Here’s the second part of our look back at the biggest booky events of 2013…
“I am officially Very Poorly.”
April began with Iain Banks‘ announcement that he was suffering from cancer; The Quarry would be his last novel. He signed off the statement on his website by saying “We’re all just sorry the outcome hasn’t been more cheerful.”
International Children’s Day announced the results of its polls to find our favourite children’s character – which Harry Potter beat the Gruffalo to – and author, which we were pleased to see Roald Dahl win.
There were more lists announced – from the Women’s Prize for Fiction (née Orange), to The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Award - but Granta’s Best Young British Novelists 4 stole the show. Thirty years since the inaugural selection that launched the careers of household names like Kazuo Ishiguro, Pat Barker and Julian Barnes, twenty British novelists under forty were brought together in the definitive list of writers to watch. Perhaps they might one day even make it onto the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world – as Hilary Mantel and George Saunders managed on the 19th of April.
Speculation surrounded the question of who exactly would direct the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, but there was also the news that Roddy Doyle‘s The Commitments and, less obviously perhaps, Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho would be coming to the West End stage.
Elsewhere, a poem manuscript written by a thirteen year-old Charlotte Brontë sold for £92,000 at auction – despite being just 3 inches square – and, not to be out-done by the London Marathon, author Ben Kane set out to walk Hadrian’s Wall - in full Roman military kit.
And then, just when we thought the month was done with us, a new novel from John le Carré arrived…
We declared the month of May “Maytilda“ in honour of the perennial children’s favourite by Roald Dahl and our new partnership with the Children’s Reading Fund. We also chose May to launch our campaign (for older readers) to discover what books have impacted our lives.
In the wider world, there were some darker goings on however, when Charlaine Harris received death threats after a leaked copy of her final Sookie Stackhouse novel met with vitriol from “fans” who didn’t like her chosen conclusion. Hanif Kureishi had a miserable May too - losing his life savings to suspected fraud.
As Dan Brown‘s latest thriller Inferno became the first true blockbuster release of the year, John Grisham thrilled his fans with the announcement of a sequel to his 1988 bestseller A Time to Kill entitled Sycamore Row.
Meanwhile, at the less scary end of the market – the title of the new Bridget Jones book was announced and Matt Haig shared thirty thoughts on writing. Baz Luhrmann‘s adaptation of The Great Gatsby hit the cinemas – and the critics hit back. Meanwhile, in Cannes, the success of Blue is The Warmest Colour had publishers hurrying to get the English version of the graphic novel that the film was based on printed and into shops.
Though not quite as sunny as Cannes, the literary world decamped to Hay-on-Wye at the end of the month for the Hay Festival – with appearances from newly crowned award winners Howard Jacobson and Lydia Davis, and the announcement of the inaugural Pushkin House Russian Book Prize, with a win for Douglas Smith.
Malorie Blackman was named as Julia Donaldson‘s successor and the eighth Waterstones Children’s Laureate. She said she hoped to “instil in every child I meet my love and enthusiasm for reading and stories.”
There were other new beginnings to salute, with the announcement of the Women’s Prize for Fiction’s new sponsor – Baileys. So, for the last time, glasses of plain old bubbly were raised to toast the winner of 2013′s award – A.M. Holmes.
There was another name change – if only a temporary one- as Portsmouth City Council decided to rename a road in the city to the title of the latest novel by local boy Neil Gaiman. Not a catchy address, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”, but no doubt one which became very much in demand for a time.
Meanwhile, Tan Twan Eng added the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction to his collection of awards; Kevin Barry won the IMPAC Award for City of Bohane – his debut novel; and Mervyn King ignited a debate over whether Jane Austen could be the new face of the £10 note…
But June also took away some of our most cherished authors: whilst Tom Sharpe and Richard Matheson passed away in their late 80s, Iain Banks succumbed to his cancer at just 59.
Dan Lewis & Kerry Meech
Our Review of the Year continues next Saturday
Let us know what your bookish highlights of 2013 were in the comments below…