Watson, Little Prize: Upmarket Fiction – Laetitia Rutherford

This is part of a series launching the Watson, Little Prize. The prize is international, genre-specific, and in this inaugural edition of the prize – in celebration of the agency’s 50th year – it is dedicated to writers over 50 years of age. It aims to encourage those from older generations, from all backgrounds and from all nations and cultures, to apply. The 2021 prize will focus on upmarket fiction, and we look forward to seeing entries in this genre.

Want to know how to submit? Click here.

In each part of this series, a member of Watson, Little staff will offer favourite examples of upmarket fiction. Today, we look at Laetitia Rutherford‘s picks.

[To see a fuller version of this piece, check out Laetitia’s article at Noon.]


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A recent favourite of mine is AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE by Tayeri Jones, published in 2018 and winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction. This beautifully transparently written novel to me is a seamless narrative arc, starting with a powerful trigger incident that challenges not only the two central characters, whom we quickly love, but the social structures in which we live too.

I will never forget the incident with the pear and plastic bag in one of the prison scenes – my heart still jumps in my throat when I think of it. It is a brilliant, emotional dramatic novel, about prejudice and race relations in contemporary America, and about the conflict between loyalty to others and personal fulfillment.


[su_row][su_column size=”1/3″ center=”no” class=””][/su_column] [su_column size=”2/3″ center=”no” class=””]When a novel is well executed, any cultural or geographical corner becomes ours – the reader’s – too.  I recently read UNSETTLED GROUND by Claire Fuller, a very interesting novelist who began to publish aged 40 following a successful career in marketing. Her novel is about inheritance, secrets and isolation in a rural community. It is unusual in the world it depicts, yet turns on an expertly handled plot not too distant from suspense or mystery writing. Then too, the runaway bestseller ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman (published in 2017 and the author turns 50 this year) is equally gripping in its storytelling as it is original in its voice. The main character is a less often represented one: a single woman past her youth. It is an utterly character and voice driven novel, but at its core is a classic psychological suspense plot.[/su_column][/su_row]

[su_row][su_column size=”1/3″ center=”no” class=””][/su_column] [su_column size=”2/3″ center=”no” class=””]Mary Wesley published her first novel JUMPING THE QUEUE aged 71, and went on to write 10 bestsellers before her death aged 90, including the televised CAMOMILE LAWN. Jean Rhys, although she started publishing in her 30s, had a long hiatus in her writing career, and did not see publication of her major work WIDE SARGASSO SEA until she was 76. These are famous and extreme examples, but here at Watson, Little we would like to celebrate reaching midlife, marking half a century and beyond, by inviting you to submit your novels to us this summer. Happy writing, and good luck![/su_column][/su_row]