Category: Book Prizes (Page 1 of 3)

Not The Wellcome Prize Shortlist

And we have a shortlist:

Exhalation by Ted Chiang

This much-anticipated second collection of stories is signature Ted Chiang, full of revelatory ideas and deeply sympathetic characters. In ” The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate ,” a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and the temptation of second chances. In the epistolary ” Exhalation ,” an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications not just for his own people, but for all of reality. And in ” The Lifecycle of Software Objects ,” a woman cares for an artificial intelligence over twenty years, elevating a faddish digital pet into what might be a true living being. Also included are two brand-new stories: ” Omphalos ” and ” Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom .”

In this fantastical and elegant collection, Ted Chiang wrestles with the oldest questions on earth—What is the nature of the universe? What does it mean to be human?—and ones that no one else has even imagined. And, each in its own way, the stories prove that complex and thoughtful science fiction can rise to new heights of beauty, meaning, and compassion.


Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Pérez

Imagine a world where your phone is too big for your hand, where your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body, where in a car accident you are 47% more likely to be seriously injured, where every week the countless hours of work you do are not recognised or valued. If any of this sounds familiar, chances are that you’re a woman.

Invisible Women shows us how, in a world largely built for and by men, we are systematically ignoring half the population. It exposes the gender data gap – a gap in our knowledge that is at the root of perpetual, systemic discrimination against women, and that has created a pervasive but invisible bias with a profound effect on women’s lives.

Award-winning campaigner and writer Caroline Criado Perez brings together for the first time an impressive range of case studies, stories and new research from across the world that illustrate the hidden ways in which women are forgotten, and the impact this has on their health and well-being. From government policy and medical research, to technology, workplaces, urban planning and the media, Invisible Women reveals the biased data that excludes women. In making the case for change, this powerful and provocative book will make you see the world anew.


Constellations by Sinéad Gleeson

I have come to think of all the metal in my body as artificial stars, glistening beneath the skin, a constellation of old and new metal. A map, a tracing of connections and a guide to looking at things from different angles.

How do you tell the story of life that is no one thing? How do you tell the story of a life in a body, as it goes through sickness, health, motherhood? And how do you tell that story when you are not just a woman but a woman in Ireland? In these powerful and daring essays, Sinead Gleeson does that very thing. In doing so she delves into a range of subjects: art, illness, ghosts, grief, and our very ways of seeing. In writing that is in tradition of some of our finest writers such as Olivia Laing, Maggie O’Farrell, and Maggie Nelson, and yet still in her own spirited, warm voice, Gleeson takes us on a journey that is both personal and yet universal in its resonance.


The Nocturnal Brain by Guy Leschziner

For Dr. Guy Leschziner’s patients, there is no rest for the weary in mind and body. Insomnia, narcolepsy, night terrors, sleep apnea, and sleepwalking are just a sampling of conditions afflicting sufferers who cannot sleep–and their experiences in trying are the stuff of nightmares. Demoniac hallucinations frighten people into paralysis. Restless legs rock both the sleepless and their sleeping partners with unpredictable and uncontrollable kicking. Out-of-sync circadian rhythms confuse the natural body clock’s days and nights.

Then there are the extreme cases. A woman in a state of deep sleep who gets dressed, unlocks her car, and drives for several miles before returning to bed. The man who has spent decades cleaning out kitchens while “sleep-eating.” The teenager prone to the serious, yet unfortunately nicknamed “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome” stuck in a cycle of excessive unconsciousness, binge eating, and uncharacteristic displays of aggression and hyper-sexuality while awake.

With compassionate stories of his patients and their conditions, Dr. Leschziner illustrates the neuroscience behind our sleeping minds, revealing the many biological and psychological factors necessary in getting the rest that will not only maintain our physical and mental health, but improve our cognitive abilities and overall happiness.


The Remarkable Life of the Skin by Monty Lyman

Providing a cover for our delicate and intricate bodies, the skin is our largest and fastest-growing organ. We see it, touch it, and live in it every day. It is a habitat for a mesmerizingly complex world of micro-organisms and physical functions that are vital to our health and our survival. It is also a waste removal plant, a warning system for underlying disease and a dynamic immune barrier to infection. One of the first things people see about us, skin is crucial to our sense of identity, providing us with social significance and psychological meaning. And yet our skin and the fascinating way it functions is largely unknown to us. In prose as lucid as his research underlying it is rigorous, blending in memorable stories from the past and from his own medical experience, Monty Lyman has written a revelatory book exploring our outer surface that will surprise and enlighten in equal measure. Through the lenses of science, sociology, and history–on topics as diverse as the mechanics and magic of touch (how much goes on in the simple act of taking keys out of a pocket and unlocking a door is astounding), the close connection between the skin and the gut, what happens instantly when one gets a paper cut, and how a midnight snack can lead to sunburn–Lyman leads us on a journey across our most underrated and unexplored organ and reveals how our skin is far stranger, more wondrous, and more complex than we have ever imagined.


War Doctor by David Nott

For more than 25 years, surgeon David Nott has volunteered in some of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones. From Sarajevo under siege in 1993 to clandestine hospitals in rebel-held eastern Aleppo, he has carried out lifesaving operations in the most challenging conditions, and with none of the resources of a major metropolitan hospital. He is now widely acknowledged as the most experienced trauma surgeon in the world.

War Doctor is his extraordinary story, encompassing his surgeries in nearly every major conflict zone since the end of the Cold War, as well as his struggles to return to a “normal” life and routine after each trip. Culminating in his recent trips to war-torn Syria—and the untold story of his efforts to help secure a humanitarian corridor out of besieged Aleppo to evacuate some 50,000 people—War Doctor is a blend of medical memoir, personal journey, and nonfiction thriller that provides unforgettable, at times raw, insight into the human toll of war.


Have you read any of these? Do you now want to read them? Let me know in the comments

Wainwright Prize 2019

On Sunday I finished the last of the 13 books on this year’s Wainwright Prize Longlist. There are some cracking books on there covering subjects as diverse as gulls to moles, wild swimming and gipsy parking places. London features twice with sexual adventures in Epping Forrest and ghost trees in Poplar and there are two books on what is happening to our wildlife and the possibilities of what might happen if we change. We head under the sea to Doggerland and deep beneath the surface in Underland. Unusually there is a fiction book on the longlist, however, Lanny is a disturbing read but closely linked to the pagan landscape that we can still see if we look. Lastly, there is a book on the pleasures of walking and another about the loss of coastal landscape on the east coast of Britain.

There were a few surprises on this list, and I think that it was missing some that I read and really enjoyed last year, for example, Under the Rock and The Pull of the River to name but two.

I do not envy the judges selecting the shortlist but it is announced this morning. There is an event tonight at Waterstones Picadilly and I am going to be there. I am really looking forward to meeting the authors and will be taking a small pile of books to be signed too.

Links to all of my reviews are below:

Underland by Robert Macfarlane

Wilding: The Return Of Nature To A British Farm by Isabella Tree

Lanny by Max Porter

Landfill by Tim Dee

Time Song: Searching For Doggerland by Julia Blackburn

Our Place: Can We Save Britain’s Wildlife Before It Is Too Late? by Mark Cocker

How To Catch A Mole And Find Yourself In Nature by Marc Hamer

The Stopping Places: A Journey Through Gypsy Britain by Damian Le Bas

Thinking On My Feet by Kate Humble

Wild Woman Swimming by Lynne Roper

Out of the Woods by Luke Turner

The Easternmost House by Juliet Blaxland

Ghost Trees: Nature and People in a London Parish by Bob Gilbert

My favourites on the list are, Wilding, Landfill, Underland and Our Place. Closely followed by Lanny and Wild Woman Swimming.

Who do you think is going to be on the shortlist?

Who do you want to be on the shortlist?

2019 Wellcome Prize Shadow Panel Winner

This is the second year that I have been on the Shadow Panel for the Wellcome Book Prize and for a list of books that vary in content style and subject you can’t really get any better. It is their tenth anniversary too, so if you want to find a book that is worth reading that had some aspect of health as its core theme, then trawling their backlist of long and shortlisted titles is a great place to start.

The shortlisted books were:

Amateur by Thomas Page McBee

Heart: A history by Sandeep Jauhar

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

Mind on Fire by Arnold Thomas Fanning

Murmur by Will Eaves

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

All five of us read all of the shortlisted books and at the end score them from 6 down to 1. This year it wasn’t as clear cut as last year, as each of us had our favourite books, but with the scored totted up our winner this year was:

And it won by just a single point! It is well worth reading, but not when you are having your tea.

Congratulations to Sarah Krasnostein. Looking forward to hearing who is the official winner on Wednesday too, and I am hoping I can get the time off work to go up and hear it live.

Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize – Shortlist announcement!

Earlier today the Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize was announced. The shortlist was chosen by a judging panel chaired by Swansea University Professor Dai Smith CBE with Professor Kurt Heinzelman; Books Editor for the BBC Di Speirs and award-winning novelist Kit de Waal.

The 6 shortlisted books comprise 5 novels and 1 collection of short stories and they are here:

American-Ghanaian writer Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (27) for his debut short story collection Friday Black (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (US) and Riverrun (UK)) which explores what it’s like to grow up as a black male in America, and whose powerful style of writing has been likened to George Saunders. He is from Spring Valley, New York and graduated from SUNY Albany and went on to receive his MFA from Syracuse University. He was the ’16-’17 Olive B. O’Connor fellow in fiction at Colgate University. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Guernica, Compose: A Journal of Simply Good Writing, Printer’s Row, Gravel, and The Breakwater Review, where he was selected by ZZ Packer as the winner of the 2nd Annual Breakwater Review Fiction Contest. Friday Black is his first book.

Debut novelist Zoe Gilbert for Folk (Bloomsbury Publishing) which was developed from her fascination in ancient folklore and the resurgence of nature writing. She has previously won the Costa Short Story Award in 2014. Zoe Gilbert is the winner of the Costa Short Story Award 2014. Her work has appeared on BBC Radio 4, and in anthologies and journals in the UK and internationally. She has taken part in writing projects in China and South Korea for the British Council, and she is completing a PhD on folk tales in contemporary fiction. The co-founder of London Lit Lab, which provides writing courses and mentoring for writers, she lives on the coast in Kent.

British-Sri-Lankan debut novelist, Guy Gunaratne for In Our Mad and Furious City (Tinder Press, Headline), longlisted for The Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for The Goldsmiths Prize, The Gordon Burn Prize as well as the Writers Guild Awards. He lives between London, UK and Malmö, Sweden. His first novel In Our Mad and Furious City was longlisted for The Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for The Goldsmiths Prize, The Gordon Burn Prize as well as the Writers Guild Awards. He has worked as a journalist and documentary filmmaker covering human rights stories around the world.

Louisa Hall with her latest book Trinity (Ecco) which tackles the complex life of the Father of the Atomic Bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer through seven fictional characters. Louisa Hall grew up in Philadelphia. She is the author of the novels Speak and The Carriage House, and her poems have been published in The New Republic, Southwest Review, and other journals. She is a professor at the University of Iowa, and the Western Writer in Residence at Montana State University. Trinity is her third novel.

For the second time Sarah Perry has been shortlisted for the Prize this time for Melmoth (Serpent’s Tail), one of The Observer’s Best Fiction Books of the Year 2018, and a masterpiece of moral complexity, asking us profound questions about mercy, redemption, and how to make the best of our conflicted world. Sarah Perry was born in Essex in 1979. She has been the writer in residence at Gladstone’s Library and the UNESCO World City of Literature Writer in Residence in Prague. After Me Comes the Flood, her first novel, was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Folio Prize and won the East Anglian Book of the Year Award in 2014. Her latest novel, The Essex Serpent, was a number one bestseller in hardback, Waterstones Book of the Year 2016, the British Book Awards Book of the Year 2017, was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award and Dylan Thomas Award, and longlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction 2017. Her work has been translated into twenty languages. She lives in Norwich.

Zimbabwean debut novelist Novuyo Rosa Tshuma with her wildly inventive and darkly humorous novel House of Stone (Atlantic Books) which reveals the mad and glorious death of colonial Rhodesia and the bloody birth of modern Zimbabwe. She grew up in Zimbabwe and has lived in South Africa and the USA. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her short fiction has been featured in numerous anthologies, and she was awarded the 2014 Herman Charles Bosman Prize for the best literary work in English

The winner will be announced on Thursday 16th May at Swansea University’s Great Hall, just after International Dylan Thomas Day on 14th May.

The International Dylan Thomas Prize was launched in 2006. It is one of the most prestigious awards for young writers, aimed at encouraging raw creative talent worldwide. It celebrates and nurtures international literary excellence. Worth £30,000, it is one of the UK’s most prestigious literary prizes as well as the world’s largest literary prize for young writers. Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the Prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama. The prize is named after the Swansea-born writer, Dylan Thomas, and celebrates his 39 years of creativity and productivity. One of the most influential, internationally-renowned writers of the mid-twentieth century, the prize invokes his memory to support the writers of today and nurture the talents of tomorrow.

Follow Dylan Thomas Prize on Twitter here: @dylanthomprize

Wellcome Prize Shortlist 2019

Last night at midnight (no I don’t know why midnight either) the Wellcome Prize announced their shortlist, and the books that they have chosen are:

Amateur: A true story about what makes a man by Thomas Page McBee

Heart: A history by Sandeep Jauhar

Mind on Fire: A memoir of madness and recovery by Arnold Thomas Fanning

Murmur by Will Eaves

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

The Trauma Cleaner: One woman’s extraordinary life in death, decay and disaster by Sarah Krasnostein

The shortlist has two novels on it this year, Murmur by Will Eaves and My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, neither of which I have read yet but have them reserved from the library.  The remainder of the shortlist is non-fiction. Two of the authors are writing about gender, with Thomas Page McBee looking at masculinity and violence as he becomes the first trans man to box at Madison Square Garden in Amateur. Sarah Krasnostein’s book, The Trauma Cleaner, is a biography about Sandra Pankhurst who was a husband, father, drag queen, sex worker, wife – and how her journey through childhood abuse, trauma and transphobic hostility has led her to care to both the living and the dead.

 Heart by Sandeep Jauhar is fairly self-explanatory as to what it is about and Mind on Fire is Arnold Thomas Fanning personal story of his battle with mania, psychosis and severe depression and how he has survived the mental torment. 

As a Shadow Panel, comprising Rebecca from Bookish Beck, Annabel from Annabookbel, Laura from Dr. Laura Tisdall and Clare from A Little Blog of Books we had an opportunity to vote on the favourites that we had and from that chose seven books for our shortlist:

Amateur: A true story about what makes a man by Thomas Page McBee

Educated by Tara Westover

Heart: A history by Sandeep Jauhar

Murmur by Will Eaves

Sight by Jessie Greengrass

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

This Really Isn’t About You by Jean Hannah Edelstein

So we guessed four of them correctly!

These were the ones that I had nominated based on the few that I have read and what fitted the brief as my suggestion for the shortlist and I had also got four correct:

Amateur: A true story about what makes a man by Thomas Page McBee

Murmur by Will Eaves

Heart: A history by Sandeep Jauhar

Mind on Fire: A memoir of madness and recovery by Arnold Thomas Fanning

Polio: The Odyssey of eradication by Thomas Abraham

This Really Isn’t About You by Jean Hannah Edelstein

Have you read any of them? Are there any that you want to read having seen this list? Let me know below.



The Wellcome Book Prize 10th Anniversary Blog Tour

Welcome to Halfman, Half Book, I am Paul Cheney. This is the first stop on the 10th Anniversary Blog Tour for the Wellcome Book Prize. Launched in 2009, the prize celebrates the best new books that engage with an aspect of medicine, health or illness, showcasing the breadth and depth of our encounters with medicine through exceptional works of literature. These exceptional works of fiction and non-fiction illuminate the many ways that health, medicine and illness touch our lives. Over the last decade, the prize has recognised an eclectic variety of titles from novels to memoirs to popular science. In 2019, the prize will celebrate this legacy and this extraordinary genre of books that add new meaning to life, death and everything in between.

Today I am going to be highlighting one of the books from 2009, the first year that the prize ran, Tormented Hope. First, though I will be talking about, Illness by Havi Carel.

What is illness? Is it a physiological dysfunction, a social label, or a way of experiencing the world? How do the physical, social, and emotional worlds of a person change when they become ill? Can there be well-being within illness?

In this remarkable and thought-provoking book, Havi Carel explores these questions by weaving together the personal story of her own illness with insights and reflections drawn from her work as a philosopher. Carel’s fresh approach to illness raises some uncomfortable questions about how we all – whether healthcare professionals or not – view the ill, challenging us to become more thoughtful. Illness unravels the tension between the universality of illness and its intensely private, often lonely, nature. It offers a new way of looking at a matter that affects every one of us.

Revised and updated throughout, the third edition of this groundbreaking volume includes a new chapter on organ transplantation. Illness: The Cry of the Flesh will prove essential reading to those studying philosophy, medical ethics, and medical anthropology, as well as those in the healthcare and medical professions. It will also be of interest to individuals who live with illness, and their friends and families.

My Review:

However, there are those that have long term, debilitating and life-shortening illnesses that affect them and their families in a multitude of ways. How does society as a whole consider those that are ill and how should we as individuals treat those that are ill.

Havi Carel is well placed to consider the impact of illness on an individual and the wider implications in society in her position as Professor of Philosophy at Bristol and as a long term sufferer of Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM). This is a rare, progressive and systemic disease that typically results in cystic lung destruction and affects younger women.

Using the intimate knowledge of her own illness from when she began to realise that there was something wrong in 2004, learning about the illness with her father there, to details on the medical treatments that she needed. She is open about how some friends, family and medical practitioners have treated her since the diagnosis and when their care has succeeded and when it hasn’t. With the finely honed gaze of a philosopher and through the prism of phenomenology she is best placed to understand how and why people do the things that they do.

It is quite a profound book in lots of ways. Carel explores from a very personal perspective the feeling and emotions that come with severe and long term debilitating illness and gets to the very crux of the matter on how we need to treat those in those long term illnesses. Some of the more esoteric philosophy I didn’t really get the first time, so it will be worth a second read again on those sections. In my opinion, this is a brilliant companion volume to the book by Kathryn Mannix that was shortlisted last year, With The End In Mind, that explores different and more empathetic ways to treat people as they reach the end of their life.

Another book on the shortlist in 2009 was, Tormented Hope. 

In this, Brian Dillon looks at nine prominent hypochondriacs – James Boswell, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Daniel Paul Schreber, Alice James, Marcel Proust, Glenn Gould and Andy Warhol – and what their lives tell us about the way the mind works with, and against, the body. His findings are stimulating and surprising, and the stories he tells are often moving, sometimes hilarious, and always gripping. With a new afterword on Michael Jackson.

Brian Dillon’s first book, In the Dark Room, won the Irish Book Award for Non-fiction in 2006. He lives in Canterbury.

Please do come back later for a review of this book and thank you for stopping by today

Do find the other blogs and book lovers on social media as they talk about the books that have made the shortlists over the past decades

Find out more about the prize and the Wellcome Trust here:

Follow the hashtag too: #WBP2019


The longlist for the prize will be announced in February, the shortlist in march and the winner announced in April. Really looking forward to seeing what makes it on this year.

Elif Shafak, the award-winning author, is chair of the Wellcome Book Prize 2019 and is joined on the panel by Kevin Fong, consultant anaesthetist at University College London Hospitals; Viv Groskop, writer, broadcaster and stand-up comedian; Jon Day, writer, critic, and academic; and Rick Edwards, broadcaster and author.



Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award Shortlists

There are Lots of excellent books to read on these shortlists announced today. The scary thing is that I am an official judge for the Stanford Dolman list!:


Ottoman Odyssey: Travels through a Lost Empire by Alev Scott

Lights In The Distance: Exile and Refuge at the Borders of Europe by Daniel Trilling

The Rhine: Following Europe’s Greatest River from Amsterdam to the Alps by Ben Coates

Dancing Bears: True Stories about Longing for the Old Days by Witold Szablowski (translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd Jones)

The Stopping Places: A Journey Through Gypsy Britain by Damian Le Bas

The Immeasurable World: Journeys in Desert Places by William Atkins


Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Ponti by Sharlene Teo

The Madonna of The Mountains by Elise Valmorbida

Woman At Sea by Catherine Poulain

House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma


The Secret Surfer by Iain Gately

Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey by Adam Weymouth

Up: My Life’s Journey to the Top of Everest by Ben Fogle and Marina Fogle, Mark Fisher (photographer)

Arabia: A Journey Through The Heart of the Middle East by Levison Wood

Around the World in 80 Days: My World Record Breaking Adventure by Mark Beaumont

Me, My Bike and a Street Dog Called Lucy by Ishbel Holmes


Destination: Planet Earth by Jo Nelson, illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole

Alastair Humphreys’ Great Adventurers by Alastair Humphreys, illustrated by Kevin Ward

Explorers on Witch Mountain by Alex Bell

Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World by Ben Handicott, illustrated by Lucy Letherland

Journeys by Jonathan Litton, illustrated by Leo Hartas, Chris Chalik, Jon David and David Shephard

Maps of the United Kingdom by Rachel Dixon and Livi Gosling


The Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands by Huw Lewis-Jones

The Hidden Tracks: Wanderlust – Hiking Adventures Off the Beaten Path by Cam Honan

Wonders: Spectacular Moments in Nature Photography by Rhonda Rubinstein and California Academy of Sciences

Maps of London and Beyond by Adam Dant, foreword by The Gentle Author

Escape by Bike: Adventure Cycling, Bikepacking and Touring Off-Road by Joshua Cunningham

The Golden Atlas: The Greatest Explorations, Quests and Discoveries on Maps by Simon & Schuster


Pasta, Pane, Vino: Deep Travels Through Italy’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding

Copenhagen Food: Stories, traditions and recipes by Trine Hahnemann, Photography by Columbus Leth

Shetland: Cooking on the Edge of the World by James & Tom Morton, Photography by Andy Sewell

Black Sea: Dispatches and Recipes – Through Darkness and Light by Caroline Eden

Nightingales and Roses: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen by Maryam Sinaiee

Khazana: Saliha Mahmood Ahmed (Hodder & Stoughton) by Saliha Mahmood Ahmed


The Crossway by Guy Stagg

Step By Step by Jonathan Litton

Thinking on My Feet: The small joy of putting one foot in front of another by Kate Humble

In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

Skybound: A Journey In Flight by Rebecca Loncraine

More details on this link:

Shadow Panel Winner for the Young Writer Award

I cannot tell you all how delighted to announce for The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer Of The Year Award, in association with The University of Warwick Shadow Panel winner is Imogen Hermes Gowar with the fabulous The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock (Published by Harvill Secker) You can read the official announcement here

Many Congratulations to Imogen Hermes Gowar for this. It was a really close call. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I didn’t make the meeting (thanks to Network Rail) and contributed via phone from the train as it made its way into London. It was a shame as I was really looking forward to meeting all my shadow panel members.

Here we all are holding the winning book



I am really looking forward to seeing what the real judges pick next week!

Follow our Winner on Twitter: @girlhermes. And her publisher: @harvillsecker
Here is the round up of all the shadow panel reviews.
Don’t forget to follow the award on twitter @youngwriteryear And the has tag #youngwriterawardshadow

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

My final review for The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer Of The Year Award, in association with The University of Warwick, shortlist, is for The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Imogen Hermes Gowar studied Archaeology, Anthropology and Art History before going on to work in museums. She began to write small pieces of fiction inspired by the artefacts she worked with. In 2013 won the Malcolm Bradbury Memorial Scholarship to study for an MA in Creative Writing. She won the Curtis Brown Prize for her dissertation, which grew into this novel. She lives, works, and walks around south-east London – an area whose history she takes a keen interest in.

My review:

Jonah Hancock hears frantic knocking on his from door one September evening. On opening it he finds Captain Jones, one of the captains of his merchant ships eagerly waiting to see him. He lets him in and then hears the news that he has bought. It is not good; he has sold Hancock’s entire ship for what he has been told is a mermaid. Stunned at first, Hancock is lost for words, but Jones persuades him that this will make his fortune, provided he stirs interest in it.

Turns out that lots of people have heard of this marvel and are desperate to see it. The showing is a success and he is being courted by the great and the good as he rises into the echelons of high society. Mrs Chappell, the sharp-eyed businesswoman sees an opportunity to make money from this wonder and offers to rent it from him for a staggering sum of money. He attends the first event, naïvely thinking that the owner of a bordello might not have an event that descends into a romp; but he was wrong. His chaperone for the evening, Angelica Neal, is one of the most beautiful women he has ever seen, but even her charms cannot keep him there so he leaves the party early.

He is approached with an offer for the mermaid and manages to negotiate a very high price for it; financially he is made for life. He is still seeing Angelica, and she requests that she would love him to acquire another mermaid for her, something that he would have considered almost impossible, but one has been found before.

Historical melodrama in not really my thing, but the advantage of reading a shortlist is that it opens your eyes to books that you wouldn’t have considered before. Gowar’s book is well researched and her attention to detail for the period is spot on. Even though it is almost 500 pages long, it didn’t read like a long novel. The prose is flowery and elaborate but suits the time period that it is written in well. It has a strong moral tale and about obsession, oppression and tragedy. It was a book that I liked but didn’t love it as these are not completely my thing.

There are lots of things happening online concerning the award if you want to follow it.

The website is here:

The Young Writers Twitter Account is here:

You can find them on Facebook here:

Or follow the hashtag: 

My fellow shadow panel members are also all online:

Amanda Chatterton – Bookish Chat –

Susan Osborne – A Life In Books –

Lucy Pearson – The Lit Edit –

Lizzi Risch – These Little Words

Or follow the hashtag: #youngwriterawardshadow

Kings of the Yukon by Adam Weymouth

My second review for The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer Of The Year Award, in association with The University of Warwick, shortlist, is for Kings of the Yukon by Adam Weymouth

Adam Weymouth is interested in the relationship between humans and the world around them. It has led him to write on issues of climate change and environmentalism, and most recently, to travel the Yukon River and tell the stories of the people living on its banks. He lives on a 100-year-old Dutch barge on the River Lea in London. He has written for a wide variety of outlets including the Guardian, the Atlantic and the New Internationalist. Kings of the Yukon is his first book.

My review:

There are very few areas left in the world that haven’t had some interference from mankind, but one of the true wilderness areas left is in Alaska. It is through this part of Canada and America that the Yukon River snakes its way to the coast and it is this 2000 mile river that Adam Weymouth is intending to canoe along. Even this remote wilderness is showing the signs of climate change and the results of our ruining the planet.

Weymouth is also there to track the King salmon, or chinook as they are known in Canada, as they head upstream from the Bearing Sea to carry out their last act before dying; spawning. They have been away in the Pacific and no one knows exactly where they go, or indeed how they find their way back to the same river and the exact pool where they were spawned themselves. When they have committed this last act, they die. The return of the salmon brought food for the various predators and economic activity along the river for the people that choose to live in this part of the world. However the thousands and thousands of salmon that used to almost clog the river up in their desire to reproduce are no longer there, changes wrought by us and climate change hade decimated the populations.

His account of his four-month journey was in reality split over two years as the river was impossible to canoe down during the winter. That doesn’t lessen his desire to find the people with the stories to tell, and what stories they are. This part of the world attracts those that wanted to drop out of normal society. He meets the indigenous people too who have relied on the king salmon as an intrinsic part of their culture for thousands of years and who until recently have only lightly touched the earth. Weymouth takes time to talk to those he meets, tease out the stories and understand the shocking effects we have been causing on this otherwise unspoilt wilderness and the way that people who have depended on this natural resource are trying to change to reverse some of the changes. For a debut travel writer,  he is pretty accomplished. This is a really enjoyable travel book with a sharp focus and I am looking forward to reading what he does next.


There are lots of things happening online concerning the award if you want to follow it.

The website is here:

The Young Writers Twitter Account is here:

You can find them on Facebook here:

Or follow the hashtag: 

My fellow shadow panel members are also all online:

Amanda Chatterton – Bookish Chat –

Susan Osborne – A Life In Books –

Lucy Pearson – The Lit Edit –

Lizzi Risch – These Little Words

Or follow the hashtag: #youngwriterawardshadow

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