For immediate release - 15 November 2016
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Winner of the 2016 Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 

Hisham Matar

The Return

Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between

Born in New York City to Libyan parents, Hisham Matar was nineteen when his father was kidnapped and taken to prison in Libya. He would never see him again. Twenty-two years later, the fall of Gaddafi meant he was finally able to return to his homeland. 

In this extraordinary memoir, the author takes us on an illuminating journey, to find his father and rediscover his country – a journey both physical and psychological, at once universal and intensely personal. It is an exquisite meditation on how politics can bear down on an individual life. And yet Matar’s memoir is not just about the burden of the past, but about the consolations of love, literature and art. (Viking • £14.99 • Hb • June 2016)

‘What a brilliant book. The Return reads as easily as a thriller, but is a story that will stick; a person is lost but gravity and resonance remain.’ Hilary Mantel


Richard Davenport-Hines, prolific biographer, most recently of John Maynard Keynes; Flora Fraser, historical biographer whose latest book is George and Martha Washington: A Revolutionary Marriage; Ysenda Maxtone Graham, author of The Real Mrs Miniver, Mr Tibbits’s Catholic School and the just published Terms & Conditions.

The Return tells in poignant and exquisite detail of loss and reclamation following his father’s imprisonment in Gaddafi’s Libya. Masterly.’ Flora Fraser

The Prize is awarded to the best book published by a first-time biographer or memoirist. This year’s winner was announced at the Biographers’ Club Prize Dinner tonight, at the Savile Club. This is the third year of Slightly Foxed’s sponsorship, with a winner’s award of £3,500.

David Aaronovitch, Party Animals (Jonathan Cape); David Hare, The Blue Touch Paper (Faber); Hisham Matar, The Return (Viking); Juliet Nicolson, A House Full of Daughters (Chatto & Windus); Philippe Sands, East West Street (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Also awarded this evening, to the celebrated biographer Hilary Spurling

‘An established presence in the top flight of British biography’ Guardian
This is the third year of Slightly Foxed’s support for the award now known at the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize, with a winner’s award of £3,500. Previous winners of the prize were Alan Cumming in 2015 for Not My Father’s Son, Claudia Renton in 2014 for Those Wild Wyndhams, Charles Moore in 2013 for Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume One: Not for Turning (Allen Lane); Thomas Penn in 2012 for Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England (Allen Lane); and Matthew Hollis in 2011 for Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas (Faber).

For more information about Slightly Foxed, the literary quarterly and publisher, visit

For more information about the Biographers’ Club go to
For a review copy of Hisham Matar’s The Return or for extract or interview requests contact: Poppy North:
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