2023 Political Fiction Book prize short list

The New Life

Tom Crewe

Published by: Vintage

London, 1894. After a lifetime navigating his desires, John has found a man who returns his feelings. Meanwhile Henry is sure that his unconventional marriage will bring freedom.

A shared vision for the future brings John and Henry together to write a revolutionary book in defiance of convention and the law.

Their daring book threatens to throw John and Henry, and all those around them, into danger. How far should they go to win personal freedoms? And how high a price are they willing to pay for a new way of living?

The New Life imagines the lives of the late Victorian writers Havelock Ellis and John Addington as they collaborate on a book called Sexual Inversion, which was published at a pivotal moment in the history of homosexuality, in the immediate aftermath of the trials and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde. The characters – John and Henry, and their wives Catherine and Edith – are brought to vivid life by Crewe, who writes about their social, intellectual and erotic lives with extraordinary verisimilitude. Wonderfully precise about things that themselves do not always seem appropriate to precision, the novel considers the similarities between desire and intellectual life, which both risk producing things that may ultimately prove abortive or bathetic. "