A former school girl from Wiltshire has been awarded Waterstones Novel of the Year 2023 for her debut novel.

Alice Winn, who studied at Marlborough College, was inspired to write her novel In Memoriam by old newspaper clippings that she found at the Wiltshire school where she attended.

Alice originally grew up in Paris and later attended Oxford University, but she says she never dreamed that out of thousands, her book would be chosen as this year’s favourite.

“In Memoriam means so much to me, and I never dreamed that it would have this sort of reception, I was just hoping that someone, somewhere might publish it,” said Alice.

“I am forever grateful to Waterstones and especially to the brilliant, erudite Waterstones booksellers for all they have done for this novel.

“It is an honour I can't quite get my head around,” she added.

Every year Waterstones booksellers are called on to nominate an outstanding book they particularly enjoyed recommending to readers over the previous year.

In previous years, the prestigious award has gone to literary household names such as Philip Pullman, Sally Rooney, Charlie Mackesy and Paul McCartney.

Among those shortlisted this year were renowned authors Mary Beard and Zadie Smith.

But according to Waterstones judges, Alice’s book is “truly assured, classic storytelling for a contemporary reader” and she deserves a place among literary royalty.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Alice was previously awarded a debut fiction prize earlier this year.Alice was previously awarded a debut fiction prize earlier this year. (Image: Ben Darwent)

Alice’s award-winning novel traces the love story between two World War One soldiers, whilst meditating on the tragedies of war and the sanctuary that can be found in deep human connection.

The book was described by Louise at Waterstones Newcastle as “utterly compelling”, whilst Jackie from Waterstones in Cheltenham called it “an elegiac and moving read” and Sarah from Waterstones Piccadilly said it had become “an instant favourite”.

“In a remarkable year for fiction, Alice Winn's debut novel stood out for its assured voice, its heart, and its impeccably researched historical storytelling,” added Bea Carvalho, head of books at Waterstones.

“In Memoriam manages to be at once desperately heart-shattering and full of hope, and comfortingly classic yet daringly original.

“We announced In Memoriam as the winner of the Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize earlier in the year and we are thrilled that booksellers have now also chosen it as our Novel of the Year. We can’t wait to see what Alice does next.”