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Meet the 10 best new novelists for 2023

Our annual pick of the best debut authors has previously included Sally Rooney and Douglas Stuart. Here we talk to this year’s hottest prospects For the 10th year running, here’s the Observer New Review’s annual pick of debut novels we reckon you won’t want to miss. No one could accuse us of failing to read the runes last time out, when our selection included Bonnie Garmus’s gazillion-selling Lessons in Chemistry, Louise Kennedy’s Trespasses – the title most frequently cited as the best book of 2022, according to industry magazine The Bookseller – and Sheena Patel’s I’m a Fan, another favourite, proclaimed “book of the summer” by the Evening Standard and “the summer’s slow-burning must-read” by the Sunday Times.

Far be it from us to say you saw it here first. Patel, who signed with the tiny indie press Rough Trade Books when “no one else was listening”, now says: “I was coming from so far outside the publishing world; the industry felt very remote and extremely closed. No one knew about I’m a Fan, which was basically DIY; that list, which everyone pays attention to, legitimised a book that didn’t have the machine behind it.”

That’s one job of lists like this, and it’s part of why we spend every autumn hawk-eyed over publishing schedules and trade announcements, buried in bind-up copies and PDFs in our quest for literary gold. But the only thing that ever counts is what is on the page: outsider or insider, if we think you’re bringing out a great first novel (and you’re in the UK or Ireland), a place on the list is yours. The class of 2023 includes a writer on an Emmy-winning Netflix show and a book publicist with a 20-year career at the heart of the trade.

We’ve ushered nearly 80 authors into the spotlight since 2014, from Sally Rooney to Douglas Stuart – one of only 20 men ever to have made the cut, incidentally. (We’ve got five more men this year – for anyone wondering “where are the new male hotshot novelists?”, as one newspaper asked a couple of years ago, you can call off the search.) In 2017 we questioned the scarcity of eligible black and minority ethnic writers; that’s changed, yet you may still wish to consider – as one of our current picks does – whether class limits opportunity (it would hardly be a shock if it did, given a recent Glasgow University study found that median author income has sunk to £7,000).

But while arguments can and should rage, let’s toast the craft and graft of another 10 outstanding new writers whose subjects and styles are as diverse as their paths into print, which happen to involve Stormzy in one case and the renowned London Review of Books editor Mary-Kay Wilmers in another. From the turmoil of same-sex desire in Victorian England to the funny side of getting divorced in your 20s; from the trials of manhood in recession-hit Belfast to a genre-bending coming-of-age saga from Nigeria by way of Norwich: all are among the sundry riches to be found here. Whether historical or autobiographical, intimate or epic, comic or tragic or all of the above – not least in the case of one frankly uncategorisable novel about nothing less than the end of the world – here’s to yet another year of excellent reading. Anthony Cummins We are going through a very difficult time in Nigerian history. Everything is crumbling I was desperate to get this book out of my head Continue reading...

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