We are delighted to reveal that The Stubborn Light of Things: A Nature Diary (Faber & Faber) by Suffolk-based novelist and nature columnist Melissa Harrison has been crowned Book of the Year at the East Anglian Book Awards 2021.
The announcement was made at a special online event hosted by awards partners Jarrold, the Eastern Daily Press and the National Centre for Writing with support from UEA Faculty of Arts & Humanities on Thursday evening. Harrison will receive £1,000, generously funded by the PACCAR Foundation.
Melissa Harrison said:
‘If you write about place – and especially, if you write about somewhere other than the place where you grew up – local recognition becomes particularly precious. Having fallen helplessly in love with this part of the world, I’m so proud that The Stubborn Light of Things has been named East Anglian Book of the Year.’
The Stubborn Light of Things is a diary compiled from Harrison’s beloved ‘Nature Notebook’ column in The Times, mapping her relocation from London to rural Suffolk and her joyful engagement with the natural world. The book demonstrates how we must first learn to see, and then act to preserve, the beauty we have on our doorsteps – no matter where we live.
The judging panel praised the book for its uplifting writing and deep passion for the Suffolk countryside. They described it as ‘a book with a mission that stands well for this moment’.
Peggy Hughes, one of the judges and Programme Director at the National Centre for Writing based in Norwich, said:
‘2021 has seen another strong year for the East Anglian Book Awards, with six wonderful winning titles which in different and myriad ways have something to say to the unprecedented times we’re in. From the climate emergency to plague, grief and loss, love and hope and the stubborn light of things despite dark days, these books tell the story of the uniqueness of East Anglia in a language that is universal. We thank everyone who entered this year, and all involved in the writing, making, and sharing of books which have made us think, laugh, reflect, and remember that our whole literary community is reason indeed to celebrate.’
Caroline Jarrold, community affairs adviser at Jarrold & Sons, said:
‘Once again, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all the category winners and seeing the breadth and quality of writing and publishing connected to this area. During this time, when our work and leisure time patterns continue to be disrupted, it was particularly absorbing to be able to immerse myself in these titles and then have a robust discussion with the other judges about our views of this range of distinctive writing to agree on the final winner. I would commend all the titles for a bit of distraction and, particularly with some of the titles, learn more about the wonders and detail of this area over the coming months.’
The Exceptional Contribution Award 2021 for outstanding work within writing and publishing in the region was presented to the School of Literature, Drama, and Creative Writing at University of East Anglia.
Alison Donnell, Head of School of Literature, Drama, and Creative Writing, said:
‘I am absolutely delighted that the talent and dedication of my colleagues in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at UEA has been recognised by this year’s Exceptional Contribution Award. It is particularly pleasing that the award acknowledges the School as a whole, and thereby pays tribute to the connections and cross-fertilisations that operate across genres and disciplines to inform our richly creative-critical culture.’
The ‘Book by the Cover’ Award, sponsored by East Anglian Writers for the best-designed cover of the shortlisted titles, went to artist and photographer Anita Staff for the cover of Boy in Various Poses by Lewis Buxton.
To qualify for the East Anglian Book Awards, works must be set largely in East Anglia or be written by an author living in the region – which is defined as Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and area of Fenland District Council.
Since the East Anglian Book Awards began in 2008, they have showcased the work of over 150 authors, 200 titles and more almost 100 publishers.
Discover more about Melissa Harrison’s book and the 2021 category winners by watching a recording of the East Anglian Book Awards showcase event on YouTube below.
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