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Highland Book Prize goes to all four finalists


By Andrew Dixon

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The Highland Book Prize 2019's four shortlisted titles.
The Highland Book Prize 2019's four shortlisted titles.

Organisers of the annual Highland Book Prize have announced all four finalists as joint winners.

It came at the request of the authors and has been declared a celebration of life, literature and community.

They have donated the £1000 prize to Highland Food Bank.

The joint winners 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)
  • Moder Dy by Roseanne Watt (Polygon)

In a joint statement the authors said: “We were all delighted and honoured to be shortlisted for the Highland Book Prize. We have enjoyed the excitement and the publicity and were all very disappointed that the Ullapool Book Festival had to be cancelled, along with so much else.

"We are living in extraordinary times, and to reflect this, the four shortlisted authors have decided we'd like to be awarded the prize together and equally as a collective – as a celebration of life, literature and community. Further, we would like to donate our £1000 prize to the Highland Food Bank.”

The book prize is designed to celebrate the finest published work which recognises the rich landscape and cultural diversity of the Highlands.

The first round of judging saw 105 volunteer readers devoting their time to critique the 80 submitted titles.

Over the last few weeks, new volunteer readers have offered their support.

A spokesman for the organisers said: "We are living in a world of walls where we dance a two-metre rule around our neighbours.

"There is solace in the knowledge that literature is a constant. Great books endure and new books are being created all around us. In a time like this, it seems more important than ever to collectively celebrate books that resonate with place and community.

"With lockdown comes a yearning for a sense of belonging. When we are told to stay indoors, it removes us from our connection to the Highlands or wherever we call home. Therefore, more than ever, we feel extremely grateful to the shortlisted authors and for all the books that were submitted, for bringing this strong sense of place back into our hearts."

He added: "We are extremely grateful and feel honoured that we can bring people closer to the Highlands while they are physically unable to travel here. It’s hoped that the broad nature of the prize, being open to so many different types of creative works including fact, fiction, poetry, memoir, environmental science, nature, adventure, history and much more offers a way to engage with the Highlands from many perspectives.

"When the coronavirus pandemic hit us, life changed in a matter of days. In among the confusion, we were bowled over when the shortlisted authors approached us with an idea: to be awarded the prize together and equally as a collective, as a celebration of life, literature and community. This is absolutely the spirit of the times; collectively we are stronger in the face of this unique challenge."

He also thanked the authors for their generosity in giving cash to the food bank.

Alex Ogilvie, book prize judge and trustee of the Highland Society of London said: “This is a wonderful decision by the authors – on the one hand reminding us that in this time of crisis, we need to stand together and act together; and on the other hand, ensuring that the prize money is donated to those who really need it. At the same time, I want to thank all of the volunteer readers, authors, publishers, bookshops and many others who have participated in the 2019 Highland Book Prize process – you are all part of this collective and generous contribution.”

Kevin MacNeil, author and member of the judging panel, said: “Compassion, selflessness and integrity are not only exemplified by the authors in their gesture of generosity and camaraderie, those qualities are also evident in four books that are at once timely and timeless.

"For anyone self-isolating, reading these books will provide the most engaging, thought-provoking and rewarding of activities. Each of the four winning books is uniquely brilliant, but in their diversity – incorporating poetry, fiction, essays, narrative non-fiction – they offer an enthralling and enduring collection.

"I think it is no exaggeration to say that this was the strongest shortlist the Highland Book Prize has had to date, and in exceptional times it is gratifying to affirm that they are all winners. These are books I loved and will remember and to which I will keep returning.”

The 2020 Highland Book Prize will open for entries this summer.

Volunteer readers who wish to participate in the initial longlisting process should sign up at www.highlandbookprize.org.uk

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