WALES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2021: The Winners

Novelist Catrin Kean is the Winner

Literature Wales has declared Catrin Kean the overall winner of the 2021 Wales Book of the Year Award with her debut novel, Salt. It also won the Wales Arts Review People’s Choice Award.

Set in a grey, grimy and overcrowded Cardiff in the late 1800s, Kean’s tale is based on the very real love story of her great-grandparents, who married in 1878. Ellen, a domestic worker, has long dreamed of escaping her life of drudgery when she falls for Samuel, a ship’s cook from Barbados. Together they flee to San Francisco, discovering on their journey that life at sea can be “brutal and dangerous,” though “it is a place where they can be free… until circumstances force Ellen home, and the hardships of working-class life and racism begin to poison their lives.”

Catrin, who currently lives in Cardiff with her partner and two ridgeback dogs, was awarded a place on the Hay Festival Writers at Work scheme for emerging writers from 2016-18. Her short stories have been published in Riptide Journal, Bridge House Anthologies and The Ghastling. She was the beneficiary of the Literature Wales Writer’s Bursary in 2020, which enabled her to work on the short story collection Fogtime.

The English-language recipients of the award were revealed on the BBC Radio Wales Arts Show on Friday 30th July, during which presenter Nicola Heywood Thomas was joined by judges Tishani Doshi, Scott Evans, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Charlotte Williams, along with Literature Wales’ Chief Executive, Lleucu Siencyn.

The category winners were:

THE RHYS DAVIES TRUST FICTION AWARD

Salt by Catrin Kean (Gwasg Gomer)

THE POETRY AWARD

Come Down by Fiona Sampson (Corsair Poetry)

THE CREATIVE NON-FICTION AWARD 

Lady Charlotte Guest: The Exceptional Life of a Female Industrialist by Victoria Owens (Pen & Sword)

THE CHILDREN & YOUNG PEOPLE AWARD

The Infinite by Patience Agbabi (Canongate Books)

THE WALES ARTS REVIEW PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD

Salt by Catrin Kean (Gwasg Gomer)

These titles are available from a range of online booksellers, including Book Depository, Blackwell’s and Foyles for Books.

The winner of the 2021 Welsh-language Wales Book of the Year Award was Megan Angharad Hunter with her debut novel, tu ôl i’r awyr from Y Lolfa. Hazel Walford Davies won the Golwg360 Barn y Bobl Award with her biography O.M.: Cofiant Syr Owen Morgan Edwards (Gwasg Gomer). The news was revealed on BBC Radio Cymru’s Stiwdio programme on 4th August when Nia Roberts was joined by Golwg’s Editor, Garmon Ceiro; a representative from Literature Wales and the winners themselves.

Top image © Literature Wales 2021



Categories: Literary Awards

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10 replies

  1. Of all these the Charlotte Guest creative nonfiction appeals most, but then I can’t help liking anything to do with The Mabinogion. There are some exhibits relating to her at Merthyr’s Cyfarthfa Castle museum, including, I think, a portrait.

  2. The Charlotte Guest appeals to me too. But also Salt. Congratulations to all the winnders and thanks, Paula, for letting us know the results 😊

    • Thank you, Sandra. I had half expected the Charlotte Guest title to be overall winner but I’m sure Salt is thoroughly deserving of the prize. I certainly plan to read both books at some point. 😊

  3. I’ll look forward to your review of Salt in good time! It sounds very interesting.

  4. Salt looks really good. I may have to find that one and add it to Mt. TBR.

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