The Collyer Bristow Prize for Debut Fiction 2019, now in its second year, has been awarded to Caoilinn Hughes for her novel Orchid & the Wasp, a Bildungsroman about Gael Foess, a young woman navigating Dublin, London and New York, as she strives to build a life raft for her loved-ones amidst economic and familial collapse.

Matthew Scott, co-editor of The London Magazine, praised the novel highly, commenting on “the breadth of its imaginative vision” and also “the boldness of the central consciousness which fully engages in a comical and convincing way with the confusing times in which we live.”

Published by Oneworld, Hughes’s first full-length novel was recognised as the winner last night, Thursday 4th October, at a prize-giving ceremony at the Collyer Bristow Art Gallery, held under the auspices of The London Magazine.

Caoilinn Hughes wins the Collyer Bristow Prize 2019

Following the prize-giving, Caoilinn Hughes commented:

“First thanks go to my peers—Sophie Mackintosh, Danny Denton, Samuel Fisher and Katherine Kilalea—for writing such good books that it was an intimidation and an honour to be on this shortlist with them. Thank you to the judges of this prize because, to me at least, books don’t exist without readers, and it is absurdly, painfully easy for a book to go unread, unstocked in a bookshop, unreviewed.

“Unlike a painting or a sculpture or a piece of music, a book isn’t experienced by virtue of proximity. A book asks a reader to open it, sit down with it, to give it many hours, thoughts, feelings, imaginings, neurons. It requires an act of generosity. A book doesn’t take a reader for granted. Nor do I. The London Magazine: thank you for doing vital work for literature. Here’s hoping you’ll review by next book! And thanks to Collyer Bristow for supporting this prize”.

Read Caoilnn Hughes’s statement in full here.

Hughes’s hotly anticipated second novel The Wild Laughter will be published by Oneworld in May 2020.  Set in rural Ireland, it’s a contemporary Irish tragedy about two bankrupt brothers, tasked with euthanizing their father. With touches of dark humour and pathos that recall Flann O’Brien and Flannery O’Connor, this is a novel about class and family, cowardice and legacy, and the crisis of masculinity in a rapidly changing society.

 Juliet Mabey, the publisher, commented:

“I am so thrilled Caoilinn’s critically acclaimed debut, Orchid & the Wasp, has received this wonderful prize, and especially delighted to announce that we will be publishing her sophomore novel, The Wild Laughter, in the Spring. Like her debut, this is a mesmerising, ambitious novel that brilliantly showcases both her breathtaking prose and razor-sharp wit. It’s just a joy to read.”

The shortlist, which features outstanding, original writing published in the UK, is:

  • The Chameleon by Samuel Fisher (Salt Publishing)
  • The Earlie King & the Kid in Yellow by Danny Denton (Granta Books)
  • Ok, Mr Field by Katharine Kilalea (Faber & Faber)
  • Orchid & the Wasp by Caoilinn Hughes (Oneworld)
  • The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh (Hamish Hamilton)

Chaired by Matthew Scott, the panel of judges comprised Suzi Feay (journalist and critic), Bidisha (broadcaster, journalist and author), and Houman Barekat (literary critic).

For more information on Orchid & the Wasp, visit Oneworld Publications.

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