Grace McCleen wins Desmond Elliott Prize
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Grace McCleen wins Desmond Elliott Prize

29th June 2012

Grace McCleen has won the 2012 Desmond Elliott Prize for New Fiction for her debut novel The Land of Decoration.

The book is inspired by the author's Christian fundamentalist upbringing in Wales and beat off stiff competition from the two other shortlisted titles to win the GBP 10,000 prize.

These comprised The Last Hundred Days by poet and academic Patrick McGuinness, a book inspired by his time spent in Bucharest in the run-up to the Romanian Revolution, and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by playwright Rachel Joyce, whose book was originally drafted as a radio play for her father.

Sam Llewellyn, chair of the judges, said this year's contenders were among the strongest ever, but the panel finally settled on McCleen's book because of its emotional impact.

'The Land of Decoration is a novel that can move the reader from sadness to laughter with alarming suddenness,' he commented.

'Grace McCleen's voice sparkles with imagery and ideas, and she uses it to tell a story that is simultaneously multi-layered and absolutely compelling.'

McCleen, who studied English Literature at the University of Oxford and wrote The Land of Decoration while completing an MA at the University of York, recently revealed that she is unlikely to write many more novels.

Speaking at the 2012 Hay Festival, the writer told the Daily Telegraph she will instead be concentrating on music: 'I find writing so difficult I get weird neurological symptoms and it makes me very ill, so that's why I’m giving it up.'

She follows in the footsteps of Anjali Joseph, who won the 2011 Desmond Elliott Prize for New Fiction for Saraswati Park.

An exclusive interview with Grace McCleen can be found by following this link.

© W&G Foyle Ltd