Former Creative Writing PhD student longlisted for Booker Prize

We are delighted to report that the debut novel by Margate-based Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow, a former PhD student of award-winning author and creative writing teacher Amy Sackville, has been longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize.  

Viktoria’s novel, All The Little Bird-Hearts (Tinder Press), was described by the Booker judges as a ‘lyrical and poignant debut novel (that) offers a deft exploration of motherhood, vulnerability and the complexity of human relationships’.  

The idea for her novel originated from a writing class with Patricia Debney (who taught at Kent for 20 years) during her MA, which caused Viktoria to rethink her plans for her subsequent studies. She said: ‘I was planning for a PhD in Italian Literature, but Patricia encouraged me to consider continuing with creative writing instead. 

Amy Sackville then became my supervisor for a PhD on The Contemporary Novel and I wrote All the Little Bird-Hearts as part of that doctoral work’. 

Viktoria completed her PhD in 2021 and Amy was so impressed with Viktoria’s lyricism, wit and the originality of her voice that she introduced her to her own agent at Lutyens & Rubinstein.  

Amy said: ‘It was a genuine pleasure to work with Viktoria on her book; I always looked forward to our supervisions, and to discussing what she’d been reading as well as her own writing.  She’s very funny and insightful, and all of that comes through in the novel, which is a compelling story of an autistic mother, her aspirational daughter, and the glamorous couple who move in next door. It’s interested in class, community, female relationships, communication, and different ways of understanding and being in the world. I’m tremendously proud of her and can’t wait to see what she does next.’  

Dr Bashir Abu-Manneh, Head of the School of English, added: ‘I am so pleased for Viktoria – but not surprised. Viktoria’s focus on everyday detail, overcoming marginalisation and valuing distinctiveness is everything you want from contemporary writing. She stands in a long tradition of Kent writers who quietly but surely urge the world to listen to their unique voice – and change.’ 

The University’ association with the Booker Prize includes a shortlisting for Emeritus Professor and Nobel Prize winner for literature Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Paradise and a longlisting for New Imaginaries Fellow Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire. Professor Gurnah was also on the judging panel for the Man Booker Prize in 2016.