31 May 2013

Overall Winner for the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize

The overall winner of the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize was announced at the Hay Festival, in Hay-on-Wye, UK, on 31 May 2013, and the award presented by John le Carre.

Commenting on the winners, chair of the Commonwealth Book Prize, Godfrey Smith said, “The Death of Bees emerged the overall winner virtually by acclamation. This coming-of-age novel opens – shockingly and ambitiously – with two juvenile sisters, Marnie and Nelly, who bury their parents in their back garden. The daringly ambitious opening is fully realised however. Readers will be mesmerised by the narrative that innovatively unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Marnie, Nelly and their nosy neighbour, Lennie.  It is at once a grim, dark, entertaining story about gnawing emotional neglect in the lives of the young protagonists as they struggle to keep their deadly secret literally from being unearthed. The Death of Bees is effortlessly fresh and original; it is fiction that provokes and shocks; it is innovative in its narrative style and told in a natural convincing voice, maintaining the high standards of the Commonwealth Book Prize.”


Lisa O’Donnell (United Kingdom)

The Death of Bees 

William Heinemann

LISA O’DONNELL won the Orange Screenwriting Prize in 2000 for her screenplay The Wedding Gift. Recently she took a break from screenwriting when she moved to LA with her two children. Her debut novel, The Death of Bees was published in 2012.

“I am incredibly proud to have won the Commonwealth Book Prize, I want to say I don’t have words to describe my joy right now, but I’m writer and I’m supposed to have plenty. It’s a huge leap for me in what seemed an impossible step. The prodigious voices I stood beside overwhelms me, so many towering stories out there. Thank you to the Commonwealth Judges for their vote of confidence my gratitude is immeasurable.” 

Two young sisters attempt to hold the world at bay after the mysterious death of their parents.

Marnie and her little sister Nelly are on their own now. Only they know what happened to their parents, and they aren’t telling. While life in Glasgow’s Hazlehurst housing estate isn’t grand, they do have each other. Besides, it’s only one year until Marnie will be considered an adult and can legally take care of them both. As the new year comes and goes, Lennie, the old man next door, realizes that his young neighbours are alone and need his help. Or does he need theirs?

But he’s not the only one who suspects something isn’t right. Soon, the sisters’ friends, their other neighbours, the authorities, and even a nosy drug dealer begin to ask questions. As one lie leads to another, dark secrets about the girls’ family surface, creating complications that threaten to tear them apart. 

Commonwealth Writers interviewed Lisa on the day.

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