The Folio Prize announces shortlist of eight books

The book prize shortlist includes works by Ben Lerner, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor and Ali Smith

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The Folio Prize announces shortlist of eight books

credit: Sarah Wood

Now in its second year, The Folio Prize celebrates English language fiction. Entries are welcomed across all forms, genres and from authors from any country, resulting in a diverse collection of works. The original list of 80 books published in the UK in 2014 has been whittled down to just eight contenders, each vying for the £40,000 prize. This year's shortlist features authors from American, Canada, Scotland and Kenya. They differ massively in form and content but intriguingly several have writers as protagonists.

10:04 by Ben Lerner (Granta)
Avant-garde poet Ben Lerner's second novel follows a protagonist struggling to produce his second book while dealing with diagnose of Marfan syndrome. The work flickers between fiction and non-fiction as he builds a patchwork of fragmented stories.

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews (Faber)
Canadian author Miriam Toews seventh book explores the sisterly bond between rodeo romance author Yoli and classical pianist Elfrieda (Elf). Following the attempted suicide of the latter, the book finds dark humor in tragedy as it explores questions of death.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill (Granta)
15 years after her debut novel Last Things, Offill's second work scrutinises a claustrophobic modern marriage and the pressures of motherhood. A fractured text, with no named characters and switching perspectives, creates an atmosphere of panic and confused identity.

Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Granta)
African novelist Owuor follows the fate of the Oganda family. Set in the wider context of Kenya's violent political history of uprisings and political assassination, it is told with emotional intensity in beautiful raw prose.

Family Life by Akhil Sharma (Faber)
Indian-American writer Sharma's second novel follows a poor family's migration from Delhi to the US. Told from the perspective of the youngest son Ajay, the novel goes beyond an examination of the American dream to explore misplaced guilt, emotional violence and the complexity of the nuclear family.

How To Be Both by Ali Smith
The Scottish author's sixth novel has already received a slew of awards; winner of the Costa Novel Award, the Saltire Society Literary Book of the Year Award and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In How To Be Both, Smith tells two completely different but deceptively similar parable-laden tales. Two versions of the novel are available so neither story is technically 'first'.

Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín (Viking)
Irish writer Tóibín's latest novel takes an in-depth look at grief as a mother of four comes to terms with her husband's death. Set in small town Ireland in the 60s, the novel mixes the personal with the bigger political themes of the day in a subtle work focused on small daily incidents as opposed to climatic scenes.

Outline by Rachel Cusk (Faber)
Cusk's eighth novel is about a divorced author teaching a writing course in Athens who listens as opposed to talks. Told through one-sided conversations, it continues to explore themes well trod by Cusk in her previous work; marriage, love and success.

The winning title will be announced on Mon 23 Mar following the Folio Prize Fiction Festival.

The Folio Prize Fiction Festival

Featuring some of the world's leading literary figures in addition to the shortlisted authors, the three festival opens with a new initiative for 2015: The Folio Society Lecture, delivered by internationally acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

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