The Booker Prize Longlist announcement is highly anticipated every year and there is not a thrill so exciting than getting to see one of our publishers on it! The longlist this year includes the breathtaking debut novel Pearl by Siân Hughes, published by the powerhouse indie publisher The Indigo Press. I’m sure its vibrant cover has already caught your eye, and its contents are even more so. For those interested to find out more about this incredible award-nominated title (and who isn’t!), read on…
Filled with lyrical prose and melodic lyrics from songs, this is a remarkable novel which ebbs and flows, moves and affects, heart-warming and heart wrenching. Protagonist Marianne and her 13-year-old daughter Susannah partake in village traditions, in parades, fairground rides and picnics in the churchyard by family graves. Traditions can feel like stepping into the past and Marianne is transported into pockets of memories, from her gardening-, games-, song-filled home-schooled days with her mother, to the trauma of her disappearance, to the struggling fragments of the family she left behind.
With songs at the beginning of each chapter linking them together, Hughes impossibly awakens melodies from my own childhood that I’d forgotten – ‘Green Gravel’, ‘The Man in the Moon’, ‘Made ya look / Made ya stare’. Proving that the smallest thing can bring us back to the past, Hughes only needs to feed us a few lines to show the power of memory and the yearning pull of reminiscing. With the first and last chapter ending with the same song, the narrative is beautifully joined like a string of pearls and perfectly complete. Hughes invokes imagery from the medieval poem Pearl with depictions of streams, flowers, and the aching search for something beloved, bringing this romantic 14th-century poem into 2023. The deep sorrow and grief felt by the absence of a loved one – a loved one who is missing, unknown to be alive or not – who seems just out of reach is so poignantly depicted. Marianne is a mother who is missing a mother, and the journey she must take to heal from her traumatic past is a strikingly moving one that she must make through the therapy of art.
Though melancholic and grieving, this is an uplifting novel of strength, believing and courage, one which carries a message and a feeling that will stay with you forever. There is absolutely no question why this astounding title is on the longlist for such a prestigious prize.
Pearl is a novel that has wisdom and experience distilled into it, that defies its downbeat subject matter with the joy of its telling.The Times
Hughes’ writing is beautiful.Lucy Writers
Compulsive and wonderfully written, Pearl is a small gem.TLS
Pearl by Siân Hughes is published by The Indigo Press
9781911648529 | PB | £11.99