Monique Roffey
House of Ashes

Monique Roffey's House of Ashes was good value for its shortlisting on the 2014 Costa Book Award. It is a retelling of the holding hostage of the Trinidad parliament in 1990, but transposed to the fictionalised island of Sans Amen with its parliamentary building known as the House of Power (of which the title is a pun). It explores the mindsets of hostages and revolutionaries and the way in which the mental balance of power shifts as a hostage situation looks less likely to succeed. The main characters are the reluctant revolutionary Ashes, the environment minister Aspasia Garland, and an angry young radical Breeze. It is a very clever interweaving of themes about how easy it is to despise those in power and follow a firebrand orator, yet how easily a revolution can fall apart and the revolutionaries fall out. There is some quite brutal violence, but this is primarily a psychological hostage drama.

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