The shortlist for the coveted East Anglian Book Awards 2021 has been revealed, celebrating the very best of publishing, writing, and reading in the region.
Now in their fourteenth year, the awards celebrate writing talent within the East of England. The East Anglian Book Awards are a partnership between Jarrold, the Eastern Daily Press, and the National Centre for Writing, supported by UEA Faculty of Arts & Humanities and the PACCAR Foundation.
East Anglian Book Awards 2021 shortlist
Biography & Memoir
Judged by Hilary Emmett, University of East Anglia
George Skipper – The Architect’s Life and Works by Richard Barnes (Frontier Publishing Ltd)
George Skipper was Norwich’s leading architect in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was responsible for the fantastic Marble Hall in Surrey Street, as well as the Jarrold’s building, and helped shaped the Norwich that we see today. George Skipper – The Architect’s Life and Works provides all that is known of the man, with information from his family, and descriptions of his works in Somerset, Kent, Cambridge, London and Norfolk. Sources include the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Norfolk Record Office.
The Easternmost Sky: Adapting to Change in the 21st Century by Juliet Blaxland (Sandstone Press Ltd)
The Easternmost Sky describes country life and living with coastal erosion, in the recent past, the present and the relatable future. By exploring how climate and social changes are affecting coastal Suffolk, and zooming out from the local to offer a more global perspective, Juliet Blaxland forecasts with wit and imagination the future we will all have to adapt to, in Britain and across the world.
Watercolour Words Fifty Years by John Hurst (Marshland Arts)
Acclaimed Norfolk watercolourist and author John Hurst celebrates 50 years of his career with this impressively illustrated memoir. Containing 217 pages, with almost 200 watercolours, drawings, photographs and poetry, sourced from John’s lifetime portfolio, this publication spans 50 years of hair raising, humorous, intriguing and often unbelievable anecdotes, encounters and adventures.
Judged by Kate Weston, University of East Anglia
The Talk of Pram Town by Joanna Nadin (Pan Macmillan)
It’s 1981. Eleven-year-old Sadie adores her beautiful and vibrant mother, Connie, whose dreams of making it big as a singer fill their tiny house in Leeds. It’s always been just the two of them. Until the unthinkable happens. Jean hasn’t seen her good-for-nothing daughter Connie since she ran away from the family home in Harlow – or Pram Town as its inhabitants affectionately call it – aged seventeen and pregnant.
But in the wake of the Royal Wedding, Jean gets a life-changing call: could she please come and collect the granddaughter she’s never met? We all know how Charles and Diana turned out, and Jean and Sadie are hardly a match made in heaven – but is there hope of a happy ending for them?
Glass Arrows by Heather Peck (SilverWood Books Ltd)
When the body of a farmworker is found during a turkey cull, the incident falls to DCI Greg Geldard to investigate. Newly promoted and newly transferred from North Yorkshire to Norfolk, he is about to face the most challenging case of his career. As he uncovers evidence of organised crime and modern slavery, the body count rises, a friend is threatened and he struggles to bring the murderer to justice.
The Stranding by Kate Sawyer (Hodder & Stoughton)
Ruth lives in the heart of the city. Working, drinking, falling in love: the rhythm of her vivid and complicated life is set against a background hum of darkening news reports from which she deliberately turns away. When a new romance becomes claustrophobic, Ruth chooses to leave behind the failing relationship, but also her beloved friends and family, and travels to the other side of the world in pursuit of her dream life working with whales in New Zealand.
But when Ruth arrives, the news cycle she has been ignoring for so long is now the new reality. Far from home and with no real hope of survival, she finds herself climbing into the mouth of a beached whale alongside a stranger. When she emerges, it is to a landscape that bears no relation to the world they knew before. When all has been razed to the ground, what does it mean to build a life?
Judged by Richard Delahaye, University of East Anglia
Highways and Byways: Illustrated Walks in Norfolk by Marion Addy (Marion Addy)
Marion Addy has been walking the highways and byways of her native Norfolk and painting in watercolour all her life. With time on her hands during the 2020 pandemic, Marion has put her two passions together in this beautifully illustrated book of her fifteen favourite walks.
The Stubborn Light of Things: A Nature Diary by Melissa Harrison (Faber & Faber)
A nature diary by award-winning novelist, nature writer and hit podcaster Melissa Harrison, following her journey from urban south London to the rural Suffolk countryside.
Apparitions of East Anglia by Chris Spalton (Fenbeast Publications)
In this latest book by Chris Spalton, creator of ‘The Eelman Chronicles’, we explore a selection of tall tales, grim history and extraordinary events from East Anglia. Out in that tranquil rural environment are ghosts, witches and devils – and these are some of their stories.
Conceived, explored and created during the covid pandemic of 2020, this book represents a connection with our history, our landscapes and ourselves. Immerse yourself in lore of the land, and awaken a new appreciation of the world that lies just beside and beyond us, wherever we may be.
History & Tradition
Judged by Pete Goodrum, writer and broadcaster
The End of the Road: A Journey around Britain in Search of the Dead by Jack Cooke (HarperCollins)
A wonderfully quixotic, charming and surprisingly uplifting travelogue which sees Jack Cooke, author of the much-loved The Treeclimbers Guide, drive around the British Isles in a clapped-out forty-year old hearse in search of famous – and not so famous – tombs, graves and burial sites.
How Norwich Fought Against the Plague: Lessons from the Past by Frank Meeres (Poppyland Publishing)
Frank Meeres looks at the outbreak of bubonic plague in the city from the first wave in 1348-1349 to its last in 1666-67. This book shows how decisions made at the time affected the city of Norwich in many ways.
Harriet Kettle: Pauper, Prisoner, Patient and Parent in Victorian Norfolk by Andy Reid (Poppyland Publishing)
Harriet Kettle (c1838-1916) was a rebel against authority in Victorian times. With the death of her mother and with her father transported to Australia, she grew up in the workhouse. Becoming a sex worker in Norwich, she got into trouble and was imprisoned several times. Diagnosed with ‘moral insanity’ she spent periods in asylums before marrying, settling in Toftwood and having four children. Disputes led to her assaulting the schoolmistress at the school and taking neighbours to court. A survivor, in old age, she died in the workhouse.As well as providing a detailed narrative of Harriet’s life, this book explores in depth the contexts in which it was lived: the village of Cranworth, Gressenhall Workhouse, the courts and yards of Norwich, Walsingham and Wymondham Houses of Correction, the Norfolk County Lunatic Asylum, the Bethlem Hospital in London and Toftwood, a suburb of East Dereham. In so doing, it provides a vivid picture of the grittier sides of life in Victorian times.
The Mal Peet Children’s Award
Judged by Simon Jones, National Centre for Writing, with assistance from his eight-year-old son
The Wolf Road by Richard Lambert (Everything with Words)
When fifteen-year old Lucas survives the car accident that kills his parents, one memory stays with him – of the wolf that caused the crash. Forced to leave his home and live with his Nan in the Lake District, Lucas struggles to adjust to his strange, new world. And when he learns that a wild creature is killing livestock on the mountains, he knows it’s the wolf, that it’s come for him, and that he must face it. But that means confrontation – with Nan, school bullies, the authorities – and it also means going onto the high fells in a hunt that becomes a matter of life and death…
Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna (Hachette)
Kiki Kallira is more of a worrier than a warrior – but today she will learn to be a hero. The mythical beasts she loves to draw have come to life, and she is the only one who can defeat them. A middle-grade fantasy inspired by Hindu legends about anxiety, creativity and finding your own strengths.
The Forest of Moon and Sword by Amy Raphael (Hachette)
Twelve-year-old Art lives in a small village in Scotland. Her mother has always made potions that cure the sick, but now the townspeople say she is a witch. One cloudless night, Art’s mother is arrested and taken to England. Art mounts her horse, taking a sword, a tightrope, and a herbal recipe book, and begins a journey through wild forests, using nature’s signs and symbols to guide her. But will she spot the signs from the omens? Will she reach her mother, before it’s too late?
Judged by Nathan Hamilton, UEA Publishing Project
Boy in Various Poses by Lewis Buxton (Nine Arches Press)
Boy in Various Poses, a debut collection of poems from Lewis Buxton, explores all the different types of boy you can be – tender, awful, thoughtful, vulnerable. Here, a maelstrom of mental health, male bodies, and sexuality is laid bare with wit and curiosity, and the complexity and multiplicity of gender itself is revealed.
Rose With Harm by Daniel Hardisty (Salt Publishing)
This long-awaited debut from Daniel Hardisty shows off his exceptional lyric gifts to thrilling effect. Poised and poignant, Hardisty’s confessional poems offer love’s realisations, threats and transgressions. The poet is often caught travelling – remote and removed from his environments, as the poems capture concrete moments of transition with bittersweet backstories of love, regret, suspense and loss. Sure to receive wide critical praise.
The Feel-Good Movie of the Year by Luke Wright (Penned in the Margins)
Divorced, and perhaps a little bruised, Luke Wright journeys off the sunken roads of southern England and into himself, pursued by murderous swans, empty car seats and his father’s skeleton clocks.
Both brazen and elegiac, these poems pull on the ‘tidy hem’ of responsible existence, unravelling the banal frustrations of online outrage and ageing friends, and grasping at something ‘beyond our squeaky comprehension’. Wright files through the shackles of cynicism to ask how can we let go without giving up.
Of the 18 shortlisted titles, 12 are from independent publishers or self published. Copies can be bought from the Jarrold Books online shop →
They will now be considered for the Book by the Cover Award, judged by members of the East Anglian Writers. The winning book from each category will be considered by a final judging panel of representatives from Jarrold, Eastern Daily Press, National Centre for Writing and University of East Anglia. One of these six finalists will go on to win the Book of the Year Award with prize money of £1,000, courtesy of the PACCAR Foundation.
Norfolk-based author and illustrator Sangu Mandanna is shortlisted for The Mal Peet Children’s Award. She said:
‘I’m thrilled! East Anglia is my home, and shapes my work every single day, so it’s such an honour to be shortlisted.’
Kate Weston, who judged the Fiction category, said:
‘It’s been an absolute privilege and pleasure to support the East Anglian Book Awards this year in judging the fiction category; with so many wonderful entries encompassing a multitude of fiction genres, these incredible stories really do capture the character and essence of East Anglia and showcase this wonderfully unique region to readers.’
The category winners will be announced in the Eastern Daily Press on Saturday 30 October, followed by the Book by the Cover Award, Exceptional Contribution Award, and the Book of the Year Award on Friday 26 November.
Discover more about the category winners – as well as the identity of the winner of the East Anglia Book of the Year Award – at a special online event on Thursday 25 November, 6.30pm GMT. Register for free now here →