Sally Rooney has been awarded The 2017 Sunday Times/Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award, in association with the University of Warwick for her fearless, sensual novel Conversations With Friends (Faber & Faber), at a special ceremony in The London Library on the evening of Thursday, 7th December.
Acclaimed as a remarkably fresh, clever and self-assured novel, Conversations With Friends has been one of the biggest debuts of 2017, and Rooney’s writing has been compared with that of JD Salinger and Bret Easton Ellis. 26-year-old Rooney, born in the west of Ireland and now living in Dublin, is the first Irish winner of this prestigious award, founded in 1991, and joint youngest winner with Zadie Smith (White Teeth, 2001).
The intimate story of high-risk relationships, youth and love was shortlisted for the award alongside four other writers, rather than the usual three, as a testament to the strength of submissions this year. Featuring two other novels, a collection of linked short stories and a biography, the shortlist showcased the extraordinary breadth of young British and Irish writing: Minoo Dinshaw’s debut Outlandish Knight is the biography of the great and strange British historian Steven Runciman; with The End of the Day, Claire North has written a novel of life, death and everything in between; The Lucky Ones, Julianne Pachico’s debut collection of stories, mostly set in Columbia, brings together the fates of guerrilla soldiers, rich kids, rabbits and drug dealers; and The Lauras by Sara Taylor, whose first novel was shortlisted for the award in 2015, explores identity and relationships, set against a rolling backdrop of the North American landscape.
This year’s prize was judged by the award-winning novelist and political commentator Elif Shafak and the acclaimed cultural historian and biographer Lucy Hughes-Hallett alongside The Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate, who said: ‘Choosing this year's winner from five such outstanding writers was immensely difficult, but for line by line quality, emotional complexity, sly sophistication and sheer brio and enjoyment, Sally Rooney's Conversations ith Friends really stood out. To have produced a novel which nods all the way back to Jane Austen's Emma, while being so thoroughly modern in feel, is quite something, and Rooney proves herself with this debut to be a really worthy addition to the
extraordinary list of past winners of the Young Writer Award.’