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Image of Dr Preti Taneja

Debut novelist scoops prize

Congratulations to College Fellow Commoner, Dr Preti Taneja, on winning the 2018 Desmond Elliot Prize for her "awe-inspiring" debut novel, We That Are Young (Galley Beggar Press, 2017).

The £10,000 prize was presented at an award ceremony in London yesterday (20 June) and saw Dr Taneja win the eleventh annual Prize, described by the Daily Telegraph as the “UK’s most prestigious award for first-time novelists”.

Set in modern India, We That Are Young is a retelling of King Lear, detailing the brutal power struggles which spring from the resignation of a patriarch from his vast corporation and subsequent handing over of control to his three daughters.

Talking to the BBC, Dr Taneja said: "I felt like I was the outsider, being published by a small publishing press. So to be recognised for all of these years of work is very important to me. I didn't even expect to be shortlisted." 

The novel was rejected by numerous publishers before being published by Galley Beggar Press, as outlined by Dr Taneja in an appearance earlier this week on The Guardian books podcast.

Chair of the judging panel and author of The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry, said: "[we] were absolutely unanimous in our love and admiration for this novel, whose scope, ambition, skill and wisdom was, quite simply, awe-inspiring … all three of us sat together, shaking our heads, saying, ‘If this is her first novel, what extraordinary work will come next?’”

Chairman of the Prize’s Trustees, Dallas Manderson, said: "We That Are Young is exactly the kind of novel that the Desmond Elliott Prize exists to discover and promote; this extraordinarily accomplished debut has flown somewhat under the radar thus far, not having received the attention and wide-spread acclaim that it so rightly deserves. Our hope is that winning the Prize will help guarantee Preti’s long-term future as an author, as we’re sure it will be bright.”

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