Alice Albinia is an award-winning author of conjoined works of fiction and nonfiction. Her first book, Empires of the Indus: the story of a river (John Murray, 2008), describes a riverine journey through time and place: from Karachi on the shores of the Arabian Sea, north through Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, to the slopes of Mount Kailash in Tibet. The book won six awards, including a Somerset Maugham award and a Dolman prize. Her first novel, Leela’s Book (Harvill Secker, 2011), is a retelling, set in modern Delhi, of how the Mahabharata, India’s ancient Sanskrit epic, came to be written down on that same Tibetan mountain. It was shortlisted for the Authors’ Club best first novel award and long-listed for the DSC prize for South Asian Literature. She is now writing about Britain through the prism of its islands. Cwen, a novel set on an archipelago off the east coast of Britain which apparently comes under female rule, was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction and Scotland’s National Story Awards. The Britannias, which begins in Orkney and ends in Westminster, was given a K. Blundell Trust award from the Society of Authors and is published by Penguin (October 2023).
Alice has been teaching writing since 2012, when she became writer in residence at three London secondary schools with the charity First Story. Thereafter she taught creative writing to adults in Orkney, where she lived for a year on the island of Hoy, whilst also working as a firefighter and school cook. Before her first books were published, she spent two years as an editor and journalist in Delhi, where she was completely re-educated in the process by Indian politics, literature and culture.