‘Eye-opening’ time travel story shortlisted for debut fiction prize

An “eye-opening” story about “testing the limits of time travel” is among the books shortlisted for a debut fiction prize.

The Ministry Of Time by Kaliane Bradley tells the tale of a disaffected civil servant who is offered a lucrative job in a mysterious new government ministry gathering expats from across history to bring into the present day.

It is among the contenders for the Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize 2024.

The book is set in the near-future and is described as “eye-opening, disarmingly funny and surprisingly sexy” by the Waterstones bookseller who nominated it for the prize, alongside other members of staff from across the UK.

A review by the retailer said the novel “blends love story, time-travelling tale and state-of-the-nation commentary to terrifyingly clever and ferociously funny effect”.

It joins a shortlist of five other “bold and playful” books from new authors, which will be voted on by a panel of Waterstones staff with the aim of giving “additional exposure and support” to up-and-coming writers.

The other books shortlisted are Martyr! by Kaveh Akbar, The Silence In Between by Josie Ferguson, Mongrel by Hanako Footman, Glorious Exploits by Ferdia Lennon, and Greta And Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly.

Martyr! tells the story of a newly sober man trying to make sense of his life, Greta And Valdin explores colonialism, while The Silence In Between is set in Cold War Berlin and follows a mother who is separated from her baby boy and daughter.

Now in its third year, the award is open to fiction novels of all genres, with the previous two winners of the prize being In Memoriam by Alice Winn, which won in 2023, and The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty, which took the accolade in the award’s first year, 2022.

Waterstones head of books Bea Carvalho said the company is “proud to present a shortlist of bold and playful new voices”.

She said: “In an astonishingly strong year for fiction, which sees the return of so many beloved, world-renowned novelists, it is especially pleasing to see such an exciting array of emerging voices – they are the literary stars of tomorrow.

“The shortlisted authors stood out for their assured, confident storytelling and the unique perspectives they bring to their subjects, tackling weighty themes with sensitivity and panache.

“The shortlist takes us across the globe from New York to New Zealand via modern Japan, it spans from ancient Sicily to a near-future vision of London, passing through Cold War Berlin.

“Together, it celebrates the redemptive power of art, the resilience of the human spirit, and the pure joy to be found in stories.

“These books are a joy to read, re-read, and recommend, and we cannot wait to share them with readers everywhere.”

– The winner will be announced on Thursday July 25.