The shortlist of four contenders for the 2019 Highland Book Prize has been announced.
Competition organisers have named the four books published in 2019 which judges deem the best titles with a Highland connection.
They are: The Frayed Atlantic Edge: A Historian’s Journey from Shetland to the Channel by David Gange (William Collins); Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie (Sort of Books); Spring by Ali Smith (Penguin Random House); and Moder Dy by Roseanne Watt (Polygon).
The winner will be announced at the Ullapool Book Festival on Saturday, May 9, 2020 at a free-to-attend evening event, at which all four shortlisted authors will be present and will read from their work. The winner will receive a cash prize of £1000 and a place on a writing retreat at Moniack Mhor.
The judges made their selection of which books published during 2019 would make the shortlist, concluding:
The Frayed Atlantic Edge: ‘An impressive intellectual and physical journey, allowing the reader to experience the Atlantic Coast from a fresh, deeply informed and invigorating perspective; rarely have our coastlines and cultures been explored with such understanding and respect.’
Surfacing: ‘A compelling collection of essays, alive with captivating details and large – indeed, vital – ideas. With precision and eloquence, we are guided through deep time, expressive place and protean culture, the better to understand ourselves and our environment. What emerges is a book that not only melds clarity and depth, but does so while offering, and exemplifying, compassion, empathy and wisdom.’
Spring: ‘An exciting, engrossing and timely novel, richly layered with necessary themes, marvellous characterisation and a transfixing plot. That the book achieves its ambitions with such persuasion, insight and unwavering commitment to sheer human decency is, in itself, a triumph.’
Moder Dy: ‘To encounter a debut collection that is so emotionally and intellectually vivid is rare indeed. These poems – linguistically rich, profound, imaginative – announce a talent that is already making waves internationally. This is not only thoughtful, lyrical poetry but poetry that will last.’
The Highland Book Prize was established in 2017 to help celebrate the finest work that recognises the rich culture, heritage and landscape of the Highlands. The Highland Book Prize aims to showcase the literary talent of the region and to raise the profile of work created in or about the Highlands.
On behalf of the Highland Society of London, Alex Ogilvie said: ‘Thanks to our discerning panel of volunteer readers, the judges were presented with a diverse and high-quality longlist.
‘Selecting the shortlist from those titles was a challenging but rewarding process, and I am delighted that each of the four outstanding books that we chose displays the author’s unique response to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Across both fiction and non-fiction – but also, for the first time, poetry – the Highland Book Prize shortlist is truly representative of this wonderful region.’
Kevin MacNeil, writer and member of the judging panel addeed: ‘Quite simply the most sublime shortlist I have ever read. I urge anyone interested in literature to treat their mind to any one – better still, all – of these books. I feel like a wiser and more engaged human being for having had the pleasure of reading and re-reading them.’
Liz Beer, member of the judging panel and of the Ullapool Book Festival committee added: ‘2020 is our sixteenth year of running the Ullapool Book Festival. From small beginnings it has turned into a much-loved annual event for our audience, guest writers and chairmen/women not to mention the committee and volunteers.
‘This will be the third year that we have hosted the Highland Book Prize and this year I had the pleasure of being one of the judges of this prize. It has been an absorbing process. In a weekend at Moniack Mhor the judges had in-depth discussions and debate and decided on the shortlist. I think we all feel that the list of four books is a strong one and very varied in content.’