Text of Felicity’s speech:
“I love my job, I love reading and there are very few genres that I don’t read. On my own shelves you will find Margaret Atwood, Jilly Cooper, Jennifer Egan, Dick Francis, Susie Steiner, Hillary Mantel, Kate Atkinson and JK Rowling and many many more, you may or may not have heard of, all rubbing up against each other. Much thumbed, much loved, old friends.
Each author is brilliant in their own distinct way, each has a mastery of the English language that they spin to the beat of their own internal drum. They are individual and you don’t gain much by setting Cooper against Atwood or Francis against Atkinson. And so I confess judging a novel contest is something that can feel odd. To deem one book better than another, let alone the best of a group of five.
So what I want to underline is how phenomenal it is to have made it onto the longlist and shortlist of authors. In doing so you have run the gauntlet of the Bath Novel Award’s unseen army of readers and found favour with the majority if not all of them. What an incredible achievement.
But I’m here for a reason, barring the company. And in choosing a winner I returned to those aforementioned writers and thought not about what makes them different but what is universal amongst them. Each is a master storyteller. Each has proven that a great character can be a friend for life. Indeed our winner has created a main character who embodies hope, who strives and from a position at the bottom of a societal hierarchy has observed enough to make her wise beyond her years. She is captivating.
This is a book that looks at women’s roles, not from a soap box, but from the ground beside them. It is poignant but never saccharine, it is painful but never exploits that pain. It is beautiful because it is ultimately a song of kindnesses. The winning book is a book of many voices, heard and unheard. But ultimately it is about one girl and her ambition to find and own her voice, I am therefore delighted to announce that the winner of the Bath Novel Award 2018 is THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE by Abi Darè.