6:30 AM on November 26, 2021
A collection of memoirs detailing the love for the region’s flora and fauna has been crowned East Anglia’s Best Book of the Year.
The Stubborn Light of Things: A Nature Diary (Faber & Faber) by Melissa Harrison, a nature novelist and columnist who moved from London to Suffolk, won Book of the Year award at the 2021 Eastern Anglican Book Awards.
The announcement was made at a special online event Thursday hosted by award partners Jarrold, Eastern Daily Press, East Anglian Daily Times Archant publisher and the National Center for Writing, with support from the University of East Anglia’s College of Arts and Humanities.
Other winners, in the Fiction category, include The Stranding by Kate Sawyer, and in the History section, How Norwich Fought Against the Plague, by Frank Merris, which looks at the outbreak of the bubonic plague in the city from the first wave in 1348 until 1349 until the last year 1666 to 1667.
Juliette Blacksland won the Memoirs category, which takes the farmland and nature reserves of the Suffolk Coast as a focal point for a reflection on climate change.
As the overall winner, Melissa Harrison will receive £1,000, which was funded by the grant-giving PACCAR Foundation.
The book is a diary compiled from the author’s Nature Notebook column in The Times, mapping her travels from London to rural Suffolk.
She said, “If you write about a place — and especially if you write about a place other than where you grew up — local recognition becomes especially precious.
“Having fallen so helplessly in love with this part of the world, I am so proud that The Stubborn Light of Things has been named East England Book of the Year.”
The jury praised the book for its high-level writing and passion for the Suffolk countryside, calling it “a book with a mission that aligns well with the moment”.
Elsewhere, the 2021 Exceptional Contribution Award for outstanding work in writing and publishing in the region was presented to the University of East Anglia’s School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing.
School Principal Alison Donnell said: “I am thrilled that the talent and dedication of my colleagues in the University of East Anglia’s School of Arts, Drama and Creative Writing has been recognized with this year’s Exceptional Contribution Award.
“It is particularly gratifying that the award recognizes the school as a whole, and thus pays tribute to the bonds and mutual enrichment that work across genres and disciplines to inform our rich creative critical culture.”
Peggy Hughes, one of the judges and director of programs at the National Writing Center in Norwich said: “2021 has seen another strong year for the Eastern English Book Awards, with six fantastic winning titles in many different ways. We are telling the unprecedented times we are in.
From the climate emergency to the plague, grief, loss, love, hope, and the stubborn light of things despite dark days, these books tell the story of East Anglia’s uniqueness in a universal language.
“We thank everyone who entered this year, and all those involved in writing, making and sharing books that made us think, laugh, reflect and remember that our entire literary community is truly a reason to celebrate.”
Carolyn Garrold, Jarrold’s community advisor, said: “Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of the category winners and seeing the breadth and quality of writing and publishing associated with this field.
“During this time, when our work patterns and free time continue to malfunction, it was especially fun to be able to immerse myself in these titles and then have a solid discussion with the other judges about our opinions on this distinct set of writing until we agree on the ultimate winner.”
“Congratulations to the truly deserving winners of this list, whose actions should make us proud to live in such a wonderful part of the country,” said David Bowles, editor of the Eastern Daily Press.
“More people have turned to reading more than ever in the past 18 months, and being able to learn more about our region or immerse yourself in its landscapes is fun.”
The Book by the Cover Award, sponsored by East Anglian Writers for Best Cover Design for Short Titles, went to artist and photographer Anita Staff for the cover of Boy in Various Poses by Norfolk-based Lewis Buxton.
To qualify for the East Anglian Book Awards, works must be set largely in East Anglia or be written by an author who lives in the area – which is defined as Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Vineland County Council District.
Since the East Anglian Book Awards began in 2008, they have featured the work of more than 150 authors, 200 titles, and nearly 100 publishers.
To learn more about the Eastern English Book Awards, visit nationalcentreforwriting.org.uk/east-anglian-book-awards/
The full list of winners
- Biography and Memoirs – Far East Sky: Adapting to Change in the Twenty-first Century by Juliette Blacksland (Sandstone Press Ltd)
- Fictional Literature – The Stranding by Kate Sawyer (Hodder & Stoughton)
- General Nonfiction – The Stubborn Light of Things: A Nature Diary by Melissa Harrison (Faber & Faber)
- History and Tradition – How Norwich Fought the Plague: Lessons from the Past by Frank Merris (Bobby Land Publishing)
- Mal Peet Children’s Award – The Wolf Road by Richard Lambert (All With Words)
- Poetry – A Rose with Mischief by Daniel Hardesty (Salt Publishing)