First Novel Prize 2022 Winners

Nneoma Ike-Njoku

First Prize and £1,000 goes to Nneoma Ike-Njoku for The Water House

‘This is a short but incredibly promising novel with great sense of place, set just before Nigeria’s independence. We admired the storytelling, the writing and the setting of the novel, which follows Celia, a young woman with a haunted past, as she tries to make her way in the world. Written in the first person, Celia’s voice is memorable and insistent, taking us through flashbacks to her time living in the Water House, her time in a borstal for young people, and a new life in Lagos before she feels drawn home in search of answers. We felt the book had real potential, that Nneoma’s writing had a natural, confident style and are delighted to make Nneoma Ike-Njoku the winner of the First Prize in the First Novel Prize 2022.’

Melissa Cox and Jamie Cowen, Co-judges

‘I’m so thrilled and so grateful to the judges, Melissa Cox and Jamie Cowen, as well as the DGA team, for this incredible honor for my novel, on which I’ve been working since 2018. Even more than the generous monetary award, I appreciate the very thoughtful feedback I’ve been offered through this process, which has given me a lot of much-needed clarity for my editing process.’

Nneoma Ike-Njoku, Author

Emily Wilson

Second Prize and £250 goes to Emily Wilson for Inanna

Inanna (formerly The Sumerians) is an ambitious and evocative novel, rich with details from the mythology that inspired it. The writing is confident, and the historical and mythological elements feel well-researched. This is a book with the potential to appeal to a wide audience and we congratulate Emily Wilson, who we are delighted to award second place.’

Jamie Cowen and Melissa Cox, Co-judges

‘I’m so thrilled and so honoured to have come second in this prestigious international competition. Aside from all the normal anxieties of a debut novelist, I’ve also been worried that not very many people know much about Ancient Mesopotamia – compared to Ancient Greece, for example – and that that might limit the novel’s appeal. So to hear from two top industry professionals that they think the book has the potential for wide appeal is really heartening. My heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in the DGA First Novel Prize and also the judges, Melissa Cox and Jamie Cowen.’

Emily Wilson, Author

Third Prize and £100 goes to Jane Bitomsky for The Kitchen-Maid’s Confession

‘Inspired by true events, The Kitchen-Maid’s Confession is a well-imagined historical novel with a memorable heroine at the heart of it. Jane Bitomsky evokes the Jacobean period well and the story telling is propulsive despite the dark subject matter, a testament to the writing. We felt this book could appeal to fans of Stacey Halls or Sara Collins and are pleased to award it third place for this year’s prize.’

Melissa Cox and Jamie Cowen, Co-judges

‘Querying has proven to be a dispiriting process riddled with self-doubt. Attaining third place in the First Novel Prize 2022 is immensely gratifying, and has provided some much-needed validation in my journey to becoming a published author. I give my sincere thanks to DGA, Angel Belsey and the judges for believing in my novel.’

Jane Bitomsky, Author