to do with it. I lost my spleen playing football and was bleeding to death for three days without knowing it. When I eventually collapsed, an ambulance was rung. On the way to Wexford General, my heart stopped. People always ask me what it was like. The best way I can describe it is how when you wake up you have no recollection of the instant at which you fell asleep. One minute you’re there, next you’re waking up and there’s a paramedic leaning over you. The moment that you slipped away doesn’t even register. I think, perhaps, way back in my mind somewhere, that moment of darkness has nicked something. It bleeds out when I write. Even when I’m trying not to, there’s a gothic tinge to everything I do. It helps that I studied gothic fiction in university so the tropes and techniques are there to work with. The Taking of Colum Pyke was therefore inspired by my love of gothic fiction and my interest in history and Celtic mythology. Think the first series of True Detective but with an Irish accent.”
Jenny Hewson: “An utterly unputdownable psychological thriller set in contemporary small-town Ireland. Local journalist Mark Usher aims to make it to the major league by reporting on a strange series of murders. But when he becomes involved with the wife and child of the principal suspect, he finds himself increasingly unable to handle what he believes he is discovering. A striking and highly unusual piece of gothic storytelling.”

The Watcher of Hauteville House by Jacquie Bloese

Jacquie grew up on the island of Guernsey, an upbringing which has left her with an enduring love of islands generally, as well as providing bucket-loads of inspiration for her shortlisted novel. She has always enjoyed watching people and making things up, and first saw her words in print at the age of 16, when her piece on school discos was included in an anthology, published by Virago Press. By day, Jacquie works as a writer and editor of books for children learning English as a Second Language, a job which she (mostly) loves and which has taken her all over world, most recently to Mexico and China. She lives in south-east London in a characterful but draughty flat which has seen the completion of two novels: she is currently contemplating the next.

The Watcher of Hauteville House is a novel about a deaf man’s search for recognition, set against the backdrop of the German Occupation of the Channel Islands during the Second World War. It is impossible to grow up on Guernsey and remain oblivious to the impact of the German Occupation – the memories live on not just in the concrete bunkers and look-out towers which still populate the cliffs – but also, more interestingly, in the stories which have passed down through generations. My late grandmother, Doris, a lively storyteller in her own right, lived through the Occupation as a teenage girl; her anecdotes from that time piqued my imagination and it wasn’t long before an idea for a story started to form.

At the novel’s centre is a deaf man called Émile, whose ambitions for a new life in Canada come to an abrupt end, when he suffers permanent hearing loss after falling down an unlit elevator shaft whilst working a night shift. Sadly, these events are not the work of fiction – my great-grandfather became deaf in this way after emigrating to Vancouver, as a young man. His experience has always haunted me, and so I decided to write part of the novel from the point of view of someone whose deafness allows him to see what others can’t, but whose voice, for too many years, has remained unheard."
Jenny Hewson: “A brilliantly moving historical novel which takes us from Canada to Guernsey. Emile and Isabelle are separated by a tragic accident 30 years earlier. Now married to other people they are reunited in wartime Guernsey, where they both find work at Hauteville House, the former home of Victor Hugo. Both Emile and Isabelle must make difficult choices to keep their love – and one another – alive. I loved the unusual setting for this wartime love story, and the beautiful, lyrical prose.”

The Caledonia Novel Award 2020 Longlist

Go, Said the Bird by Sarah Corbett Signed with Gordon Wise at Curtis Brown

Her Name is Florence by Rachel Thompson Signed with Jenny Hewson at Lutyens & Rubinstein Literary Agency

Kukolka by Kristen Loesch Published by Allison & Busby in February, 2022 as The Porcelain Doll

Resurrection, Port Glasgow by Sarah Ward

Roam by Alex Ivey

Saving Rosalind by Harriet Avery Signed with Sabhbh Curran at Curtis Brown

The Anatomist's Wife by Charlotte Wightwick Signed with Rachel Neely at Mushens Entertainment

The Atomics by Paul Maunder Published by Lightning Books in May, 2021

The Clay Wife by Susan Reynolds

The Ice Window by Catherine Ogston Signed with Allan Guthrie at the North Literary Agency

The Taking of Colum Pyke by Joe Murphy

The Watcher of Hauteville House by Jacquie Bloese Published by Hodder & Stoughton in April, 2022 as The French House

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