Slightly Foxed and The Biographers’ Club are delighted to announce the shortlist for the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 2020.
The prize of £2,500 will be awarded on Tuesday 9 March with an online prize-giving celebration.
Heather Clark, Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath (Jonathan Cape)
As well as offering illuminating readings of Plath’s poems, this meticulous, compassionate life employs new material to bring us closer than ever to the spirited woman and visionary artist who blazed a trail for women poets the world over.
Hadley Freeman, House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family (4th Estate)
Freeman’s richly researched and beautifully written story of the origins of her scattered family, from their shtetl in Poland to Paris and Long Island, is suffused with loss and longing and questions about the force of circumstance and identity.
Sudhir Hazareesingh, Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture (Allen Lane)
A gripping biography of the military mastermind and leader of the slave revolt that led to Haiti’s independence. No eighteenth-century figure can have led a more extraordinary life, born into slavery and dying a leader of men and martyr of freedom.
Shelley Klein, The See-Through House: My Father in Full Colour (Chatto & Windus)
Klein’s memoir of her father Bernat, a celebrated textile designer, and of the glass house that he built in which to bring up his family, is funny, nuanced and disarmingly honest. It is a tender farewell to an architectural wonder and to the gifted, complicated man who created it.
Jonathan Lichtenstein, The Berlin Shadow: Living with the Ghosts of the Kindertransport (Scribner)
Lichtenstein retraces his father Hans’s journey from Berlin as a child refugee – and documents their return many decades later. This is a deeply moving memoir in three timeframes that confronts the defining trauma of the twentieth century and its effects on a father and son.
The judges for the 2020 prize are Rupert Christiansen, Selina Hastings and Alexander Masters.
Rupert Christiansen is the former arts and opera critic of the Daily Telegraph, and author of twelve books, including a biography of Arthur Hugh Clough. His memoir I Know You’re Going to be Happy won Spear’s Memoir of the Year prize in 2013.
Selina Hastings is a journalist and biographer of Nancy Mitford, Evelyn Waugh, Rosamond Lehmann, Somerset Maugham and Sybille Bedford. In 2011 she received the Biographers’ Club Lifetime Achievement Award.
Alexander Masters is an author whose works include Stuart, A Life Backwards, The Genius in My Basement and A Life Discarded. He was the recipient of the Biographers’ Club Exceptional Contribution to Biography Award in 2021.
For any further information on the prize, the shortlisted books or to arrange interviews with the authors, please contact Stephanie Allen / Hattie Summers: [email protected]/ 020 7033 0258