Claudia Renton wins 2014 Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize
The winner of the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 2014 (£3,500) is Claudia Renton, for THOSE WILD WYNDHAMS: THREE SISTERS AT THE HEART OF POWER (Collins).
Lucy Hughes-Hallett, who judged the Prize with Jane Ridley and Anthony Sattin, said: "Claudia Renton chose a richly interesting subject and in Those Wild Wyndhams she has done it proud. Mary, Madeline and Pamela Wyndham's connections – familial, sexual and social – place them at the heart of a Britain which was brought to an end by the First World War. Through their love affairs and marriages, their house-parties and their patronage, the three sisters dominated a milieu where high society, high finance, politics and the arts were interconnected. Biography has been called the "higher gossip" - this book, ingeniously structured and written with fluency and wit, demonstrates how enjoyable, and how historically illuminating, high gossip can be."
Claudia Renton gained a First at Oxford and was awarded the Gibbs Book Prize for Modern History. Now a practising barrister, she has also enjoyed a career as an actress, appearing with the RSC and at the National Theatre. She is co-author of Heroes with Simon Sebag Montefiore and was identified as one of the Guardian’s ‘new history girls’ and one of Vogue’s ‘Bright Stars’ of the next decade. She lives in London.
The complete shortlist for the Prize was:
- FAISAL I OF IRAQ, Ali A Allawi (Yale)
- HER BRILLIANT CAREER: TEN EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN OF THE FIFTIES, Rachel Cooke (Virago)
- DO NO HARM: STORIES OF LIFE, DEATH AND BRAIN SURGERY, Henry Marsh (Weidenfeld)
- WELLINGTON: THE PATH TO VICTORY, Rory Muir (Yale)
- THOSE WILD WYNDHAMS: THREE SISTERS AT THE HEART OF POWER, Claudia Renton (Collins)
This is the first year of sponsorship of the Prize by Slightly Foxed, the literary quarterly. For further information, go to www.foxedquarterly.com.
Photo: Claudia Renton (centre) with (from left) Anthony Sattin, Gail Pirkis of Slightly Foxed, Lucy Hughes-Hallett, and Jane Ridley.
The HW Fisher Biography Prize 2013
The winner of the HW Fisher Best First Biography Prize (£5,000) is Charles Moore, for MARGARET THATCHER: NOT FOR TURNING (Allen Lane), volume 1 of his authorised biography of the late Prime Minister. The judges named as runner-up Harriet Tuckey, for EVEREST: THE FIRST ASCENT (Ebury).
The complete shortlist was:
IN TWO MINDS: A BIOGRAPHY OF JONATHAN MILLER, Kate Bassett (Oberon)
COSMO LANG: ARCHBISHOP IN WAR AND CRISIS, Robert Beaken (I B Tauris)
THIS BOY, Alan Johnson (Bantam Press)
MARGARET THATCHER: NOT FOR TURNING, Charles Moore (Allen Lane)
TARANTULA'S WEB, John Smart (Michael Russell)
EVEREST: THE FIRST ASCENT, Harriet Tuckey (Rider/Ebury)
The judges were D.J.Taylor, whose subjects include George Orwell and W.M.Thackeray; Robert Collins, deputy literary editor of The Sunday Times; and Sally Cline, author of Radclyffe Hall: A Woman Called John and Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Voice in Paradise.
HW Fisher & Company, the generous sponsor, is a leading firm of chartered accountants and a specialist in consulting services to authors.
Sponsored by HW Fisher & Company
Authors and Journalists Team
020 7388 7000, www.hwfisher.co.uk
Previous winners: 2009 – Roland Chambers for The Last Englishman: The Double Life of Arthur Ransome (Faber); 2010 – Wendy Moffat for E.M. Forster: A New Life (Bloomsbury); 2011 – Matthew Hollis for Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas (Faber); 2012 – Thomas Penn for Winter King (Penguin).
* * *
The HW Fisher Best First Biography Prize 2012
From a total of 47 entries, the winner of this year’s £5,000 HW Fisher Best First Biography Prize is Thomas Penn for Winter King, published by Penguin. Speaking on behalf of the judges, David Sexton said: “Winter King is a masterful narrative of the reign of Henry VII, the monarch Shakespeare avoided and Francis Bacon called a ‘dark prince, and infinitely suspicious’. Thomas Penn tells the alarming story of this chilly monarch not just with impressive scholarship but with rare artistry, constantly switching perspectives and zooming in on details in a way that makes this biography read as compellingly as a great novel. It stands comparison with Hilary Mantel’s ongoing series of novels, which take up the story of the Tudors where Thomas Penn leaves off. Winter King is astoundingly assured for a first book.”
The shortlisted entrants were:
[Runner-up] Louise Miller – A Fine Brother: The Life of Captain Flora Sandes (Alma Books)
Ian Donaldson – Ben Jonson: A Life (OUP)
Joanna Hodgkin – Amateurs in Eden (Virago)
W. Sydney Robinson – Muckraker: The Scandalous Life and Times of W.T. Stead (Robson Press)
Tom Williams – A Mysterious Something in the Light: Raymond Chandler (Aurum)
2012 judges: Julie Kavanagh, whose subjects include Frederick Ashton and Rudolf Nureyev; David Sexton, literary editor of the Evening Standard; and Stephanie Williams, author of Hongkong Bank, Olga’s Story and Running the Show: Governors of the British Empire.
Our thanks to Richard Johnson, David Roberts and Alan Brooke for their immeasurable help in selecting the short list.
The Biographers’ Club Prize Dinner 2012 was held on 13 November at the Savile Club in London.