2015 Shortlist



2015 Shortlist

Judges’ Comments

Sparta is a powerful novel about an American soldier – a classics scholar – returning home from Iraq, damaged in ways that the people around him can not begin to comprehend. Robinson’s story takes the reader from the US to Falluja and Haditha and back again, and shows us how we expect our soldiers  to return to our lives as though they never left, to shoulder the burdens of war without showing any strain. It is a novel of great tenderness and humanity.

About the Book

Going from peace to war can make a young man into a warrior. Going from war to peace can destroy him.

Conrad Farrell has no family military heritage, but as a classics major at Williams College, he has encountered the powerful appeal of the Marine Corps ethic. “Semper Fidelis” comes straight from the ancient world, from Sparta, where every citizen doubled as a full-time soldier. When Conrad graduates, he joins the Marines to continue a long tradition of honor, courage, and commitment.

As Roxana Robinson’s new novel, Sparta, begins, Conrad has just returned home to Katonah, New York, after four years in Iraq, and he’s beginning to learn that something has changed in his landscape. Something has gone wrong, though things should be fine: he hasn’t been shot or wounded; he’s never had psychological troubles. But as he attempts to reconnect with his family and his girlfriend and to find his footing in the civilian world, he learns how hard it is to return to the people and places he used to love. His life becomes increasingly difficult to negotiate: he can’t imagine his future, can’t recover his past, and can’t bring himself to occupy his present. As weeks turn into months, Conrad feels himself trapped in a life that’s constrictive and incomprehensible, and he fears that his growing rage will have irreparable consequences.

(From Publisher)

About the Author

Roxana Robinson is the author of four previous novels, three collections of short stories, and the biography Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, More, and Vogue, among other publications.

Librarian’s Comments

A searing portrayal of the experience of a classics scholar and Iraq war veteran who returns home from the war to find he no longer belongs in either world.



Farrar, Straus and Giroux


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