UK: Paul Murray Wins the Nero Awards’ £30,000 Top Honor

In News by Porter Anderson

The newly launched Nero Book Awards delivers its first ‘Gold Prize’ to Paul Murray for ‘The Bee Sting,’ at an award ceremony in London.

Jury chair Bernardine Evaristo with Nero Gold Prize winner Paul Murray. Image: Nero Prize

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘A Wonderfully Ambitious and Entrancing Novel’
Another of the many United Kingdom-based book awards programs that released news during London Book Fair, the Nero Book Awards has announced that author Paul Murray is the winner of the £30,000 (US$38,166)  Nero Gold Prize in this program’s first year for The Bee Sting (Penguin Random House).

Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the four category winners for the Nero were announced in January.  As in several of world publishing’s book contests, the top winner (here the “Gold Prize” winner) is then selected from those three.

And the arrival of the Caffé Nero coffee-shop chain’s book prizes, announced in May, followed the sudden exit from the book-prize field by the 50-year-old Costa (Coffee) Book Awards in June 2022. Thus, for many, the conclusion of the first year of the Nero Prize as a kind of successor to the Costa is a reassuring sign that this format and type of award is still part of the huge array of publishing awards programs in the British market.

As with the Costa, the new Nero—like the Parliamentary Book Awards, as well—runs “a year behind” in its dating format. The award handed to Murray is for 2023.

And Paul Murray’s The Bee Sting is surely among the most decorated of books in the last year. In addition to its Nero Prize, it is:

  • The winner of the Post Irish Book of the Year award for 2023
  • A shortlistee for the Booker Prize for Fiction, 2023
  • A shortlistee for the Writers’ Prize for Fiction, 2024
  • A “best book of 2023” chosen by Sarah Jessica Parker
  • The designee as a “best book of the year” in 2023 by news outlets including The New York Times, the New Yorker, the Sunday Times, the Economist, the Washington Post, and others.

While the naming of Murray and his book did not happen Olympia London, it did occur on the final day of London Book Fair, on Thursday (March 14) at London’s Outernet facility, and jury chair Bernardine Evaristo presented Murray with the honor.

In her comments on making the award, Evaristo said, “This is a wonderfully ambitious and entrancing novel about a family imploding against a background of Ireland’s economic and social crisis of the late noughties. Suspenseful and linguistically astonishing, The Bee Sting is written with great wit and humanity, with a cast of complex characters who are held back by their past, mired in the present and longing for a different future.

“Paul Murray is a supremely gifted storyteller as we learn of unspoken secrets and desires in difficult and sometimes dangerous situations, in a rich, multi-layered novel that is both epic and intimate in scale.

“This is fiction of the finest caliber and we all unanimously agreed that The Bee Sting should win the Nero Gold Prize 2023 Book of the Year.”

Nero Book Awards Category Winners

To refresh your memory,  here are the category winners from which Murray’s book was selected. In listing the category winners here, we include their competitors in each group among the nominees, as well as the pertinent jurors of each section. Each winner is referenced in bold.

Children’s Fiction

Jurors: Urmi Merchant, Dave Rudden, and Nick Sheridan.

  • Gwen and Art Are Not in Love by Lex Croucher (Bloomsbury Young Adult)
  • Bitterthorn by Kat Dunn (Andersen Press)
  • Wild Song by Candy Gourlay (David Fickling)
  • The Swifts by Beth Lincoln (Penguin Random House / Puffin), illustrated by Claire Powell

Debut Fiction

Jurors: Sara Collins, Hattie Crisell, and Tom Robinson.

  • The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa by Stephen Buoro (Bloomsbury Circus)
  • The New Life by Tom Crewe (Penguin Random House / Chatto & Windus)
  • Sunburn by Chloe Michelle Howarth (Verve Books)
  • Close To Home by Michael Magee (Penguin Random House / Hamish Hamilton)

Fiction

Jurors: David Coates, Ella Dove, Anthony Quinn.

  • Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Granta)
  • The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Penguin Random House / Hamish Hamilton)
  • Ordinary Human Failings by Megan Nolan (Penguin Random House / Jonathan Cape)
  • Fifteen Wild Decembers by Karen Powell (Europa Editions)

Nonfiction

Jurors: Ben Garrod, Sarfraz Manzoor, Helen Stanton.

  • Strong Female Character by Fern Brady (Hachette / Brazen)
  • The Tidal Year: A Memoir on Grief, Swimming, and Sisterhood by Freya Bromley (Hachette / Hodder & Stoughton / Coronet)
  • Undercurrent: A Cornish Memoir of Poverty, Nature, and Resilience by Natasha Carthew (Hachette / Hodder & Stoughton / Coronet)
  • Hags: The Demonization of Middle-Aged Women by Victoria Smith (Hachette / Fleet)

The Nero Book Awards are limited to honoring writers based in the United Kingdom and Ireland.


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Nero Book Awards is here, more on international book and publishing awards overall is here, and more on the United Kingdom’s book publishing market is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.