The Wellcome Book Prize 2019 Winner: Murmur by Will Eaves
It is our pleasure to confirm Will Eaves’ extraordinary and experimental novel, Murmur, as the winner of the Wellcome Book Prize 2019.
Based on the life of the Bletchley cryptanalyst Alan Turing, in particular his experiences of legally-enforced chemical castration after being charged with gross indecency, Murmer is a powerful exploration of the nature of consciousness, identity and the profundity of first love. Beautifully and entrancingly written by Will Eaves, it is a daring novel, rich in ideas and expression, coalescing themes of art and science in a way which feels revelatory and genuinely new.
The Shortlist 2019
What makes a man want to punch another man? This is the question that lies at the heart of Thomas Page McBee’s distangling of masculinity, violence and society, built around the framework of his own transition from woman to man and his training to fight a charity boxing match at Madison Square Garden. Also shortlisted for the 2018 Baillie Gifford Prize for non-fiction, this is a personal and eye-opening consideration of the relationship between gender and identity. ‘He resolves his own masculinity crisis by doing the things men often think they’re doing, but so often are not,’ noted the Guardian, ‘listening, asking questions, seeking help, being vulnerable.’
Beginning with his own heart-related health-scare, cardiologist Sandeep Jauhaur takes readers on a fascinating - and highly readable - tour of the body’s most emotive organ. Interspersing vivid descriptions of moments of crises, breakthrough or discovery, Jauhaur wheels back to examine the history behind what we know about the heart today and the pioneering individuals whose work made such knowledge possible. The result is a fascinating, lively book that, as the New York Times writes, ‘is chock-full of absorbing tales that infuse fresh air into a topic that is often relegated to textbooks or metaphors about pumps, plumbing or love.’
Now a successful playwright, Arnold Thomas Fanning spent many years at the mercy of crippling depression, mania and psychotic delusions. Mind on Fire is his frank and unsparing attempt to reconstruct his history and examine what it means to be betrayed by your own mind. Inventively constructed, in a style that places readers inside his most personal experiences, Fanning’s book provides an unparalleled insight into the changing states of a disordered mind. The result is courageous, revelatory and moving account of mental illness and the triumph of recovery. ‘Alien, unsettling and shocking but ultimately humanising, this is a book we can all learn from.’ - The Irish Times
Already shortlisted for the Goldsmith’s Prize, Will Eaves’ formally experimental and narratively inventive novel is a haunting fictional re-imagining of the late life of the scientist Alan Turing. Narrated through diary entries and dreams by a Turing double named Alec Pryor, the novel explores the life of a man of science, sentenced to enforced hormone therapy as a punishment for breaking British laws against homosexuality. Beautifully written, Eaves’ book is an ambitiously realised portrait of one man’s search for identity within his transmuted self.
Described by Wellcome Prize judge Viv Groskop as ‘Jane Eyre meets Prozac Nation’, Ottessa Moshfegh’s dazzling second novel ably considers the relationship between the deceptively shimmering surface and what lies beneath. Chronicling one woman’s descent from picture-perfection into a regimented programme of drug-induced somnolence, Moshfegh perfectly encapsulates a generation poised on the brink of 9/11 whilst holding up a mirror to the crises of our own fragmented, overloaded and superficially motivated times.
Undoubtedly one of the year’s most surprising and original biographies, The Trauma Cleaner is the story of Sandra Pankhurst. A woman with an unconventional past - taking her from husband and father to drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker - Pankhurst now works as a trauma cleaner, marshalling an army of hazmat-suited experts to clean some of the most toxic and grotesque crime scenes. Sarah Krasnostein’s immersive and insightful book explores, with great humanity, the resilience and generosity of spirit it takes to live and work at the limits of human endurance.
The 2019 Longlist
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