2022 Winner & Shortlist

We're delighted to announce that our 2022 winner is Alex Hay!

The Caledonia Novel Award 2022 Winner

We are thrilled to announce that the winner of the Caledonia Novel Award 2022 is The Housekeepers by Alex Hay.

Many congratulations to Alex, who wins £1,500 and this year’s specially-designed artwork by Edinburgh artist Lucy Roscoe.

As the author of the best novel from the UK and Ireland, Alex also wins the free place on a writing course at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre.

Alex has now signed with Alice Lutyens at Curtis Brown.

The Housekeepers by Alex Hay


Alex grew up in Cambridge and Cardiff and has been writing since childhood. He studied History at the University of York, and wrote his dissertation on female power at the early Tudor court, spending many happy hours combing the archives to find evidence of power-brokering and political manoeuvring otherwise overlooked. He has worked in magazine publishing and the charity sector, writing in the evenings and at weekends, and in 2016 he completed Curtis Brown Creative’s Three Month Novel Writing Course. He is 34 and lives with his husband near Crystal Palace in South East London.

“I started writing The Housekeepers in autumn 2020, just before the UK descended into the second lockdown, and so really I was looking to escape from reality! I’d been looking to write a novel about the Edwardians, and possession, and I’d been itching to try a heist plot, inspired by films like Ocean’s Eleven and American Hustle. When I realised I could pull those threads together, the story started to take shape. A glittering mansion on Park Lane. A group of servants, denied their dreams. And my protagonist, Mrs King, a housekeeper with a difference. Raised by petty criminals, armed with ruthless intelligence - and an audacious plan to transform her life.

Immersing myself in her world was a joy. The Edwardians might seem stiff, even quaint, to us. But poring over street photography and magazine features from the 1900s, you can encounter the most brilliant flashes of modernity. People taking the tube, driving new cars, inventing new technologies and new ways to make money. I got hooked on this glamorous, seedy, electric world. And building the plot allowed me to layer in all the things I love most in books – ambition, obsession, troubled families, big houses. Writing it has been an absolute delight.”

Alice Lutyens: Ocean’s 8 meets high society in 1905! I was instantly taken by this roaring plot of a housekeeper, a black-market queen, a failed actress, a desperate seamstress and poverty-stricken hatmaker taking on the richest of the rich in a dastardly plot of revenge and retribution (with the help of two circus girls). Mrs King and Mrs Bone have been tossed around, let down and betrayed by the wealthiest in society. Far be it for them to let it go, and skulk away. They decide to strike where it really hurts, at all that delicious wealth, over the course of one night when the greatest are gathered together..… From the minute I met Mrs King on the first page I was gripped. The concept of these women who have been utterly dismissed by society, turning it all around and wreaking the best of revenge just really resounded with me. The writing is deft, clever and slippery. The atmosphere and setting gave me absolute chills up my spine, and within pages I was egging on the women to succeed. The characters leap off the page so cleverly, I felt as though I could see and touch them. Most importantly, I just enjoyed this so much. It is wildly commercial with a massive hook, one of my very favourite types of novel – escapism at its best.

I feel very lucky to have had my offer of representation accepted by Alex and can’t wait for everyone to join these special women on the best heist of the 1900s!”

Read Alex's Winner's Interview here.

Our 2022 Caledonia Novel Award Judge 

Our judge, Alice Lutyens, commented: “Having had a lot of good conversations over email with Wendy, the founder of the Caledonia Novel Award, I was absolutely thrilled to be asked to be a judge (I have always wanted to be a judge!) on this fantastic international award. It has been on my radar for a number of years as the shortlist is always top quality, and a number of best-selling authors had their first taste of success via the Caledonia Novel Award. It was everything I could have wished for. The submissions were ridiculously fabulous, the writing top-notch and the ideas fantastic. I cannot tell you how hard it was to get from the longlist down to the shortlist, and that was with some tears! I feel really astounded by how much talent is out there in every corner of the world, represented in every genre imaginable. We saw literary, commercial, crime, futuristic, young adult… and covered every emotion from grief to horror to hilarity! WHAT an utter joy it was to judge this year’s award, and congratulations not only to the winner and the shortlist, but to everyone who took their courage in hand and sent in their submission.”

The Caledonia Novel Award 2022 Shortlist

HIGHLY COMMENDED

A Short Walk Through a Wide World by Douglas Westerbeke

Douglas began by writing screenplays, several of which have been finalists in over a dozen competitions, four of those optioned in Hollywood. He also works at one of the largest libraries in the U.S. and has spent the last eight years on the local panel of the International Dublin Literary Award, reading current literary novels and nominating the best for selection. This experience inspired him to write his own novel – something his mother once encouraged him to do, but he always considered beyond his abilities (he should have listened to his mother). He wrote four ‘practice’ novels, but it was the fifth one, A Short Walk Through a Wide World, that he thought had something to it.

A Short Walk Through a Wide World was a slow evolution. One day I had an idea – God knows where it came from – of an elderly woman suffering some minor ailment, told by her doctor to travel, advice she takes way too seriously. I envisioned it as a short story. Later, I thought it might be better if the elderly women travels in order to avoid a more serious, more mysterious sickness. In other versions, she was younger, then older again. Sometimes she died at the end. In one version she expires in her sleep when the ocean liner she is on anchors too long in the same spot. Sometimes she lived just long enough to uncover some grand secret about the world. 
With lots of ideas circulating in my head, I realised I had the makings of a grand adventure novel, a sort of female Indiana Jones, but with a lot more pathos involved, and I wondered what that might look like, a world-spanning tale of adventure usually reserved for men, but given to a woman? What differences would there be? And what is travel anyway? What is the difference between wandering the world and wandering, say, your living room? Finally, I was interested enough to sit down and write it up.”
Alice Lutyens: “This is an exceptionally well written novel that perfectly straddles the commercial and literary divide. Opening with one of the best scenes I have ever read, it has a plot unlike any other, and follows Aubry from her childhood in Paris to her old age when she finally finds her home. When she develops a terrible illness that means she must move and continue to move, she leaves her family and sets off to traverse every corner of the planet. Unique, brave, colourful, clever – I loved Aubry and rooted for her throughout as she travelled through a world both magical and real.”

You Are Not Alone in This by Nichelle Kovacheff

Nichelle was born and raised in London, Canada. At university she studied English and History and then went on to get a certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language. As far back as she can remember, writing has been a long-time passion – she has always loved to create different worlds, stories and characters, and she is an alumna of the six-month Curtis Brown Creative writing course. When Nichelle’s not working, writing or reading she loves to travel, go on long walks with friends and try out new things. This past year she took up pottery and curling – both way trickier than they appear, but lots of fun.

“My novel was inspired by a story I read in the news about a hockey player who had been wrongly accused of sexually assaulting a young woman. I thought about the effect that this would have on the young man and the stress it would have caused him. The main character appeared in my mind – a woman who had an unshakeable faith in him and believed he didn’t do it, but who hadn’t seen him for 10 years. An unbreakable bond between them after all this time.
I started working backwards. Why hadn’t they seen each other? What had caused her to leave him? I thought of how suffocating it can be when you’re stressed and feel alone. How the unexpected kindness from others can throw you off kilter and then put you at ease. I’m fascinated by all sorts of different relationships, whether romantic, familial or platonic and how people weave in and out of each other’s lives.”
Alice Lutyens: “This is a pacey commercial read, about family (of an unconventional kind), sacrifice and relationships. Grace and Alex are in foster care with an exceptionally uncaring foster mother, and Alex has only his sister to look out for him. A plot that switches from past to present, both timelines are very well told and wouldn’t release me from their grip. There are some of my favourite characters here – Grace just sits in my heart, I want to hug her. A compelling fast read, I really enjoyed this and was rooting for Grace and Alex, as well as all the equally well-drawn peripheral characters throughout. A story about a girl who loves her brother more than anything and will give up everything for him, set against the fascinating background of professional ice hockey.”

The Horse Pond by Elspeth Leadbetter

Elspeth grew up in Cumbria, was educated at her local school and spent a very happy three years at Edinburgh University. After graduating, she moved to Washington DC and worked as a political researcher. She returned to the UK to study at the LSE and hopefully to get a job in a UK think tank but it wasn’t to be. Instead, she took a job as a media analyst and then moved to the UAE and worked as a journalist. After a brief spell in Singapore, she returned to the UK with her husband to start a family. She has her own copywriting business and now lives in Surrey with her husband and two young sons, Laurie and Theodore.

“I first read about the Horse Pond in a local newsletter; it’s a real place close to where I live. I grew up with horses and I couldn’t imagine the idea of swimming across a huge pond beside a huge charger horse, how terrifying it must have been; one kick under the water could break a leg. I did some more research and discovered a startling amount of people had died in it, soldiers kicked by the horses, swimming accidents, suicides...
People from all walks of life had perished in the pond. Of course, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, how this one body of water had wreaked so much tragedy. The story of one woman who had been pulled out in her nightgown in the middle of winter particularly haunted me, and I began to imagine why she had ended up in there. At the same time, I knew it couldn’t be a story solely of people drowning so I tried to weave in other aspects and came up with a modern-day character, and then it really grew from there."
Alice Lutyens: “I was gripped from the first page, when we meet George in 1894 as he milks the cows on an ordinary sunny day that is about to be anything but ordinary. The characters leap off the page, and the pond is filled with a dark mystery leaving me desperate to uncover what happened. Artfully plotted and dealing with big themes over the course of more than 120 years, this was really well done – a clever read that left me thinking about all the people I had met and rejoicing in their found happiness.”

An Emu’s Guide to Flight by Rebecca Powell

Rebecca was born in Bristol and has a degree in French and Portuguese from the University of Leeds. Over the years she has worked at a women’s shelter in Brazil, as a fundraising consultant in London, an actress in Australia and an English teacher in France, where she now lives with her family. Her love of writing stems from regular childhood trips to the library with her mum, and hours spent sitting around an old cassette recorder making up stories with her dad. She is currently working on her next novel – and probably baking a cake, which she likes to think of as productive procrastination.

“In a family of emus, it is the male who builds the nest and brings up the offspring, whilst the female runs off and leaves them to it. When I heard this, I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if the mother emu had to stay in the nest, contrary to her instinct. It was this thought, combined with the memory of my grandfather’s emerald green emu’s egg, nestled in a wooden box in the attic, which formed the kernel of an idea for An Emu’s Guide to Flight: how much of who we are is in our nature, and how much do we absorb from those who come before? 
As I started to make notes, the voice of 16-year-old Shaw came through almost immediately, swiftly followed by that of her grandmother, Meg, and the disparate threads of these two women’s lives gradually began to weave together. After a few false starts and umpteen iterations, what emerged was a story of mothers and daughters, of loneliness and love, and of the unintentional legacies we leave. Ultimately, it became a story of hope.”
Alice Lutyens: ”A well-told and complex story, weaving in girl, mother and grandmother through generations of mistakes. Following a terrible accident which leaves teenaged Shaw without an arm, and her mother in a coma, Shaw needs to unravel a mystery and, with the help of her friends, track down her grandmother to try and bring her mother back to life. Shaw is a wonderful character, full of bravado which conceals an utter well of sadness and fear. This is compelling and brave, a book of love.“

Threetime by Patrick Ross

Patrick grew up in Rutherford, New Jersey, USA. He studied Theatre and English Literature at Swarthmore College, with a focus on playwriting. His play Scarlet Letters debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016; The Scotsman called it “a small but affecting story”. He spent several years living in Philadelphia, where Threetime is set, before joining West Wing Writers in Washington, D.C. As a speechwriter there, he helps public figures in politics, business, and entertainment tell their stories. His work has appeared in The New York Times, in bestselling books, and at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

“I started writing Threetime a few months before the US midterm elections in 2018. The pool of candidates that year was one of the most diverse in history. I was struck by this changing face of American politics, set against a backdrop of dystopia and decline. At the same time, I kept thinking back to a Doctor Who episode from 2008, “The Stolen Earth”. It’s a sweeping story where dozens of planets go missing, but the resolution is so simple: they’re tucked away in time, one second out of sync. I love the smallness of that reveal, and the significance.
If time travel is ever truly discovered, I think that’s all it will be: one or two seconds. Maybe three. Would that change everything, or nothing at all? The protagonist of Threetime, Noor Kennedy, is a politico with a poet’s heart. She’s still an idealist, in spite of it all. I don’t always share her optimism, but the future she lives in is my best hope for ours: imperfect as ever, full of flawed humans with messy relationships, trying to make progress as the world resists.”
Alice Lutyens: “ I felt like I was in The West Wing (but set 10 or 20 years from now – no one calls it ‘texting’ anymore!) – my favourite TV show of all time! This is a modern and clear-sighted story, told punchily and with ambition. Set very cleverly and realistically in the near future, I felt as though I was in Noor’s very shoes as she navigated American politics, love, family, sex and .. and what about the three second reset…? You will have to read it to find out! This is a perfectly polished read that I could not put down.”

Caledonia Novel Award 2022 Longlist

An Emu’s Guide to Flight by Rebecca Powell

A Short Walk Through a Wide World by Douglas Westerbeke Now signed with Alice Lutyens at Curtis Brown

Bone Rites by Natalie Bayley

Fundamental Things by Anne O’Leary

One for Sorrow by Suzy Aspley Now signed with Euan Thorneycroft at A M Heath

The Cat Bride by Charlotte Turnbull Now signed with Liza DeBlock at Mushens Entertainment

The Coast Road by Alan Murrin Now signed with Caroline Wood at Felicity Bryan Associates

The Horse Pond by Elspeth Leadbetter Now signed with Katie Fulford at Bell Lomax Moreton

The Housekeepers by Alex Hay Now signed with Alice Lutyens at Curtis Brown

The Land in Our Bones by Star Wuerdemann

Therapy Rooms by Elizabeth Davidson

Threetime by Patrick Ross

Through the Gold I Saw the Stain by Hannah Peters

You Are Not Alone in This by Nichelle Kovacheff

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