Author Sara Allerton
Author Sara Allerton
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It tells the heart-wrenching story of the aftermath of a torpedo strike by a U-boat on a Merchant Navy vessel in 1942.

A fictional drama, brought to life through the reminiscences of 87-year-old merchant seaman Brian Clarke, from Lytham, a survivor from the sinking of the British merchant ship SS Sithonia.

And now Making Space, a debut novel by Lytham author Sara Allerton, has been shortlisted for two national book awards.

It has been nominated for the 2011 Beryl Bainbridge First Time Author Award – introduced last year to honour the memory of the late Dame Beryl Bainbridge, who won the Whitbread novel award twice and was nominated five times for the Booker Prize.

The tale of survival, sacrifice, love and lies, is also a leading contender for the annual People’s Book Prize.

Having won the fiction segment of that competition last summer, it is now challenging 11 other books for the leading fiction title of the year.

The winners of all three sections – fiction, non-fiction and children’s – will then vie for the overall People’s Book Prize for 2011.

Making Shore is set in the aftermath of a torpedo strike by a U-boat on the SS Sithonia in 1942.

The book tells the story of some of the central characters who are left adrift, slowly dying of thirst.

In reality, seven crew members were lost when the vessel was sunk.

Mr Clarke was an old family friend of the author, who had long, detailed conversations with him about his experiences, and what the crew had gone through. Mum-of-three Sara said: “Brian’s experience and what he and his fellow survivors had to endure almost beggars belief.

“In writing the novel, I wanted people to dare to imagine how they might fare if exposed to such extreme hardship.

“We’re both thrilled it’s fast becoming a favourite with so many readers.”

The 41-year-old has received rave reviews for her writing, from publishing industry commentators, influential bloggers and media figures.

Andrew Wheatcroft, author of The Enemy at the Gate, said: “I don’t cry much over books, but this one brought a great lump to my throat. It is an extraordinary story – the grim face of war, chirpy unassuming courage, and running through, the need to keep faith whatever the cost.”

The People’s Book Prize is decided by readers, and works with independent publishers and libraries.

Dame Beryl Bainbridge was the founding patron of the award and during an illustrious career, several of her novels were made into films.

Voting for the People’s Book Prize runs until July 15, and winners will be announced on July 20.

You can vote for Making Shore by logging on to