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Middlesbrough debut novelist lands £10K Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award

Middlesbrough debut novelist and journalist Tom Crewe was named winner of the £10,000 Sunday Times Charlotte Aitken Young Writer of the Year Award during a ceremony at Canova Hall in Brixton this evening (Tuesday, March 19).

Crewe, an editor at the London Review of Books, won the prize for The New Life (Chatto & Windus / Vintage), a novel described by judge James McConnachie as “thrillingly intimate” and “a compassionate and tenderly sensual account of masculine sexuality.”

The story takes place in London in 1894: The Oscar Wilde trial is igniting public outcry, and everything John and Henry have longed for is suddenly under threat. United by a shared vision, the two begin work on a revolutionary book arguing for the legalisation of homosexuality.

The New Life previously picked up the 2023 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction and the South Bank Sky Arts Award for Literature, and was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize.

Chair of judges and Chief Literary Critic for The Times and Sunday Times, Johanna Thomas-Corr, said: ‘Sometimes a debut novel comes along that feels like an immediate classic- a book that you suddenly can’t imagine not existing. If you’ve read Tom Crewe’s bold and beautifully observed debut, The New Life, you’ll know that it is just such a book. He is a writer of rare promise.’

Author, critic and judge, James McConnachie, said: ‘Novelising history is always risky, especially if the topic is political, and The New Life definitely has a polemical understory: it conjures and celebrates the first, late-Victorian stirrings of the movement for gay rights and sexual freedom more generally. You share the suffering and yearning of his paired protagonists, and the risks under which they laboured. Most of all, though, this is a compassionate and tenderly sensual account of masculine sexuality – a subject that does not always get the most sympathetic treatment. A shockingly good debut, and an argument in itself for the value of fiction.’

For over 30 years, the most influential prize for young writers in the UK and Ireland has been a definitive indicator of rising literary talent. Crewe now joins recent winners Cal Flyn, Jay Bernard, Raymond Antrobus, Adam Weymouth, Sally Rooney, Max Porter and Sarah Howe. The prize has spotted and supported an exceptional line-up of defining new voices since returning from a seven-year break in 2015. Its early alumni is a who’s who of the best in British and Irish writing, from Robert Macfarlane to Zadie Smith, Sarah Waters, Naomi Alderman and Simon Armitage.

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