Somebody Loves You by Mona Arshi and Moth by Melody Razak Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize

Posted on 11/04/2022

We are overjoyed to see two of our authors longlisted for the 2022 Desmond Elliott Prize. With a reputation as the most prestigious award for debut novelists, the Desmond Elliott Prize is now run by the National Centre for Writing and continues Desmond Elliott’s lifelong ambition to ‘enrich the careers of new writers’ by discovering exciting and important new voices each year. This year the judges are writer and poet Derek Owusu (chair), award-winning journalist and author Symeon Brown and Cheltenham Literature Festival’s Programme and Commissioning Manager, Lyndsey Fineran, who will award one winning author £10,000 to shape their developing career.

This year’s longlisted books focus on themes of romance and reclamation – of freedom, bodies, and identities – with female protagonists featuring in many of the titles. Derek Owusu commented: ‘themes such as freedom and identity are foundations on which literature stands tall, challenging us to discover ourselves and provide the opportunity for others to experience the same… Choosing a shortlist will be tough but that difficulty is offset by the bliss of being about to experience many of these novels for the first time.’

Somebody Loves You by Mona Arshi was published in November 2021 by And Other Stories. It tells the story of Ruby who gives up talking at a young age and whose mother isn’t always there to notice; she comes and goes and goes and comes, until, one day, she doesn’t. Silence becomes Ruby’s refuge, sheltering her from the weather of her mother’s mental illness and pressurised suburban atmosphere. Plangent, deft and sparkling with wry humour, Somebody Loves You is a moving exploration of how we choose or refuse to tell the stories that shape us. It has also been longlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize 2022 and the 2022 Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year. You can buy a copy here.

Melody Razak was one of the Observer’s ‘Ten Debut Novelists’ of 2021 and her first book Moth was published by W&N in June 2021. It starts in Delhi, in1946, where Ma and Bappu are liberal intellectuals teaching at the local university. Their fourteen-year-old daughter – precocious, headstrong Alma – is soon to be a married to a young man training to be a doctor, but times are bad for girls in India and political unrest threatens to unravel the rich tapestry of the country. When Partition happens and the British Raj is fractured overnight, this wonderful family whom we have come to know and love is violently torn apart, and its members are forced to find new and increasingly desperate ways to survive. You can buy a copy here.

The Desmond Elliott Prize shortlist will be announced on 7 June and the winner will be revealed on 1 July.