Editor's first impression of Man Booker shortlisted novel, The Year of the Runaways

15 September 2015

‘I first read Sunjeev Sahota in 2008, when his debut novel, Ours are the Streets, arrived from his agent Will Francis. I was exhilarated by it – by the immediacy of his voice, by his courage, by his intense empathy – and knew instantly that I wanted to publish him, in that heart-head-gut way that you can’t ignore. When he came to Picador, what I quickly discovered is that collaborating with Sunjeev is an absolute joy – as a writer, first and foremost, but also as a reader. He reads voraciously: attentive to artistry, open to form and experimentation, and above all, generous in his responses. He approaches editing in the same way. And so we began a conversation that has lasted through seven years with no sign of dimming, about his own books, and many other people’s too.

The Year of the Runaways was commissioned on the strength of 100 pages, and I waited with great anticipation for the complete novel. My first thought, when I reached the final manuscript page (somewhere in the late 600s, moved, elated) was that Sunjeev had grown from a debut full of verve and ambition to a mature novel in one graceful and confident leap. It was astonishing. The move from first to third person seemed to open vast new landscapes to him, and yet his characterisation remained intimate, vital. I had in my hands a stunning book that fused life, love and politics on an international canvas. I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Sunjeev's place on the Man Booker shortlist, in such wonderful company, is incredibly exciting to me and to everyone at Picador who has had the pleasure of his company and spirit. When fiction speaks truth it can also seem prescient, and one of the most compelling reasons to read The Year of the Runaways is its intense topicality. Most of all, though, it is a radiant, humane, big-hearted book about people’s passions and struggles, and I hope many readers will discover its riches.’

Kate Harvey, editor of Sunjeev Sahota, The Year of the Runaways

READ THE FIRST CHAPTER

 

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