English PEN is pleased to announce the shortlist for the PEN Ackerley Prize 2021 for memoir and autobiography.
The shortlisted titles are:
- Darran Anderson, Inventory: A River, A City, A Family (Chatto & Windus)
- Jean Sprackland, These Silent Mansions (Jonathan Cape)
- Claire Wilcox, Patch Work: A Life Amongst Clothes (Bloomsbury)
The PEN Ackerley Prize was established in memory of Joe Randolph Ackerley (1896–1967), the author and long-time literary editor of The Listener magazine. The prize is awarded annually to a literary autobiography of outstanding merit, written by an author of British nationality, and published in the UK in the previous year.
The PEN Ackerley Prize is judged by biographer and historian Peter Parker (Chair), writer and editor Michael Caines, author Georgina Hammick, and writer and critic Claire Harman. The winner receives a cheque for £3,000.
Daniel Gorman, Director, English PEN, said:
‘Sincere congratulations to all the shortlisted authors for this year’s PEN Ackerley Prize, which aims to celebrate outstanding literary autobiography. Our deepest thanks to the panel of judges for bringing together such an excellent shortlist, the variety and breadth of which encapsulates this aim.’
Peter Parker, Chair of the Judges, said:
‘This year the judges called in 28 autobiographies published in 2020, and from these books we selected a longlist of seven titles. The judges were once again able to meet in person (in a garden) for their final deliberations, making the process much more enjoyable than last year’s online meeting. We eventually produced a shortlist of three outstanding books.
Darran Anderson’s Inventory (Chatto & Windus) is subtitled ‘A River, A City, A Family,’ and these elements are closely interwoven in this story of three generations growing up in Derry. Anderson provides a scarifying and unforgettable account of living in Northern Ireland with the Troubles as a constant and dangerous backdrop; but this is also a book about the secrets and silences that exist in most families and is distinguished by the sheer energy and inventiveness of its prose.
Jean Sprackland’s These Silent Mansions (Cape) describes the author’s lifelong interest in graveyards, which she seeks out wherever she goes. These citadels of the dead supply a counterpart to what she called ‘those lived place’ we all inhabit, as well as suggesting palpable links between ourselves and those who came before us. The result is a profound, beautifully written, and wholly involving meditation on time, death and the processes of memory and memorializing.
Claire Wilcox’s Patch Work (Bloomsbury) is an ingeniously conceived account of ‘A Life Amongst Clothes.’ A curator of fashion at the V & A, the author uses items from the collection to tell individual stories and her experience of cataloguing them to suggest ways in which we arrange the facts and incidents of our lives. As its title suggests, the book is made up of vivid scraps skillfully stitched together to create a wonderfully glancing account of her life.
We congratulate the three authors and urge everyone to buy and read these stimulating and hugely enjoyable books.’
The winner will be announced at an exclusive online event for PEN members and supporters on Wednesday 4 August 2021.