Entertainment & Arts

Final three compete for new fiction prize

Grace McCleen, Patrick McGuinness and Rachel Joyce
Image caption Grace McCleen, Patrick McGuinness and Rachel Joyce are competing for the £10,000 prize

A poet, a radio playwright and a writer who grew up in a Christian sect have made it on to the shortlist for this year's Desmond Elliott Prize.

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen joins Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Patrick McGuinness' The Last Hundred Days.

The prize for new fiction was set up in memory of the celebrated literary agent to enrich the careers of new writers.

Bookmakers have given Rachel Joyce a narrow lead to take the £10,000 prize.

Joyce - an award-winning playwright - originally drafted The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry as a radio play for her dying father.

Judges said they enjoyed its "beautiful storytelling" and insights into human nature.

Poet and academic McGuinness was inspired to write his dystopian novel, full of "strong characters" by his years living in Bucharest in the lead up to the Romanian revolution.

McCleen's "life-affirming" debut, The Land Of Decoration, is a story based on her own upbringing in a Christian fundamentalist sect in Wales.

'Extraordinarily hard'

The shortlist was selected from a longlist of ten, with the winner set to be announced in London on 28 June.

Elliot's protégé Sam Llewellyn, who chairs the 2012 judging panel, said it was "extraordinarily hard" to choose the final three. The panel also includes Tom Gatti, editor of The Times Review section, and Caroline Mileham, Head of Books at Play.com.

The annual award is currently in its fifth year. Previous winners include Edward Hogan's Blackmoor and last year's winner Saraswati Park, by Anjali Joseph.

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