An academic from Goldsmiths, University of London has won the 2017 Desmond Elliott First Novel Prize.
Francis Spufford, a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, was recognised for 'Golden Hill' which judges described as ‘miraculously constructed’.
Written in mock 18th century prose, it tells the story of young protagonist Richard Smith and his adventures in New York.
A man with a knack for languages and an order for £1,000 in his pocket, he encounters thieves, thespians, lawyers and slaves on his journey.
The novel was selected from a shortlist which also featured ‘My Name is Leon’ by Kit de Waal, and ‘Harmless Like You’ by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan.
Spectator Literary Editor, Sam Leith, who chaired the judging panel said: ‘This book is at once so entertaining, exquisitely wrought and moving that it stands among not just the best first novels of the year, but the best novels of this or any year’.
Golden Hill is Spufford’s first work of fiction, having previously written four successful nonfiction titles including the Orwell-Prize nominated Red Plenty – a focus on the USSR under Nikita Krushchev.
He has already won the 2016 Costa first novel prize, and the Ondaatje prize for Golden Hill, and is a finalist for the Independent Bookshop Week Book Award and Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award.