Bart van Es wins Slightly Foxed prize

Bart van Es has won the £2,500 Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize, for The Cut Out Girl (Fig Tree). The prize came a month after van Es’s book was named Costa Book of the Year. He received the £2,500 prize at a ceremony at Maggs Bros in Bedford Square.

The judges were authors Anne Chisholm, Rachel Cooke and Andrew O’Hagan. Chisholm said: “The winner, The Cut Out Girl by Bart van Es, was chosen unanimously but not without passionate debate. This book, with its delicate interweaving of history, family memoir and personal encounters, succeeds in conveying the harsh reality of Holocaust survival through one young girl’s experience, in occupied Holland, of the extremes – good as well as evil – of which ordinary people are capable.”

Gail Pirkis, co-founder of Slightly Foxed, confessed to the author that the winner’s cheque this time could not match the largesse of Costa (£30,000, plus £5,000 for winning the Costa Biography award). On the other hand, this prize came, not from a coffee company, but from a small publisher in Hoxton, where all the staff were passionate about books. It was donated “with love”.

The full shortlist was:

Bart van Es, The Cut Out Girl (Fig Tree)
Roland Philipps, A Spy Named Orphan (Bodley Head)
Michele Mendelssohn, Making Oscar Wilde (OUP)
Fiona Sampson, In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein (Profile)
Tara Westover, Educated (Hutchinson)

This is the fifth year of sponsorship of the prize, administered by the Biographers’ Club, by Slightly Foxed, the literary quarterly and publisher. The 2017 winner was Edmund Gordon, for The Invention of Angela Carter (Chatto).

Photo: (top) Bart van Es (third from right) with Gail Pirkis (left), judges Andrew O’Hagan, Rachel Cooke and Anne Chisholm, and prize administrator Ariane Bankes; (above) van Es with his agent, Natasha Fairweather (RCW), and publisher, Juliet Annan