Posted on 18 October 2017
Fiona was one of six shortlisted authors, but the £50,000 prize went to George Saunders for his first full-length novel Lincoln in the Bardo.
The announcement of this year’s winner was made at London’s Guildhall at a star-studded dinner which brought together the shortlisted authors and well-known figures from the literary world.
Past winners of the Man Booker Prize include Salman Rushdie, Hilary Mantel, Iris Murdoch, Ian McEwan and Ben Okri.
Elmet tells the story of a father and his two children, living in South Yorkshire on the margins of society. The father, a bare-knuckle boxer, builds a house in a copse, but quickly comes into conflict with the landowners.
Professor Judith Buchanan, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of York, praised the quality of Fiona's writing.
She said: “To have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for a debut novel is a phenomenal achievement. We are thrilled for Fiona at the prestigious literary recognition that Elmet has justly attracted.
“The novel’s attachment to landscape, its savouring of language, its understanding of the power of withholding and then of unleashing, its quiet but fierce attachments, its finely handled brutality - all are reminiscent of the cadences of an exquisitely crafted Western.
“I loved this Yorkshire Western for its beautiful attention to the small things of the world, its reflective honesty and the uncompromising power of its exit velocity.
“We warmly wish Fiona well for all her future writing projects - both with us at the Centre for Medieval Studies and in the world beyond. She is both a wonderful member of our community and a very fine new creative voice on our shared cultural landscape."
Fiona, who comes from York, started writing the novel on a train from York to London as she realised she “missed the landscape of home”.
Fiona, who was an undergraduate at Cambridge University, was living in London and working as an intern for a literary agent when she started Elmet four years ago.
She continued writing the novel while juggling the demands of her PhD studies at the University of York’s Centre for Medieval Studies and finished the book last summer. It was published on 10 August by John Murray.
“I found writing the novel really complemented my PhD study,” Fiona said. “There’s a lot of creativity that has to go into a PhD, even though it is much more rigorous than writing a novel.”