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The winner of the Writers' Prize Book of the Year is The Home Child by poet Liz Berry.
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The winner of the Writers’ Prize Book of the Year is The Home Child by poet Liz Berry.

Three female writers were declared winners of the annual Writers’ prize, previously called the Rathbones Folio prize. Poet Liz Berry was honored with the top Book of the Year award, valued at £30,000.

Berry received both the £2,000 poetry prize and the top honor for her work, The Home Child, which is a novel written in verse based on the experiences of her great-aunt. Her great-aunt was only 12 years old when she was relocated from the Black Country to Canada as part of the British child migrant schemes.

According to Ruth Padel’s review in The Guardian, The Home Child is a powerful testament to a longstanding injustice and a skillfully woven portrayal of a life lived authentically.

Anne Enright was awarded £2,000 for her work, The Wren, The Wren, which won the fiction category. The piece delves into the complexities of the relationship between a mother and daughter, exploring art as an illusion and love as a trap. In a review for The Guardian, Elizabeth Lowry praised Enright’s ability to masterfully capture the stranglehold of family ties and present them with raw honesty.

Laura Cumming, an art critic for Observer, was awarded the nonfiction prize of £2,000 for her book Thunderclap: A Memoir of Life and Art and Sudden Death. The book explores the connections between Cumming, her father who was a painter, and the artists of the Dutch golden age. In Kathryn Hughes’ Guardian review, she praises Cumming’s writing, comparing it to the careful strokes of paint on a canvas. Hughes notes that this is not a traditional art history book, as there are no footnotes or external sources referenced. Rather, it is an emotionally-driven perspective on art.

On Wednesday, the winners of the London book fair were announced, with all three categories being won by women for the second consecutive year.

Enright’s eighth book was selected instead of Smith’s The Fraud and Murray’s The Bee Sting, both of which were also shortlisted. Berry’s book, The Home Child, was chosen over Allen-Paisant’s Self-Portrait as Othello and Chan’s Bright Fear, while Cumming was the winner over O’Connell’s A Thread of Violence and Klein’s Doppelganger.

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Minna Fry, the director of the prize, stated that each of the lists showcases the exciting diversity and robustness of the literary world in 2024.

“We have all been moved by the tale of Eliza Showell, the great-aunt of Liz Berry,” she continued. “The Home Child is a poignant novel in verse that brings attention to this lesser-known injustice. It is a book that can be enjoyed by anyone and should be read by everyone.” Fry expressed her excitement for Cumming’s win in her category, noting that this was her third nomination for the prize.

In the previous year, Rathbones, an investment management company, withdrew their sponsorship for the prize. In November, the award was rebranded as the Writers’ prize. For this year’s event, the Folio Academy, which consists of over 350 well-known writers, decided on the shortlist and winners. This makes the prize unique as it is the only international, English-language award that is nominated and judged solely by fellow writers.

Fry expressed his gratitude for the involvement of the Folio Academy members in this year’s Writers’ Prize. The results were exceptional, with three deserving winners and a book of the year that received the seal of approval from a large group of expert readers. We are grateful and delighted by their engagement.

Vintage, a division of Penguin, made history as the first publishing imprint to earn victories in all three award categories with their three winning books.

Past recipients of the top award have included Colm Tóibín, Valeria Luiselli, Hisham Matar, and George Saunders. Most recently in 2023, Margo Jefferson was honored for her book, “Constructing a Nervous System.”

  • Check out all the books nominated for the 2024 Writers’ Prize on guardianbookshop.com. Please note that shipping fees may be required.

Source: theguardian.com