February 22, 2019

Lisa O’Donnell wins The Commonwealth Book Prize for The Death of Bees

Lisa O’Donnell’s debut novel The Death of Bees has been awarded this year’s Commonwealth Book Prize. The short story prize has been won by Sharon Millar for The Whale House and Eliza Robertson for We Walked on Water. The awards were presented by John le Carré at Hay Festival in Wales.

These prizes unearth, develop and promote the best new writing from across the Commonwealth, developing literary connections worldwide. The three female winners of this year’s prizes have written stories set in Trinidad and Tobago, British Columbia and Glasgow’s Hazlehurst estate – a diverse range of geographies and backgrounds that reflects the global nature of the accolade.

Godfrey Smith, Chair of the Commonwealth Book Prize said “The Death of Bees emerged the overall winner virtually by acclamation. This coming-of- age novel is at once a grim, dark, entertaining story about gnawing emotional neglect in the lives of the young protagonists as they struggle to keep their deadly secret from being unearthed. The Death of Bees is effortlessly fresh and original; it is fiction that provokes and shocks; it is innovative in its narrative style and told in a natural convincing voice, maintaining the high standards of the Commonwealth Book Prize.” Lisa O’Donnell said she was incredibly proud to have won. She added, “It’s a huge leap for me in what seemed an impossible step. The prodigious voices I stood beside overwhelm me, so many towering stories out there.”

The short story prize had to be divided between two winners. Razia Iqbal, Chair of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize commented , “It was impossible to decide between them, though each one is quite distinctly different from the other. Both fulfilled our criteria of excellence in style, originality and tone. The Whale House, by Sharon Millar, has lush descriptions of landscapes as well as emotion. It is striking how even minor characters are drawn vividly in quick, tightly written strokes. We Walked on Water, by Eliza Robertson, is an exhilarating story about the relationship between a brother and sister, both competitive swimmers. The descriptive writing is nothing short of strikingly beautiful, in terms of emotions felt, the natural environment and the structure. Both these stories stay in the imagination and the heart, long after they have been read.”

Read The Death of Bees

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