As I announced in this post the winner of the Goldsmith Prize was Ali Smith for How To Be Both. But did it deserve the 10,000 pounds?
Before I answer this momentous question, here’s a refresher of the books that were nominated:
Outline by Rachel Cusk (Faber & Faber)
The Absent Therapist by Will Eaves (CB Editions)
J by Howard Jacobson (Jonathan Cape) – read but not reviewed
The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth (Unbound)
In The Light Of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman (Picador)
How To Be Both by Ali Smith (Penguin) – read but not reviewed
With all six novels under the reading belt, I can confidently say that the judges chose correctly. How To Be Both, with its interlinked-you-can-read-them-in-any-order novellas, is not only innovative (though not necessarily original) it’s also an engaging and very human book. It has a fantastical element which means it deserves genre attention… but probably won’t get it. Not that it matters. The book has now won two awards (including the Saltire Society Literary Award) and was nominated for the Man Booker and the Costa. We won’t find out if it won the Costa until 2015, but frankly it’s easily the best book on that shortlist (I say this having now read the four nominees).
But as my reviews indicate, this is a damn good shortlist. I think the Goldsmith Prize judges have done an excellent job in finding books that – as the website says – celebrate the qualities of creative daring while also being accessible and engaging. Will Eaves’ book – most definitely not a novel – is the most experimental of the bunch, but it’s also amazingly readable.
Awards like the Goldsmith really excite me because they both challenge my own prejudices (thank you very much Mr Kingsnorth) while also showing that the novel, as an art form, is very much alive.
So well done to Ali Smith and the other nominees. If you’re interested in smart, playful, slippery fiction you should give this shortlist a go.