Sarah Brooks takes 2019 prize with her novel The Cautious Traveller’s Guide to the Wastelands
Brook's novel came top of a shortlist of seven novels, itself selected from a total of over 600 entries, a record for the prize.
The judging panel was chaired by journalist and author Allison Pearson; also judging were Jackie Ashley, political journalist, broadcaster and Honorary Fellow of the College (after leaving the College as its eight president), Katy Loftus (editorial director at Viking), literary agent Nelle Andrew from sponsor PFD, editor and ghost-writer Gillian Stern, Emeritus Fellow Lindsey Traub and poet, crime writer and Honorary Fellow, Sophie Hannah.
Brooks (pictured) completed her PhD on seventeenth century Chinese ghost stories, and now works in East Asian Studies at the University of Leeds. She attended the Clarion West Writers' Workshop in 2012, and has had stories published in magazines including Interzone, Strange Horizons, and Strix.
She won the 2017 Bare Fiction Short Story Prize, and the Walter Swan Short Story Prize 2017-18. She is a member of the Leeds Writers' Circle and the Northern Short Story Festival Academy and is co-editor of Samovar, a bilingual online magazine of translated speculative fiction.
Pearson said: "2019 has been another phenomenal year for the Lucy Cavendish Prize with a record number of entries from every genre. It is now the premier prize in the UK for unpublished women’s fiction. Agents and publishers pounce on the long list, which is a huge testament to the quality of the talent that the Lucy uncovers. We had seven fabulous authors on this year’s shortlist. Nearly all of them have already secured representation as a result of the fruitful partnership between Lucy Cavendish College and PFD.
"This year’s winner, The Cautious Traveller’s Guide to the Wastelands, is a remarkable and magical book which blew away the judges with its maturity and originality. We feel confident that Sarah Brooks is another literary star in the making."
Now in its ninth year, the Fiction Prize has developed a reputation for uncovering new talent. Gail Honeyman was shortlisted in 2014; Catherine Chanter (2013 Winner) published The Well in 2015, selected as a favourite by The Richard and Judy Book Club, and more recently The Half Sister; Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott released Swan Song last year and it was chosen as a Times ‘Book of the Year’ and has just been longlisted for the Womens’ Prize; Laura Marshall (2016 Shortlist) reached the Sunday Times Top 10 list with her first novel Friend Request and Claire Askew (2016 Winner) has recently published All The Hidden Truths, which was chosen as ‘Book of the Month’ in September 2018 by The Times.