Writer scoops top prize for her first novel since 2004 after she fell victim to chronic fatigue syndrome
- Susanna Clark, 61, has won the £30,000 Women’s Prize for Fiction for Piranesi
- It is around 250 pages, making it a more manageable endeavour for the author
- Her 2004 work Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell sold 4m copies and is 800 pages
- The book is gothic fantasy that tells us ‘something’ about ‘what it is to be human’
It took her 16 years to publish a second novel following her bestselling debut after she fell victim to chronic fatigue syndrome.
But last night Susanna Clarke won the £30,000 Women’s Prize for Fiction for her latest work, Piranesi.
It was published last year and is around 250 pages, compared with the 800 pages of 2004’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
Piranesi deliberately has few characters and required little research, making it a more manageable endeavour for the English author, 61.
Susanna Clarke (pictured) won the £30,000 Women’s Prize for Fiction for her latest work, Piranesi. It was published last year and is around 250 pages
A gothic fantasy about a man trapped in an imaginary prison, it ‘tells us something profound about what it is to be human’, chairman of judges Bernardine Evaristo said at a ceremony last night.
She added: ‘Susanna Clarke has given us a truly original, unexpected flight of fancy which melds genres and challenges preconceptions about what books should be. She has created a world beyond our wildest imagination.’
Miss Clarke said: ‘It is the book that I never thought I’d get to write. I never thought I’d be well enough so this feels doubly extraordinary and I’m doubly honoured to be here.’
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which sold four million copies, is an alternative history of England in which magic exists. It was turned into a BBC1 series in 2015.
This year’s judging panel included Booker Prize winner and chairwoman of judges Ms Evaristo, as well as podcaster and journalist Elizabeth Day, radio host Vick Hope, print columnist Nesrine Malik and presenter Sarah-Jane Mee.
Clarke’s winning novel, published by Bloomsbury in September 2020, comprises a series of journal entries from Piranesi, the titular character who lives a near-solitary existence in his marble labyrinth of a home, where he tracks the goings-on of the ‘House’.
A gothic fantasy about a man trapped in an imaginary prison, it ‘tells us something profound about what it is to be human’, chairman of judges Bernardine Evaristo (pictured) said
Now in its 26th year, the Women’s Prize for Fiction is open to original fiction written in English by women from anywhere in the world.
Other titles vying for the prize included The Vanishing Half, by US writer Brit Bennett, which follows twin sisters who grow up in a black community but live separate lives as adults, with one hiding their racial identity.
Also shortlisted was Cherie Jones for How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House; Claire Fuller’s novel Unsettled Ground; Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi; and Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This.
Clarke was announced the winner at a ceremony held in central London, and takes home a £30,000 prize endowed by an anonymous donor and the Bessie, a limited edition bronze figure created by Grizel Niven.
Last year’s winner was Maggie O’Farrell for her eighth novel Hamnet.