York author misses out on Booker Prize – but wins many plaudits

Fiona Mozley talks to the Duchess of Cornwall during a reception at the Guildhall in London, ahead of the 2017 Man Booker award ceremony. Photograph: Chris Jackson/PA Wire
17 Oct 2017 @ 10.28 pm
| Entertainment

The author whose first novel propelled her all the way from a York bookshop to the Man Booker Prize awards ceremony didn’t win the top honour tonight (October 17).

But Fiona Mozley did win a huge amount of praise for her novel Elmet – and a place in the spotlight alongside some of the leading lights of literature.

The Man Booker judges awarded the £50,000 prize to American writer George Saunders at the ceremony at London’s Guildhall, for his first full-length novel Lincoln In The Bardo.

The judging panel deliberated for five hours on Tuesday – including spells of “fierce debate” – before unanimously naming Saunders as the winner.

Along with Fiona as runners up were Ali Smith, Paul Auster and Mohsin Hamid.

Extremely popular

The Duchess of Cornwall presents shortlisted author Fiona Mozley with her nomination award
Fiona, 29, began writing her debut novel on her phone on the train from York to London, when she was living in the capital and working as an intern for a literary agent.

As well as studying for a PhD in medieval studies at the University of York, she works at the Little Apple Bookshop on High Petergate – where she has been selling copies of her book.

When she made it onto the Booker shortlist, Fiona was propelled into all the national newspapers and interviewed for national TV and radio.

According to the Guardian, Elmet has sold about 10,000 copies.

Waterstones fiction buyer Chris White told the paper that “both Paul Auster’s 4321 and Fiona Mozley’s Elmet are proving extremely popular, and Autumn by Ali Smith, is in our top 10”.

Beautiful descriptions

Fiona at the ceremony. Photograph: BBC News
At tonight’s ceremony she was presented with her nomination award by the Duchess of Cornwall.

And she won more praise from the critics.

Speaking before the announcement on the BBC News channel, writer and cricit Stephanie Merritt said of Elmet: “It’s a tremendous achievement for a first novel. It’s a book about landscape and our place in the landscape.”

“The echoes of Wuthering Heights and Ted Hughes are all there,” added Sameer Rahim, the books editor of Prospect magazine.

“There are some beautiful landscape descriptions and she really can write.”

The Booker judges described Elmet as “timeless in its epic mixture of violence and love”.

First to react to tonight’s announcement were co-owners of the Little Apple Bookshop Tim Curtis and Phillipa Morris, who tweeted: “Congratulations to @FJMoz on getting so close. Always a winner in our eyes.”

Fiona could still be in the prizes. Go and vote for her in the Breakthrough Author category in the Readers Awards 2017 here.