Skip to content

York student wins praise for her much-anticipated first novel

Posted on 8 May 2012

Talented young writer Sophie Coulombeau, a postgraduate student at the University of York, will have her debut novel Rites published in June. It is already generating huge industry buzz and accolades from distinguished authors such as Philip Pullman and Fiona Shaw.

Rites book cover

Sophie was the winner of the 2012 Next Great Novelist award, which aims to find the most promising author under 30. Rites beat off strong competition from a group of exceptionally talented authors to win a publishing contract with Route.

And there will be an opportunity to hear Sophie Coulombeau talking about her novel at the York Festival of Ideas. The Festival will feature a dedicated New Writers’ Day on Saturday, 23 June at the Berrick Saul Building. This will comprise of three sessions featuring exciting new writers giving readings, as well as creative writing workshops with Faber Academy Director Richard Skinner and panel discussions including the head of new writing at the Royal Court London Theatre, Chris Campbell.

Sophie, 27, said of the Next Great Novelist award: “I was over the moon to win and very grateful for the opportunity to develop and publish my manuscript. This is an incredible opportunity for a young writer in an industry that is notoriously hard to crack. I’m very excited about the months ahead.”

Sophie Coulombeau, a PhD student in the University’s Department of English and Related Literature, has been carrying out postgraduate research at the University of York and the University of Pennsylvania. She did her undergraduate degree in English Literature at Trinity College, Oxford and has also worked for the Ministry of Justice and the European Commission’s Organised Crime unit.

This is an incredible opportunity for a young writer in an industry that is notoriously hard to crack

Sophie Coulombeau

Route Editor Ian Daley said: “We are thrilled to be publishing this book and to be working with Sophie. She’s a great talent, with an exciting future in front of her. The book manages to have that rare combination of being both richly complex and a riveting read. The pages simply turn themselves. I’m confident that this is the first of many great books that Sophie will produce.”

Rites tells the story of a group of four teenagers who make a pact to lose their virginity away from the watchful eyes of parents and priest. Fifteen years later, they look back on the events and unravel how it all went horribly wrong.

Bestselling author Philip Pullman said of the book: “Terrific. A story that’s intriguing, puzzling and entirely gripping.”

York-based author Fiona Shaw described Rites as: “A powerful read that has you questioning the wisdom of any adult and the innocence of any child. The story Coulombeau tells is an everyman tale of desire, friendship and betrayal.”

The 2012 Next Great Novelist award created mentoring opportunities for a young editor to work on the project. The successful applicant, Rebecca Pedley, 21, is also a student at York, studying English Literature and Linguistics. She has been instrumental in the selection process and working with Sophie to see the novel through to publication.

Rites will be launched at Waterstones in York on Saturday, 16 June at 6.30pm.

Notes to editors:

Contact details

Caron Lett
Press Officer

Keep up to date

 Subscribe to news feeds

 Follow us on Twitter