Tag Archives: The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer Of The Year Award

The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer Of The Year Award, in association with The University of Warwick: The Reading Cure by Laura Freeman

Cover imageOne of the many good things about shadow judging this award is that it’s made me review non-fiction. It’s not that I don’t read it but the last book I reviewed that wasn’t fiction was back in May. Laura Freeman’s The Reading Cure was already in my sights before the shortlist was announced but if it hadn’t appeared on that I may well not have written about it and so wouldn’t have paid so much attention. Subtitled ‘How Books Restored my Appetite’, it’s about the way in which reading helped her to find a way to eat again.

Freeman was thirteen when she first felt there was something wrong with her body. Drying off in the sun after a swim with just one week of the holidays left before returning to her hated school, she’s seized with a wave of revulsion. So begins a gradual paring back of food until all she can do is stay in bed apart from the weekly outings to her therapist followed by a visit to Daunt’s bookshop on Marylebone High Street. Always bookish, Freeman takes refuge in Dickens, consuming almost his entire works. Over the fifteen years between her diagnosis and writing The Reading Cure, Freeman relished descriptions of food, from the resplendent plum pudding of A Christmas Carol which helped her eat her first sliver at the Boxing Day family dinner, to the essays of M. F. K. Fisher whose abandoned delight in eating got her over her potato hump, marking her steps towards recovery in literary milestones. Her journey’s punctuated by stops and starts, including three serious relapses, the third prompted by deluge of strictures from the clean eating brigade. By the end of her memoir, Freeman knows that the clamour in her head isn’t silenced forever but she has a stout defence next time the Jabberwock comes calling.

Freeman weaves her story lightly through her reading so that books are to the fore, describing her illness in plain language that rings with truth. She writes about books beautifully, picking out evocative descriptions of food which have helped her inch towards a less fraught relationship with it. Reading helps clarify her thoughts while walking muffles the voices in her head just as it did for Virginia Woolf as Freeman discovers in Woolf’s diaries. The epilogue is both a lovely testament to the love and help of friends and family, and an expression of hope that her book might help others with whatever ails them.

Freeman’s raw honesty and gentle humour coupled with a delight in books elicit empathy far more effectively than any full on confessional misery memoir. I wanted to cheer her on to the next small mouthful of bubble and squeak – the Nigel Slater recipe – or Cornish saffron bun, inspired by Laurie Lee, but my favourite moment isn’t book related at all. Sitting in a café having just heard the complicated, finicky order of a clean eater, Freeman defiantly orders a boiled egg with buttered soldiers and a proper cup of tea. It might not seem much to you, but it’s a pleasing indication of the many strides made by her.

If you’d like to read two of my fellow shadow judges’ reviews of The Reading Cure, Paul’s is at HalfManHalfBook and Lizzi’s is at These Little Words. You can find out more about the award by visiting www.youngwriteraward, following @youngwriteryear or keep up with us shadow judges at #youngwriterawardshadow.

The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer Of The Year Award, in association with The University of Warwick 2018: Shadow Panel

SUnday Times Young Writer of the Year shadow judge I don’t think I’ve posted twice in one day before but today’s the day the Young Writer of the Year shadow judging panel is announced and I’m on it. Past winners of the award have included Sally Rooney’s  Conversations with Friends and Grief is a Thing with Feathers while both Sara Taylor’s The Lauras and The Shore have appeared on shortlists, all right up my literary street, As you can imagine, I’m delighted to be asked to take part and looking forward to meeting my fellow panelists who are:

Amanda – Bookish Chat

Lucy –  The Literary Edit

Lizzi – These Little Words

Paul – Half Man, Half Book

The judges this year are Andrew Holgate (Sunday Times Literary Editor), Kamila Shamsie and Susan Hill. We’ll be reading and thinking about the four books on their shortlist then getting together to thrash things out, amicably I’m sure. There’s an event at the Groucho Club on November 17th to look forward to where bloggers will be able to meet the shortlisted authors. If you’re a blogger and haven’t yet been invited but would like to attend it’s not too late to register, just click here. I’m hoping  that  some of the bloggers I’ve had so many bookish exchanges with over the years will be there.

The shortlist will be announced on November 4th. We shadow judges will be revealing our winner on November 28th while the real thing will be announced at a prize-giving ceremony on December 6th.

If you’d like to know more about the award you can find out here. We’ll all be posting our reviews of the shortlisted titles on our blogs over the next few weeks. You can find out what we’re up to by following us on Twitter using #YoungWriterAwardShadow

Wish me luck.