Based at the University of Edinburgh, administered by the senior staff in the department of English assisted by a reading panel of postgraduate students, the James Tait Black prizes are the oldest literary prizes in Britain. They date from 1919 when they were founded by Mrs. Janet Coutts Black in memory of her husband James Tait Black, a partner in the publishing house A&C Black Ltd, and since 2007 they have been awarded at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I was at this evening's prize event, chaired by Sally Magnusson who remarked on the "exhilarating summer's reading" she's had in preparation for tonight.
On the shortlist for the fiction prize were:
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
La Rochelle by Michael Nath
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli
and for the biography prize:
A Life in Pictures by Alasdair Gray
E. M. Forster: A New Life by Wendy Moffat
Burying The Bones: Pearl Buck in China by Hilary Spurling
And the winners were - Tatjana Soli for The Lotus Eaters, a novel about the Vietnam war from the point of view of a female photographer, which "reads cinematically and shows the war from the inside", and Hilary Spurling (who also today got a new grandchild!) for Burying The Bones: Pearl Buck in China, described by Sally Magnusson as "unputdownable".