Commonwealth Book Prize 2012: Regional Winners - large image
21 May 2012

Commonwealth Book Prize 2012: Regional Winners


The Dubious Salvation of Jack V, Jacques Strauss (South Africa), Jonathan Cape

“I was completely gobsmacked to be shortlisted so I can’t really describe how surprised and happy I am to have won. I’m not the most impartial person in the world, but I love books about Africa – which is why I have always followed the Commonwealth prize. It’s introduced me to so many books and authors I would otherwise not have known about. It’s a strange, dark and amazing place that gives you stories from Conrad and Achebe and I think there are millions more stories to tell. I hope this prize means I can add a further story or two of my own.”

Jacques Strauss is a 30 year old South African. He studied philosophy at university, obsessed over Derrida and now writes reams of corporate copy for a London firm.



Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, Shehan Karunatilaka (Sri Lanka), Random House India

‘When I wrote Chinaman I didn’t expect anyone outside of Colombo to get it. So I wrote it as if I was speaking to one person, someone who didn’t live that far from where I was sitting. It’s been a crazy ride watching the book pick up fans across Asia, Africa and Europe. And witness readers who have no interest in cricket or Sri Lanka responding to the book.  I’m very surprised and very grateful.’

Shehan Karunatilaka is an author of Sri Lankan origin and has written advertisements, rock songs, travel stories, and basslines. 


Sweetheart, Alecia McKenzie (Jamaica), Peepal Tree Press

“I feel honoured and humbled that Sweetheart has won the Commonwealth Book Prize for the Caribbean region. I sincerely thank the judges, my publisher Peepal Tree Press, and my supportive family and friends. Sweetheart was born of love and grief, and winning this award feels like an affirmation of art, affection, family ties, friendship and individuality. I dedicate the prize to my mother, who was a wonderful storyteller; to my sister, who taught me to read and love books; to my fellow writers, who have produced such inspiring work; to G, D and J of course; and to my much-loved homeland Jamaica, which is celebrating 50 years of independence this year.”

Alecia McKenzie was born in Kingston, Jamaica. She started writing while at high school, and her poems were published in local newspapers The Gleaner and The Star. She is the author of two novellas for children, and two collections of short stories, including Stories from Yard, Peepal Tree Press, 2005. Her first collection of short stories, Satellite City, won the regional Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book. Her work has also appeared in literary magazines and various anthologies such as Stories from Blue Latitudes, Global Tales and the first Girls’ Night In. Sweetheart is her first novel.



Me and Mr Booker, Cory Taylor (Australia), The Text Publishing Company

“To have this kind of recognition for your work is exciting for any writer, given that writing is so much about confidence in the worth of what you’re trying to do. And to be recognized out of a field of such quality and diversity is especially thrilling. It gives me a special sense of connection to new writers from all over the world. Somehow the imperative to tell stories seems less isolating and more like a communal undertaking. So thank you to the Commonwealth Book Prize for bringing us together in this fantastic way and for drawing attention to so much great work.”

Cory Taylor is an award-winning screenwriter who has also published short fiction and children’s books. She lives in Brisbane. ME AND MR BOOKER is her first novel.



The Town that Drowned, Riel Nason (Canada), Goose Lane Editions

“After my four-year-old daughter gave me several kisses and I explained to her why I was so simultaneously excited and seemingly upset, I calmed down a little and just thought Wow — unbelievable.  This is so, so wonderful.  I am absolutely beyond thrilled and honoured that The Town That Drowned was chosen as the regional winner for Canada and Europe.  Thank you so much to the Commonwealth Book Prize.”

Riel Nason lives in Quispamsis, NB with her husband and two young children.  Her short fiction has appeared in literary journals across Canada including The Malahat Review, Grain and The Antigonish Review.  In 2005 she was awarded the David Adams Richards Prize from the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick. She has also written many non-fiction articles on the topic of antiques and collectibles, including a long-time column in New Brunswick’s Telegraph-Journal. The Town that Drowned is her first novel. Riel maintains a website at


Click here for more information about the Commonwealth Book Prize.

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