Posted: Wed 16th Aug 2023

Chester graduate’s debut novel ‘Pearl’ nominated for prestigious 2023 Booker Prize

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Aug 16th, 2023

A debut novel by a University of Chester graduate has been nominated for the UK and Ireland’s most prestigious literary award.

Pearl, by Siân Hughes, has joined a longlist of 13 “original and thrilling” books vying for the 2023 Booker Prize.

Siân Hughes, a Welsh writer, grew up in a small village in Cheshire, the setting for her story Pearl.

After her mother’s passing, she returned to her childhood home. There, inspired by the medieval poem Pearl, she penned a tale set in an old house she passed on her daily childhood cycle rides.

The narrative delves into grief, reconciling with the past, and healing. It draws from eight-year-old Marianne’s recollections of her mother’s love after her mysterious disappearance, and Marianne’s journey towards motherhood.

Heralded as “haunting, compelling”, and “gripping”, Siân crafted the novel while undertaking a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Chester from 2019 to 2022.

She stands with four other debut novelists on the Booker Prize longlist, with ten of the authors being recognised by the Prize for their inaugural time.

Speaking on the nomination, Siân remarked, “Being listed for the Booker is a nod to my entry into the novelistic realm, a domain that’s enriched my life as a reader. My gratitude to the judges knows no bounds. I hope others find joy in my work.”

The 2023 judging panel is chaired by novelist Esi Edugyan, a two-time Booker shortlistee. She’s joined by actor, writer and director Adjoa Andoh; poet and critic Mary Jean Chan; Columbia University’s Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Shakespeare aficionado James Shapiro; and actor-writer Robert Webb.

The panel praised: “Pearl is a standout debut. It weaves mystery with reflections on grief and solace, echoing the depth of the ancient poem, Pearl. Crafting such a nuanced piece is no mean feat. This is a work that readers will cherish for years.”

Prior accolades include descriptions such as “Haunting, compelling, masterfully penned; seamlessly integrating mythological and literary elements into contemporary settings” (by Bernard O’Donoghue) and as “An enthralling psychological enigma” (from Maureen Freely).

Reflecting on her academic journey, Siân shared, “My enriching stint at Chester under the guidance of prose poet Ian Seed was invaluable. The publisher’s feedback that the book required little refinement is a testament to the exceptional Creative Writing tutelage at Chester.”

Dr. Ian Seed, a former senior lecturer and now Visiting Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Chester, voiced his joy for Siân’s accolade: “A hearty congratulations to Siân on her well-deserved acclaim for Pearl. Guiding her through the initial drafts was both an honour and a privilege. The entire English Department beams with pride at her remarkable feat.”

Siân’s initial poetry anthology, The Missing (published by Salt in 2009), earned nominations for the Guardian First Book Award, and the Felix Dennis and Aldeburgh awards, securing the Seamus Heaney Award.

She’s currently crafting a novel inspired by another medieval poem, titled Purity or Cleanness. It’s rich in sartorial details; hence, her new protagonist is an observant dry cleaner.

For more on Pearl, or to purchase a copy, visit Indigo Press at: https://theindigopress.com/product/pearl-paperback/ or Amazon at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pearl-Si%C3%A2n-Hughes-ebook/dp/B0BJ7CTH8R.

The Booker Prize, an epitome of literary excellence, has celebrated exemplary fiction for over five decades. Sponsored by the charitable foundation Crankstart, the judges presently seek unparalleled long-form fiction published in the UK and Ireland between October 1, 2022, and September 30, 2023.

This year’s ‘Booker Dozen’ was disclosed earlier this August. The top six shortlisted entries will be unveiled on September 21, culminating in the crowning of the victor in London on November 26, 2023.

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