Aoife Fitzpatrick wins 2020 Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize

Nov 3, 2020

Lucy Cavendish College has named the 2020 winner of its prestigious Fiction Prize as Aoife Fitzpatrick, with her novel An Arrangement in Grey and Black.

This was the second biggest year for the Prize, which received a total of over 400 entries. Six were shortlisted by a judging panel chaired by journalist and author Allison Pearson. Also judging was Jackie Ashley, political journalist, broadcaster and Honorary Fellow of the College (after leaving the College as its eight President).

New to the panel was Clio Cornish, Editorial Director for Michael Joseph, Penguin Random House. Returning judges were literary agent Nelle Andrew, editor and ghost-writer Gillian Stern, Emeritus Fellow Lindsey Traub, and poet, crime writer and Honorary Fellow, Sophie Hannah. Another newcomer to the judging panel this year was Tim Bates, Head of the Books Department and literary agent sponsor at PFD.

Aoife Fitzpatrick is a native of Dublin, Ireland. Her short stories have been published in ‘Southword’ literary journal, ‘Books Ireland’ magazine, and by the Welsh independent publisher, Cinnamon Press. Winner of the inaugural Books Ireland short-story award, her work has also been recognised by the Séan O’Faoláin Prize, the Elizabeth Jolley Prize and by the Short Story of the Year award. She read English Studies at Trinity College, Dublin, and graduated the MFA in Creative Writing at University College Dublin, with distinction, in 2019. The Arts Council of Ireland has supported her shortlisted novel, An Arrangement in Grey & Black, with a literature bursary for 2020.

Tim Bates commented on this year’s winner:

Aoife Fitzpatrick is a worthy winner from an unusually strong shortlist. Her An Arrangement in Grey and Black is a stunning and sophisticated historical novel, based on a true story of a murder trial in nineteenth century West Virginia, and the only time the testimony of a ghost has been allowed in a US courtroom. It’s a brilliant piece of historical re-creation.

College President, Dame Madeleine Atkins said,

Many congratulations to Aoife for this outstanding success. We are delighted to help new authors on their journey to publication and can’t wait to see copies of her novel in bookshops and the Lucy Cavendish Library in the future!”


Over the past ten years, the Fiction Prize has gained a prestigious reputation for uncovering new talent, with regular interest from the publishing industry. Since its foundation in 2010, the Prize has been a starting point in numerous entrants’ success stories. Gail Honeyman (2014 Shortlist) has topped the fiction charts with her novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (published 2017) with accolades including the British Book Awards ‘Book of the Year 2018’, Waterstones Fiction ‘Book of the Month’ for February 2018 and the 2017 Costa Book Awards ‘First Novel’ Award.

Catherine Chanter (winner 2013) became a published author with The Well, long listed for the CWA John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger 2015. It is published in the UK by Canongate and has been translated into twelve languages. Catherine has now published a second novel, The Half Sister. Frances Maynard (2016 shortlist) published The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr. It was shortlisted for the 2016 Mslexia First Novel Competition, the McKitterick Prize Author Awards in 2018, and the 2014 Good Housekeeping First Novel Award. In 2019 she published Maggsie McNaughton’s Second Chance. Emily Midorikawa (2015 Winner) and Emma Claire Sweeney published A Secret Sisterhood to wide acclaim. Lesley Sanderson’s The Orchid Girls (2017 shortlist) was published in 2018 and has also received widespread acclaim. Lesley has since published The Woman at 46 Heath Street, The Leaving Party and I know you lied.

Sara Collins’ debut, The Confessions of Frannie Langton, is proving to be a lead title in the UK and the US and won the 2019 Costa first novel award. Laura Marshall’s Friend Request was published in 2017 and named a Sunday Times Top 10 List bestseller, and a number one eBook bestseller; it was shortlisted for the Bath Novel Award. Laura has since published another acclaimed crime thriller, Three Little Lies, and is currently working on her third novel. Claire Askew (2016 winner) All the Hidden Truths was named The Times’ September Book of the Month; Claire’s follow-up novel, What You Pay For, was published in 2019 and shortlisted for McIlvanney and CWA Awards. She is currently working on a second full-length poetry collection, and a third novel. Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott Swan Song was published by Penguin Random House/Hutchinson in 2018 and has since won many accolades including winning the 2015 Bridport Prize and being named one of The Times’ Books of the Year 2018. It was longlisted for the Women’s Prize in 2019 and the rights have been sold for television to Balloon Entertainment (Skins, Clique), with Kelleigh adapting the novel as a limited series.