Goldsmiths lecturer's Golden Hill wins Costa First Novel Award

Primary page content

A book by first-time novelist and Goldsmiths, University of London Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing Francis Spufford has been awarded the Costa First Novel Award 2016.

Judges for the prize, which was announced on Tuesday 3rd January 2017, described the book as “a captivating and dazzlingly original tale that heralds a bold, invigorating new voice in fiction."

As the winner of his category, Francis is now in the running for the Costa Book of the Year – awarded on the 31st January.

Golden Hill (Faber & Faber) has been described by the Guardian as “splendidly entertaining” and a “frolicsome first novel”. Set in mid-18th century Manhattan, the book follows a young man from London, Mr Smith, after his arrival in New York with an enormous sum of money.

The book was selected for the £5,000 prize from a shortlist of 114 debut novels, and will now go up against four other titles for the Costa Book of the Year award.

Quoted in the Cambridge News, Francis explained that the novel originally began life as an idea for a history book.

“I read one sentence of a history book saying New York beat England at cricket in 1752, and I thought why don’t the Americans still play cricket? Why are they the only ex-British colony not to keep it up?” he said.

“I thought you could write a whole history about how they split, but I don’t know very much about baseball or cricket, but then I realised there was a wider story here.”

"I read a lot of fiction and I have been teaching writing for nearly 10 years, so I thought I should take my own confident advice. I was always writing non-fiction books that had a story somewhere near the front of them, I’ve always wanted to tell stories."

“I am still fundamentally gobsmacked to have won, since I am very old as first-time novelists go. I am a hardened old writer, but a nervous novice when it comes to writing fiction. My ambitions were just I should not make a fool of myself, so I think I have achieved that now!”

Born in 1964, Francis Spufford is a former Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year (1997) and the author of five highly-praised books of non-fiction.

The first, I May Be Some Time, won three literary prizes, and helped create a small new academic field dedicated to the cultural history of Antarctica.

He has been longlisted or shortlisted for prizes in science writing, historical writing, political writing, theological writing and writing ‘evoking the spirit of place’.

In 2007 Francis was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He supervises Creative Writing PhD candidates in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths, and teaches on the MA Creative and Life Writing.

Find out more about the MA Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths