'Keeper' by Andrea Gillies wins first ever Wellcome Trust Book Prize
5 November 2009
The prize, which is in its inaugural year, is open to outstanding works of fiction and non-fiction on the theme of health and medicine. Andrea Gillies's book 'Keeper: Living with Nancy - a journey into Alzheimer's' (Short Books) - which is about the author's decision to take on the full-time care of her mother-in-law, an Alzheimer's sufferer - beat a shortlist of five other books.
The diverse shortlist featured both factual accounts and gripping novels on broad subject matter from a thriller set in a US laboratory to real life accounts of living with illness.
'Keeper' is a very humane and honest exploration of living with Alzheimer's, giving an illuminating account of the disease itself.
Jo Brand, comedienne and former psychiatric nurse chaired the judging panel and made the announcement at an awards ceremony at the Wellcome Collection, London. She said:
"Andrea Gillies's account of living with Alzheimer's is the perfect fusion of narrative with enough memorable science not to choke you. It's a fantastic book - down to earth and darkly comic in places. The judges found it compelling".
Clare Matterson, Director of Medicine, Society and History at the Wellcome Trust, added:
"The prize aims to examine the links between medicine, culture and society by celebrating excellent writing and bringing it to the attention of a broad and varied audience".
Jo Brand's judging panel included BBC science journalist Quentin Cooper, Welsh poet and non-fiction writer Gwyneth Lewis, physician and author Raymond Tallis and Richard Barnett, expert in the history of modern medicine. The shortlisted books were:
- Havi Carel, 'Illness' (Acumen Publishing)
- Brian Dillon, 'Tormented Hope' (Penguin - Ireland)
- Andrea Gillies, 'Keeper' (Short Books)
- Allegra Goodman, 'Intuition' (Atlantic Books)
- Jonny Steinberg, 'Three Letter Plague' (Random House - Vintage)
- Abraham Verghese, 'Cutting For Stone' ( Random House - Chatto & Windus)
'Illness: The art of living', Havi Carel, Acumen Publishing, £9.99 (non-fiction)
Havi Carel is a philosopher, lecturer and writer. She is also one of only 120 women in the UK to suffer from the potentially life-threatening illness, lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), a rare lung disease. On diagnosis, in 2006, Havi was told that life-expectancy was approximately ten years. Since then, her life has changed beyond recognition and yet, at the same time, has remained the same. Despite being young and healthy looking, she has had to reinvent her life, rethink her aspirations and plans and, more than anything, learn to love the life she has.
While 'Illness', a unique and often moving book, is founded on Havi's experience of living with a degenerative illness, it was her training as a philosopher that pushed her to reflect more generally on the nature of health and illness. Havi explores illness by weaving together the personal story of her own illness with the insights drawn from her work as a philosopher. Too often illness is viewed as a localised biological dysfunction while ignoring the actual experience of the ill person, her fears, her hopes, the way she interacts with others and, ultimately, experiences life. This neglected dimension is the focus of this book. Havi shows how illness is a life-changing process rather than a limited physiological problem.
Havi Carel is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of the West of England. She is married and lives in Bristol.
For further information please contact: Kate Shepherd, Tel: 01993 815835 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tormented Hope, Brian Dillon, Penguin Ireland, £18.99 (non-fiction)
'Tormented Hope' is a book about mind and body, fear and hope, illness and imagination. It explores, in the stories of nine individuals, the relationship between mind and body as it is mediated by the experience, or simply the terror, of being ill. And in an intimate investigation of those nine lives, it shows how the mind can make a prison of the body, by distorting our sense of ourselves as physical beings.
Healthy or unhealthy, robust or failing, ignored or obsessed over, our bodies respond daily to our shifting state of mind, whether we are aware of the process or not. This book is about an especially dramatic instance of that relationship: the mind's invention of physical disease. Through his witty, entertaining and often moving examinations of the lives of nine subjects - James Boswell, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Daniel Paul Schreber, Alice James, Marcel Proust, Glenn Gould and Andy Warhol - Brian Dillon brilliantly unravels the tortuous connections between real and imagined illness, irrational fear and rational concern, anxiety and imagination, the mind's aches and the body's ideas.
Brian Dillon was born in Dublin in 1969. He writes on the arts, books and culture for a number of publications. His first book, 'In the Dark Room', won the Irish Book Award for Non-fiction. He lives in Canterbury.
For further information please contact: Patricia McVeigh, Tel: 01 661 7695 or email email@example.com.
Keeper: Living with Nancy - a journey into Alzheimer's by Andrea Gillies, Short Books, £11.99 (non-fiction)
Andrea Gillies made the decision to take on the full-time care of her mother-in-law, Nancy, an Alzheimer's sufferer. With her family, she moved to a remote peninsula in northern Scotland to a house with space to accommodate Nancy and her elderly husband, and there embarked on an extraordinary journey. 'Keeper' describes the emotional strain of living with Alzheimer's, the trials faced by both sufferer and carer, when patience and obligations are pushed to the limit.The book is also a brilliantly illuminating examination of the disease itself.It explores the brain and consciousness, and tackles profound questions about the self, the soul and how memory informs who we are.
Andrea Gillies has had a diverse career, encompassing writing, publicity work, the editorship of the Good Beer Guide, travel and reference book editing, and writing a drinks column for Scotland on Sunday newspaper. She has spent most of the last 18 years raising children, and latterly, living in a mansion on a remote peninsula in northern Scotland.
For further information, please contact Vanessa Webb, Tel:0207 833 9429 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Intuition by Allegra Goodman, Atlantic Books, £12.99 (fiction)
Sandy Glass is a charismatic publicity-seeking doctor. Marion Mendelssohn is an idealistic and rigorous scientist. They are co-directors of a cancer research lab in Boston. As mentors and supervisors to their young protégés, they demand dedication and respect in a competitive environment where funding is scarce and results elusive. So when the experiments of Cliff Bannaker, the youngest members of their team, begin to produce encouraging results, suggesting the very real possibility of a major breakthrough, the entire lab becomes giddy with newfound expectation.
But jealousy soon breeds suspicion and Cliff's colleague - and girlfriend - Robin Decker begins to suspect the unthinkable: that his findings are fraudulent. As Robin makes her private doubts public and Cliff maintains his innocence, a life-changing controversy engulfs the lab and everyone in it…
Allegra Goodman's 'Intuitio'n explores workplace intrigue, scientific ardour and the moral consequences of a rush judgement. The result is a novel as revealing about human nature as it is about the real life of science.
Allegra Goodman is the author of a number of novels and collections of short stories. Named by the New Yorker as one of the 20 best American writers under 40, she has won several awards, and was shortlisted for the US National Book Award for her novel Kaaterskill Falls. She lives with her family in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 'Intuition' is her first book to be published in the UK. She is available for interview.
For further information, please contact Fran Owen, Tel:020 7269 1623 or email email@example.com.
Three Letter Plague, Johnny Steinberg, Random House - Vintage, £8.99 (fiction)
Award-winning South African journalist Jonny Steinberg sets about telling a grassroots account of HIV and AIDS in South Africa through the story of a young man, Siswe Magadla, who runs a shop in a village in Lusikisiki, a district in Eastern Cape. What he discovers explains a modern day tragedy, why the African AIDS epidemic will continue to spread, even with retroviral drugs and health education freely available.
Steinberg encounters firsthand the firmly-held suspicions which prevent South Africans, especially young men, from getting tested; that AIDS was brought by the white man and is being spread by the needle of doctors; that HIV isn't spread through sexual intercourse; that AIDS is brought into the body by demons as punishment; that anti-retroviral drugs are useless in the face of witchcraft; even that AIDS was spread through HIV-injected blood oranges.
He meets a relative handful of unforgettable medical professionals - Hermann Reuter, MaMarrandi, over-worked nurses in village clinics swamped by the sheer numbers of those needing treatment - struggling against the continual tide of misinformation. The rumour mill is fed by gossip and the parallel culture of divine-healers and herbalists; spirits and magic.
Jonny Steinberg was born and bred in South Africa. His previous two books, Midlands and The Number both won South Africa's premier non-fiction literary award, the Sunday Times Alan Paton Prize. Steinberg was educated at Wits University in Johannesburg, and at Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He has worked as a journalist on a national daily, written scripts for television drama, and has been a consultant to the South African government on criminal justice policy. He is currently writing a book about immigrants in New York.
For further information please contact: Sue Amaradivakara, Tel: 020 7840 8425 email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese, Random House - Chatto & Windus, £17.99 (fiction)
In his debut novel Abraham Verghese transports the reader from the 1940s to the present, from a convent in India to a cargo ship bound for the Yemen, from a tiny operating theatre in Ethiopia to a hospital in the Bronx. 'Cutting for Stone' is an epic of conjoined twins, doctors and patients, temptation and redemption, home and exile.
Marion and Shiva Stone are twin sons of a secret union between an Indian nun and a British surgeon at 'Missing' hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother's death in childbirth and their father's disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the brothers come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Yet it will be love, not politics - their passion for the same woman - that tears them apart and forces Marion to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as a surgical intern at an underfunded, overcrowded hospital. When the past catches up with him, Marion must trust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him, and the brother who betrayed him.
Abraham Verghese was born in Ethiopia and brought up by Indian parents. He qualified as a doctor in Madras and is currently professor of medicine at Stanford University, California. He is the author of My Own Country, an NBCC finalist made into a film directed by Mira Nair, and The Tennis Partner, a New York Times Notable Book. His essays and stories have appeared in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Esquire, Granta, New York Times Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal. He lives in Palo Alto, California.
For further information please contact: Sue Amaradivakara, Tel: 020 7840 8425 or email email@example.com.
Notes to editors
The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending over £600 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. The Wellcome Trust supports public debate about biomedical research and its impact on health and wellbeing.
WELLCOME TRUST BOOK PRIZE JUDGES
Jo Brand (Chair)
Before hitting the UK comedy circuit at the age of 29, Jo Brand spent ten years as a psychiatric nurse in London, experiencing first-hand the day-to-day troubles of people with clinical depression. She soon became one of the most successful alternative comedians in the country. Her award-winning Channel 4 programme, 'Through the Cakehole' made her a household name, and she has remained a television favourite, appearing on shows including 'QI', 'Have I Got News for You' and 'Question Time', while also touring theatres regularly as a stand-up. In 2005, Jo was one of the judges of the Orange Prize for Fiction. She has written two novels, with a third soon to be published.
Science journalist Quentin Cooper presents Radio 4's 'The Material World', the show that reports new developments in science around the world. He is a film, television and radio critic, and presented a discussion of science in crime fiction at the BA Festival of Science 2008.
Brian Hurwitz is D'Oyly Carte Professor of Medicine and the Arts at King's College London. His research encompasses clinical medicine, ethics, law, medical history and the role of narrative thinking in medical practice. At King's College he helped to establish the UK's first MA programme in Literature and Medicine, and is also setting up a Medical Humanities Centre there.
Gwyneth Lewis was appointed Wales's first National Poet from 2005 to 2006. She has published six books of poetry in Welsh and English, two non-fiction books and three libretti for the Welsh National Opera. She was Poet in Residence at the Physics and Astronomy department of Cardiff University in 2005, and is currently a member of the Welsh Academi. She is also a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.
Between 1987 and 2006 Raymond Tallis was Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester and a Consultant Physician in Health Care of the Elderly in Salford. In March 2006 he became a full-time writer, though he remains Visiting Professor at St George's Hospital Medical School, University of London. He has published fiction, three volumes of poetry, and over a dozen books on the philosophy of mind, philosophical anthropology, literary theory, the nature of art and cultural criticism.
Katrina Nevin-Ridley at the Wellcome Trust
T 020 7611 8540