Pearl: (Booker Prize Longlist 2023) (Paperback)
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*LONGLISTED FOR THE 2023 BOOKER PRIZE*
"Pearl, an exceptional debut novel, is both a mystery story and a meditation on grief, abandonment and consolation, evoking the profundities of the haunting medieval poem. The degree of difficulty in writing a book of this sort – at once quiet and hugely ambitious – is very high. It’s a book that will be passed from hand to hand for a long time to come." —Booker Prize judges
A haunting debut novel inspired by the medieval poem of the same name
Marianne is eight years old when her mother goes missing.
Left behind with her baby brother and grieving father in a ramshackle house on the edge of a small village, she clings to the fragmented memories of her mother’s love; the smell of fresh herbs, the games they played, and the songs and stories of her childhood.
As time passes, Marianne struggles to adjust, fixated on her mother’s disappearance and the secrets she’s sure her father is keeping from her. Discovering a medieval poem called Pearl and trusting in its promise of consolation, Marianne sets out to make a visual illustration of it, a task that she returns to over and over but somehow never manages to complete.
Tormented by an unmarked gravestone in an abandoned chapel and the tidal pull of the river, her childhood home begins to crumble as the past leads her down a path of self-destruction. But can art heal Marianne? And will her own future as a mother help her find peace?
About the Author
Siân Hughes is a writer who grew up in Cheshire, the small village where the story of Pearl is set. Returning to live in the village after her mother’s death, she borrowed from the medieval poem "Pearl" to write a story set in an old house she used to cycle past every day as a child. Her first collection of poetry The Missing (Salt, 2009) was a Poetry Society Recommendation, longlisted for The Guardian first book of the year, shortlisted for the Felix Dennis and the Aldeburgh Prize and won the Seamus Heaney award. Siân lives in Cheshire with her son. Pearl is her first novel.
"Complex and colored with songs, myths, and legends, Pearl is an exquisite novel that transforms darkness into light." —Foreword Reviews
‘An utterly gripping psychological mystery.’ —Maureen Freely, author, Enlightenment
"Siân Hughes’s voice moves us because she manages the difficult art of putting wit to the service of strong feeling—a rare achievement."—Hugo Williams, winner of T. S. Eliot Prize and Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry
"Haunting, compelling, beautifully written; translates mythic and literary undercurrents into a modern setting."—Bernard O’Donoghue, Irish Poet
"Sian Hughes' Pearl is an enchanting and eerie exploration of how a child lays down the bones of an ancient past - a medieval poem - as a means of recuperating the voice of lost loved ones."—Sally Bayley
"It’s a beautiful, searching novel from start to finish – vividly told and movingly elegiac in its unfolding understanding of the psychology of loss. A terrific achievement."—Jane Draycott, Translator of the medieval poem Pearl