Entertainment & Arts

Akhil Sharma wins Folio book prize

Akhil Sharma Image copyright PA
Image caption Family Life is Akhil Sharma's second novel and blurs the boundaries between memoir and fiction

A family saga that took 13 years to write and publish has won the second annual Folio literary prize.

Akhil Sharma beat Irish novelist Colm Toibin and Scottish writer Ali Smith to the £40,000 prize for his book, Family Life.

The judges described the winning book as "a masterful novel of distilled complexity".

Indian-born Sharma picked up his award at a ceremony at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in central London.

Family Life, his second novel, tells the story of a family's journey from India to a new life in the United States. It was selected by the New York Times as one of its Top Ten Books for 2014.

Sharma, 43, was born in Delhi and emigrated to the US in 1979.

Announcing the winner, chair of judges, William Fiennes said: "From a shortlist of which we are enormously proud, Akhil Sharma's lucid, compassionate, quietly funny account of one family's life across continents and cultures, emerged as our winner.

"Family Life is a masterful novel of distilled complexity: about catastrophe and survival; attachment and independence; the tension between selfishness and responsibility. We loved its deceptive simplicity and rare warmth.

"More than a decade in the writing, this is a work of art that expands with each re-reading and a novel that will endure."

The other judges were writers Rachel Cooke, Mohsin Hamid, AM Homes and Deborah Levy.

The £40,000 prize is open to English-language writers from around the world. The inaugural Folio Prize was won last year by Tenth of December, a short story collection by American writer George Saunders.

This year's shortlisted titles were:

  • 10:04 by Ben Lerner (Granta)
  • All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews (Faber)
  • Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill (Granta)
  • Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Granta)
  • Family Life by Akhil Sharma (Faber)
  • How to Be Both by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Nora Webster by Colm Toibin (Viking)
  • Outline by Rachel Cusk (Faber)

Smith's How to Be Both was also shortlisted for the Man Booker and won the Costa novel award and Goldsmiths Prize for original fiction.

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