RSL Ondaatje Prize

The annual award of £10,000 for a distinguished work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, evoking the spirit of a place.

Winner 2019

Aida Edemariam has won the 2019 RSL Ondaatje Prize with The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History (4th Estate). The annual Prize of £10,000 is awarded for a distinguished work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, evoking the spirit of a place.

I’ve always loved this prize, its generous inclusion of all forms of writing, its assertion that place is not incidental, mere background or local colour, but the thing itself. I’m beyond honoured and grateful to have been awarded it for The Wife’s Tale.

Aida Edemariam – winner, RSL Ondaatje Prize 2019


The Wife’s Tale is beautifully written, carefully researched and richly imagined, an exquisite blend of memoir, fiction, poetry and invocation. This is a book I shall constantly re-read as well as recommend to everyone i know who loves literature..

Michèle Roberts – Judge, RSL Ondaatje Prize 2019

For more information on the winner and other shortlisted authors, please see our press release.

This year’s judges are Sabrina Mahfouz, Michèle Robertsand Ian Thomson.

If you have any media enquiries, please contact Annette Brook: or call 020 7845 4680.

Shortlist 2019

Rania Abouzeid No Turning Back: Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria (Oneworld)

Aida Edemariam The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History (4th Estate)

Aminatta Forna Happiness (Bloomsbury)

Sarah Moss Ghost Wall (Granta)

Guy Stagg The Crossway (Picador)

Adam Weymouth Kings of the Yukon: A River Journey (Particular Books)

Read the press release for further information.


Longlist 2019

In celebration of the fifteenth year of the RSL Ondaatje Prize we announced a longlist, for the first time:

Rania AbouzeidNo Turning Back(Oneworld)
Sam ByersPerfidious Albion(Faber & Faber)
Edward CareyLittle (Aardvark Bureau)
Jonathan CoeMiddle England (Viking)
Aida EdemariamThe Wife’s Tale(4th Estate)
Aminatta FornaHappiness(Bloomsbury Circus)
Gaia HolmesWhere the road runs out(Comma Poetry)
Christopher HopeThe Café de Move-on Blues(Atlantic Books)
Emmanuel IdumaA Stranger’s Pose(Cassava Republic)
Alice JollyMary Ann Sate, Imbecile(Unbound))
Patrick LangleyArkady(Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Jamal MahjoubA Line in the River(Bloomsbury Publishing)
Sarah MossGhost Wall (Granta Books)
S.K. PerryLet Me Be Like Water(Melville House UK)
Donal RyanFrom a Low and Quiet Sea(Doubleday)
Heidi SopinkaThe Dictionary of Animal Languages(Scribe UK)
Guy StaggThe Crossway(Picador)
Malachy TallackThe Valley at the Centre of the World(Canongate)
Isabella TreeWilding(Picador)
Adam WeymouthKings of the Yukon (Particular Books)

Please read the press release for more information.



Past Awards

2018Pascale PetitMama Amazonica
2017Francis SpuffordGolden Hill
2016Peter PomerantsevNothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia
2015Justin MarozziBaghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood
2014Alan JohnsonThis Boy
2013Philip HensherScenes from Early Life
2012Rahul BhattacharyaThe Sly Company of People Who Care
2011Edmund de WaalThe Hare with Amber Eyes
2010Ian ThomsonThe Dead Yard: Tales of Modern Jamaica
2009Adam NicolsonSissinghurst: An Unfinished History
2008Graham RobbThe Discovery of France
2007Hisham MatarIn the Country of Men
2006James MeekThe People’s Act of Love
2005Rory StewartThe Places In Between
2004Louisa WaughHearing Birds Fly