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Francis Spufford's first book, I May Be Some Time: Ice and the English Imagination, was awarded the Writers Guild Award for Best Non-Fiction Book of 1996 and a Somerset Maugham Award. His second book, The Child that Books Built was described as ' witty, compelling and elegant' by the New Statesman. His third book, Backroom Boys, was called a ' beautifully written book' by the Daily Telegraph and was shortlisted for the Aventis Prize and longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. He lives in Cambridge.
Author photo © Burt Koetsier
Winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize 2017. Inventively entertaining, niftily plotted first novel set in New York during the city’s effervescent infancy. It’s 1746 and a young man by the name of Smith arrives in New York from London with an order for £1000. He takes it to a Lovell, a banker based on Golden Hill Street, in order to have it cashed. “Lord love us,” Lovell exclaims at the sight of so large an amount. “This is a bill for a thousand pound”. Speculation is duly aroused: what on earth is Smith planning to do with such a quantity of cash? And what’s his purpose in the city? But Smith emerges from the counting house as “a young man with money in his pocket, new-fallen to land in a strange city on the world’s farther face”. The depiction of place is gratifyingly sensory. New York and its citizens are vibrantly evoked, from the “perfumes of hot bread and well-ground beans” on Smith’s morning meanderings, to the “African footmen with wigs powdered to the colour of icing-sugar” he sights in a church congregation.While the puzzle at the heart of the novel is not revealed until the very last pages, the plentiful and nimbly executed plot twists provide much satisfaction throughout. Part mystery, part homage to eighteenth century literature, this is an exuberant literary delight with all the readability of a page-turner. ~ Joanne Owen Winner of the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2017 | Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2017 | Shortlisted for The Authors' Club Best First Novel Award 2017 | Winner of the Costa First Novel Award 2016. The Walter Scott Prize Judges said:‘Pre-revolutionary New York, and a stranger arrives in town, where he finds a ferment of social jostling, politics and money that invites adventure. A great, unruly city is being born. Francis Spufford creates a world that is hypnotic and believable, brought to life in sparkling prose and pitch-perfect dialogue, and tells a gripping story that's full of tension and surprise, with characters who live on after the book is closed. His non-fiction writing has been much-admired. This first novel is an astonishing achievement because his novelist's voice is already enticing, rich and mature. An eighteenth-century treat.’ Costa judges' comment: “This spirited, wonderfully witty novel sets sparkling characters and a lively plot against a richly-realised backdrop.”
The Soviet Union was founded on a fairytale. It was built on 20th-century magic called 'the planned economy', which was going to gush forth an abundance of good things that the penny-pinching lands of capitalism could never match. And just for a little while, in the heady years of the late 1950s, the magic seemed to be working. Red Plenty is about that moment in history, and how it came, and how it went away; about the brief era when, under the rash leadership of Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Union looked forward to a future of rich communists and envious capitalists, when Moscow would out-glitter Manhattan, every Lada would be better engineered than a Porsche and sputniks would lead the way to the stars. And it's about the scientists who did their genuinely brilliant best to make the dream come true, to give the tyranny its happy ending.