Nero Book Award Winners Spotlight: Paul Murray and Fern Brady

Winners of the Caffè Nero Book Awards have been announced! Read on to find out more about this prestigious award and the winners!

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Caffè Nero strives to recognize great authors in Ireland and the United Kingdom with the honorary Nero Book Awards. The Nero Book Awards acts in conjunction with Caffè Nero’s arts sponsorship program along with its partners, Right to Dream, The Booksellers Association, and Brunel University London. Let’s take a look at the most recent winners!

Caffè Nero Awards

The Nero Book Awards competition involves a panel of judges, including authors, journalists, and booksellers. Together, they hold the privilege of selecting winners in the categories of Non-Fiction, Fiction, Debut Fiction, and Children’s Fiction. Judges of the 2023 awards include Hattie Crisell, Anthony Quinn, and Ella Dove, to name a few. Category winners of 2023 are: The Swifts by Beth Lincoln (Children’s Fiction), Close to Home by Michael Magee (Debut Fiction), The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Fiction), and Strong Female Character by Fern Brady (Non-Fiction). Following the category winner announcements, one of the four winners will receive The Nero Gold Prize, Book of the Year, on March 14, 2024. The final judging panel includes the renowned author Bernardine Evaristo, who won the 2019 Booker Prize.

The inaugural Nero Book Awards of 2023 have announced winners in four categories: Children's Fiction, Debut Fiction, Fiction and Non-Fiction
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The category winners of 2023 portray a thorough understanding and keen interest in topics such as identity, mental health, and politics through the authors’ riveting, inspiring, and thought-provoking stories. Paul Murray’s The Bee Sting encapsulates the real effects that Irish politics and global-scale issues have on an Irish family. Fern Brady’s Strong Female Character is a reflection of her life with autism as well as the ways in which the neurological condition has made her appreciate herself as she is.

Paul Murray

Paul Murray, a Dublin native, is a prolific writer, with novels including Skippy Dies and The Mark and the Void. The former was longlisted for the 2010 Booker prize. Murray tells Killian Fox of The Guardian:

“One thing I’ve gotten better at as I get older is just listening to people. People have crazy lives.”

Murray further goes on to explain that the people who surround us all have stories to tell, and there is a power in transforming ourselves. The author expands on the notion that when writing The Bee Stings, he felt happy, a feeling that certainly contrasts the tone and scenes in parts of the novel. However, Murray explains that the characters came alive, the writing felt natural, and he could pour all his sadness into the story and feel “fine” afterward. As a teenager, the author was less cognizant of the world, but Murray now feels as if there is a thread that perpetually ties us all together. Ireland is a place he feels has a habit of disguising hidden emotions through storytelling due to the darkness that has taken place there. Murray’s The Bee Sting reflects this with the inclusion of ghosts and darkness, which possess the inhabitants of his novel.

THE BEE STING

Justine Jordan’s review at The Guardian celebrates Paul Murray’s novel by highlighting the novel’s unfolding chaos of love and family matters by stating, “This is a sprawling, capacious novel, but expertly foreshadowed and so intricately put together that many throwaway moments only take on resonance on a second reading.”

IG @thebookerprizes photo of Paul Murray with his novel
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Fern Brady

The Scottish comedian Fern Brady is renowned for her comedy in the UK, appearing regularly on Live at the Apollo, Russel Howard Hour, Taskmaster, and Roast Battle. Brady has toured in twenty countries and is currently touring globally for her show, Autistic Bikini Queen. Brady tells Jude Rogers of The Guardian: “I followed that rule of “try to write for what you wished existed when you were 21” and people have said it has helped them.” The author explains the public’s understanding of autism is limited, and that the neurological condition should be viewed as “neutral,” not as a mental illness or a tragedy.

Brady explains autism is simply a neurotype, a brain type that characterizes the way an individual responds to and interprets stimuli such as social cues. Fern Brady’s memoir, Strong Female Character, dives into the author’s experience with autism and diagnosis in her adult years. Brady goes on to tell Rogers that in writing her memoir, she aimed to “speak to people as if they were intelligent.” Brady states this when alluding to the idea that the UK media caters to its audience as if they are “stupid,” providing them with media that lack authenticity.

Strong Female Character

The Nero Book Awards judges admired Fern Brady’s Strong Female Character because of the author’s willing vulnerability in confronting and reflecting on her neurodiversity. The memoir is witty and challenges the mainstream notion of autism by using wit and comedy to reveal a frank portrait of her life as a neurodivergent. Strong Female Character is also a finalist for the Porchlight Business Book Awards, depicting the memoir as heartbreaking, funny, and “deeply personal.”

Fern Brady, popular Scottish comedian
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The memoir by Brady further delineates the sexism present in the realm of autism and how the parochial lens of society influenced the outcome of Brady’s autism and, therefore, her life. Brady experienced life in a psychiatric facility due to the fact that her family and school lacked the know-how or willpower to handle her undiagnosed neuro-divergence.

Conclusion

The Nero Book Awards has shone a spotlight on authors in the fiction and non-fiction literary world. With haunting yet alluring narratives and tales, these books are charming and worth taking the time to read in a world where stories are our hope and solace.


Read about the National Book Awards here.

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