The shortlist for the funniest fiction prize of the year, the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, is announced today, Wednesday 12 April. Six titles are in contention for the top spot.
Helen Fielding, previously shortlisted in 2014 with Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, is joined by Carl Hiaasen, James Robertson, Richard Russo, Nina Stibbe and Simon Wroe.
The 2017 shortlist was chosen, with the aid of a glass or two of Bollinger La Grande Année, at the world famous family run house of Champagne Bollinger in Ay, France, by the panel of judges:
Broadcaster and author James Naughtie; Everyman’s Library publisher David Campbell, and a Vice President of the Hay Festival and Director of National Trust Wales, Justin Albert.
The six shortlisted novels are:
- Bridget Jones’s Baby: The Diaries by Helen Fielding (Jonathan Cape, Vintage)
‘Bridget Jones is as relevant and funny today as she has always been’ (London Evening Standard). In Helen Fielding’s latest instalment of the series, Bridget Jones’s Baby: The Diaries, Bridget finds that she is unexpectedly pregnant. This joyful occasion is marred by one terribly awkward question – who is the father?
David Campbell says; ‘Helen Fielding has created a fun, witty and engaging novel with Bridget Jones’s Baby: The Diaries. This is perhaps her funniest one yet.’
- Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen (Sphere, Little, Brown Book Group)
‘Carl Hiaasen’s irresistible Razor Girl meets his usual sky-high standards for elegance, craziness and mike-drop humor’ (New York Times), the novel is a fast-paced satirical crime novel set in Florida. The eponymous Razor Girl is Merry Mansfield, a con-artist who, using a razor blade and a high-speed car, has developed a signature way of luring in her victims.
Justin Albert says; ‘Carl Hiaasen’s new book Razor Girl is a laugh out loud, snort with mirth, irrepressible triumph. Mobsters, celebrity agents and reality TV stars all get the author’s funny and salacious treatment against the backdrop of modern Key West, Florida.’
- To Be Continued… by James Robertson (Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House)
‘A wildly eccentric tale laced with dry, deprecating wit’ (The Times). 2006 Man Booker longlistee James Robertson’s newest book starts with Douglas Findhorn Elder on his 50th birthday. Recently dumped and suddenly jobless he meets a talking toad and embarks on an unexpected Highland adventure.
James Naughtie says; ‘James Robertson shows how all his novelist’s skill can be turned to comic purpose. To Be Continued… is a wicked romp set just after the Scottish independence referendum featuring, among others, a talking toad and a disillusioned journalist to tell the story. Just the tonic we all need after any referendum campaign.’
- Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo (Allen & Unwin, Atlantic Books)
‘A madcap romp, weaving mystery, suspense and comedy in a race to the final pages’ (Wall Street Journal), the novel is the long-awaited follow up to Richard Russo’s critically acclaimed Nobody’s Fool (1993). It returns to North Bath, the Rust Belt town, ten years on and takes place over the course of a very busy weekend.
David Campbell says; ‘Richard Russo is not only an incredibly witty writer, he also has an exceptional eye for detail and vividly depicts the characteristics and humour of the small decaying American town of North Bath.’
- Paradise Lodge by Nina Stibbe (Viking, Penguin Random House)
‘Keenly observed and sparkling with Stibbe’s trademark deadpan humour’ (The Observer), the novel is the story of Lizzie Vogel, a 15-year-old girl who finds herself working in an old person’s home in Leicestershire in the 1970s. Nina Stibbe has been described by Andrew O’Hagan as ‘the funniest new writer to arrive in years’.
Justin Albert says; ‘Nina Stibbe writes strong, flowing and effortless prose that lifts the stories and characters off the page and enthrals the reader from the first to last page. Compassionate, very funny yet always based in the gritty reality of the setting, Paradise Lodge is a tour de force. Care homes will never seem the same again. We all loved it.’
- Here Comes Trouble by Simon Wroe (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Orion Books)
‘Take Sacha Baron Cohen, add a twist of Kafka and lace it with Groucho Marx. You’re entering the surreal and blackly funny world of Simon Wroe’ says Miranda Seymour. The book follows the protagonist Ellis Dau, who is growing up in Kyrzbekistan, a secretive nation, where revolution barely makes the news. Following his expulsion from school, Ellis is sent to work with his father, editor of The Chronicle – a newspaper that is under threat and is the last bastion of free speech in their strange land.
James Naughtie says; ‘Simon Wroe shows in Here Comes Trouble why he is a young writer with such an exciting future. Running through all the wit and sparkle in his biting political satire, there’s a touching humanity, and an understanding of vulnerability. Above all, he knows exactly how to find menace in the absurd.’
David Campbell comments on the shortlist:
“We are tremendously happy with the shortlist. There is an eclectic mix of brilliant novels with one thing in common… they all made us laugh. I also can’t think of a better place to whittle down the submissions for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, than over a glass of Bollinger La Grande Année at Madame Bollinger’s House at Champagne Bollinger”
Jérôme Philipon, president of Champagne Bollinger comments:
“We are proud to be part of the prize since it launched in 2000 and we were delighted to finally welcome the judges to Champagne Bollinger and for the judging to take place at Madame Bollinger’s House for the first time”
The UK’s only prize for comic fiction, The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize recognises the best comic novel of the last 12 months. Past winners have included critically acclaimed writers such as Edward St Aubyn, Howard Jacobson, Ian McEwan and the late Sir Terry Pratchett.
As is customary, this year’s winner will be announced just ahead of the Hay Festival. The winner will receive a jeroboam of Bollinger Special Cuvée, a case of Bollinger La Grande Année and the complete set of the Everyman Wodehouse collection. The winner will also be presented with a locally-bred Gloucestershire Old Spot pig, which will be named after the winning novel in a special celebration involving further champagne.