Five incredible novels are nominated for Book of the Year 2020
Five incredible novels are nominated for Book of the Year 2020

As The Female First Awards 2020 continue, what would we be without celebrating some of the finest novels of the past 12 months? Authors of all backgrounds have been putting out incredible pieces of literature, keeping us entertained throughout some of the most unpredictable, confusing and frankly scary months in modern history.

For many of us, a great new book has been a lifeline, allowing us an escape from the strange goings on of the real world, if just for a few hours.

With all of that in mind, here are our five nominees and winner of Book of the Year

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Matt Haig almost feels like the British Stephen King. He’s not pumping out horror novels time after time, but every time we check him out, he’s got another book on the way. Such are his talents in writing, that they continue to be some of the most inventive and unique stories ever told.

The Midnight Library tells the story of a young woman who is so fed up of life, she decides to take matters into her own hands and end it all. Before she passes away however, she is sent to a realm where all of the other paths she may have taken in life are detailed in book form. She gets an opportunity to try out some of the lives she thinks would have been a better way of living, often finding fault in many of them.

Reminding readers of the powerful but simple message that everybody’s life means something, Haig revisits the world of mental health with a tale that may be fictional, but will undoubtedly be relatable to many of those who flick through its pages. His best work to-date.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Winner of the 2020 Women's Prize for Fiction, Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell is the fictional story inspired by the son of William Shakespeare; the eponymous Hamnet. As you may know, the youngster died aged just 11 in 1596, so his life has been forgotten even by some of those who would describe themselves as Shakespeare's biggest fans.

Detailing the bond between Hamnet and his twin sister, the novel also describes a marriage pushed to the brink by grief, as well as moments that sound ridiculous - a flea that boards a ship; and a kestrel and its mistress, for example - but each add an intricate layer to this stunning release.

We may have enjoyed previous works by O’Farrell, such as After You'd Gone and The Distance Between Us in the past, but this is above and beyond anything she has ever written before. A true masterpiece that will surely cement its place in history.

The Devil and The Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Following on from his critically-acclaimed debut The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, author Stuart Turton swapped the glamour and cunning of a group living within a towering mansion with the dangerous and murky living a roster of cunning rogues would endure on board a doomed ship, taking to the high seas.

Turton’s creativity reaches dizzying heights as he introduces an unlikely detective duo, a family led by one of the most disgusting men that could exist, a captain I fell in love with simply thanks to the detailed description of the character and even a potential demon that was raining down horror on all of those who refused to cut a deal with it. And that was just for starters.

Just as you believe you may have solved the countless riddles thrown your way, an exciting new twist will send the story hurtling in a direction and down a pathway you didn’t even know existed. If Agatha Christie was the best mystery writer of her generation, then Turton is the best of ours.

The First Woman by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Coming of age stories may be a dime a dozen, but never has one stuck with us so intensely as that written by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, set in a small Ugandan village.

The First Woman follows the story of a young female who quickly discovers what it means to be a woman in a family, as well as a community and indeed a country all determined to silence her. Unfortunately for them, she is one of the most courageous and ambitious women that Uganda has seen, determined to rise up and stamp out her own path despite the bloody dictatorship of Idi Amin which threatens her very existence.

If feminist narratives intertwined with humour and tenderness are up your street, then you’ll be incapable of putting this one down after reading just a few pages. I’d go as far to say that this novel is already a classic of its genre. 

The Sisters of Auschwitz by Roxane van Iperen

Right in the heart of Nazi territory, two Jewish sisters showed bravery and confidence in their resistance to Hitler's regime. Here, Roxane Van Iperen tells their true-to-life story, in a nightmarish yet stunningly-important novel that will linger with readers long after they’ve read through its final pages.

The Sisters of Auschwitz takes place right before the Final Solution is about to begin. With the Nazis having occupied The Netherlands, Janny and Lien Brilleslijper risk their lives and become a part of a resistance, housing the hunted in their clandestine safehouse. It becomes one of the most important havens for the Jewish in the country, but with a betrayal in the near future, the most terrifying moment of the sister’s lives - and that of their occupants - is right around the corner.

Put on the train to Auschwitz, they’re stripped of everything they hold dear, apart from one another. German defeat is in sight, but the two must do everything in their power to keep their lives as Hitler’s forces get desperate in their bid for victory.

If you were a fan of Heather Morris’ The Tattooist of Auschwitz, then you’ll find brilliance here. A must-read for anybody who wants to learn more about one of the most devastating and shameful periods in our collective history.

And the winner is…

Stuart Turton, author of The Devil and the Dark Water
Stuart Turton, author of The Devil and the Dark Water

The Devil and The Dark Water by Stuart Turton!

Combining stunning writing and personalisation of some of the most interesting characters in recent memory, with a memorable narrative and unpredictable twists and turns, is something that Turton seems to do with ease. We weren’t sure he’d be able to match the dizzying heights of excellence of his debut novel, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, but he proved us wrong by blowing all expectations out of the water. Congratulations, Stuart! We can’t wait for the next one…

MORE FROM THE FEMALE FIRST AWARDS 2020: Who won Album of the Year?

by for
find me on and follow me on

Tagged in