Sarah Hall wins BBC National Short Story Award 2013

Sarah Hall wins BBC National Short Story Award 2013
Winner Sarah Hall and Mariella Frostrup. Credit: Tom Pilston
8 October 2013

Sarah Hall wins BBC National Short Story Award 2013


Sarah Hall has tonight added another accolade to her growing list by winning the BBC National Short Story Award 2013 for her story 'Mrs Fox'. Following her shortlisting for the Award back in 2010, this evening she picked up the main prize of £15,000 at the ceremony held at the Radio Theatre in the BBC's Broadcasting House in London. She was presented with her cheque by this year's Chair of Judges, journalist and arts critic Mariella Frostrup, as the news was announced live on BBC Radio 4's Front Row.


Hall was selected as one of this year's Granta's Best Young British Novelists and also sits on the judging panel for the inaugural Folio Prize in 2014. Her first collection of short stories The Beautiful Indifference (2011) won the Portico Prize for Fiction and the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. Her third novel, The Carhullan Army (2007) won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. She has previously been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and Dublin IMPAC award.


Lucy Wood was selected as this year's runner-up receiving £3,000 for her story 'Notes From the House Spirits', taken from her debut book, a collection of short stories entitled Diving Belles, inspired by Cornish Folklore. She has previously been longlisted for the Frank O'Connor Short Story Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize, shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize and has received a Somerset Maugham Award.  The other shortlisted authors, Lionel Shriver, Lisa Blower and Lavinia Greenlaw, each received £500.


Hall's winning story is a darkly erotic transformation tale in which a woman turns into a fox to her husband's confusion and dismay. Bristling with feminist undertones, it delivers an uncanny account of a sexual, childless couple who continue with an unorthodox acquaintance after the woman's metamorphosis. Inspired by the moments in life when humans return to a feral state, it examines our nature as biological beings, governed by our natural responses at key points; love, sex, pregnancy, death, conflict and survival.


Winner Sarah Hall said of her story:

''Mrs Fox' is loosely based on a 1922 novella called Lady into Fox by David Garnett. Though it's now on my shelf, I haven't yet read the book. My version is an homage to what sounds like a very brave and odd piece of fiction indeed. I am fascinated by situations in which human beings are challenged and placed outside the usual codes of conduct. How do we act then? Do we become better versions, worse versions, or just different versions, of ourselves? The husband in Mrs Fox must contend with a lot, and ultimately redefine his concept of happiness. As for Mrs Fox herself - was she happier as a human, or is she in her element now?'

This is the eighth year of the BBC National Short Story Award which is open to authors who have a history of publication in creative writing and who are UK residents or nationals. The Award celebrates the best of contemporary British short fiction and is one of the most prestigious for a single short story.


Journalist, television presenter and arts critic Mariella Frostrup chaired the judging panel this year, which consists of novelists Deborah MoggachMohsin Hamid and Peter Hobbs; and Editor of Readings, BBC Radio Di Speirs.


Mariella Frostrup, Chair of Judges:

"From the outset of our deliberations we were all seduced by our winning story. The poetic use of language, the dexterity and originality of the prose made Sarah Hall's 'Mrs Fox' utterly unique. Inspired by the classic literary motif of metamorphosis, this thoroughly modern interpretation asks unsettling questions about our relationships to each other and to the natural world, an environment we are increasingly alienated from but continue to be compelled by. 'Mrs Fox' is firmly rooted in reality but with its liberal dash of magical thinking transports its readers way beyond it."


Gwyneth Williams, Controller, BBC Radio 4:

"Words, writing and radio come together rather magically and the space in which they flourish is the imagination. The short story manifestly inhabits this space. So it is a huge pleasure to broadcast these stories through the intimate and unmatched medium of radio. We are honoured to have such a distinguished list of authors this year - both known and new - who I thank for providing such a treat for Radio 4 listeners. Congratulations to Sarah Hall for her winning story; how marvellously she conjures the comet-like image of 'Mrs Fox' as she reveals her secret to her husband. At Radio 4 we broadcast more short stories than any other broadcaster anywhere in the world. We are proud of that fact; we love our stories and plan to carry on bringing them to listeners."   


The ambition of the BBC National Short Story Award is to expand opportunities for British writers, readers and publishers of the short story and champion the country's finest authors in the form. Past winners include James Lasdun who secured the inaugural award for 'An Anxious Man' and Miroslav Penkov for 'East of the West' in last year's one-off international competition to commemorate the London Olympics. Other previous winners and shortlisted authors include D W WilsonJackie KayHanif KureishiWilliam TrevorJon McGregorSara MaitlandRose TremainClare WigfallNaomi AldermanLionel Shriver and Kate Clanchy.


Five of the UK's top actors - including Hattie Morahan, Claire Skinner and Andrea Riseborough - read the 2013 shortlisted stories, which were broadcast daily last week (23 - 27 September) on BBC Radio 4. Each of the stories are now available as a commercial audiobook download via AudioGo BBC National Short Story Award 2013 Anthology, published by Comma Press, is available at all good bookshops and at, as well as in Kindle format at


Download the press release



I said this before, before the prizewinner was announced. I think a short story which derives its idea from someone else's idea should have been disqualified. What if everyone used pre-existing ideas? Surely the point of a competition is to inspire cutting-edge creative thinking, as well as fluent and vivid writing.

Jane Saunte
15 October 2013

Sarah also won the internationally celebrated James Tiptree Jr Award and was shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award for The Carhullan Army. It would be good to see Booktrust acknowledge how a talented author can switch across genre boundaries so readily.

Kevin McVeigh
9 October 2013

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