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Writer scoops top prize for her first novel after she fell victim to chronic fatigue syndrome

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Writer wins top prize for her first novel since 2004 after she fell victim to chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Susanna Clark, 61, has won the £30,000 Women’s Prize for Fiction for Piranesi
  • It’s about 250 pages, making it a more manageable venture for the author
  • Her 2004 work, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, sold 4 million copies and has 800 pages
  • The book is gothic fantasy that tells us ‘something’ about ‘what it is like to be human’










It It took her 16 years to publish a second novel following her bestselling debut after falling victim to chronic fatigue syndrome.

But last night, Susanna Clarke won the £30,000 Women’s Prize for Fiction for her latest work, Piranesi.

It was published last year and has about 250 pages, compared to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell’s 800 pages from 2004.

Piranesi is intentionally short on characters and requires little research, making it a more manageable venture for the English author, 61.

Susanna Clarke (pictured) won the £30,000 Women’s Prize for Fiction for her latest work, Piranesi. It was published last year and has about 250 pages

A Gothic fantasy about a man locked up in an imaginary prison, it “tells us something profound about what it is to be human,” jury chair Bernardine Evaristo said at a ceremony last night.

She added: “Susanna Clarke has given us a truly original, unexpected fantasy that fuses genres and challenges preconceptions about what books should be. She has created a world beyond our wildest imaginations.’

Miss Clarke said, ‘It’s the book I never thought I’d write. I never thought I would be good enough, so this feels doubly extraordinary and I am doubly honored to be here.”

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which has sold four million copies, is an alternate history of England in which magic exists. It was turned into a BBC1 series in 2015.

This year’s jury consisted of Booker Prize winner and jury chair Ms Evaristo, as well as podcaster and journalist Elizabeth Day, radio host Vick Hope, columnist Nesrine Malik and broadcaster Sarah-Jane Mee.

Clarke’s winning novel, published by Bloomsbury in September 2020, consists of a series of journal entries from Piranesi, the titular character who leads an almost solitary existence in his marble labyrinth of a house, following the ins and outs of the ‘House’ . .

A Gothic fantasy about a man locked up in an imaginary prison, it

A Gothic fantasy about a man locked up in an imaginary prison, it “tells us something profound about what it is like to be human,” said jury chairperson Bernardine Evaristo (pictured)

Now 26 years old, the Women’s Prize for Fiction is open to original fiction written in English by women from around the world.

Other titles vying for the prize included The Vanishing Half, by American author Brit Bennett, which follows twin sisters growing up in a black community but living separate lives as adults, with one hiding their racial identity.

Also shortlisted was Cherie Jones for How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House; Claire Fuller’s novel Unsettled Ground; Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi; and Patricia Lockwood’s Nobody Talks About This.

Clarke was declared the winner at a ceremony in central London, taking home a £30,000 prize donated by an anonymous donor and the Bessie, a limited-edition bronze sculpture created by Grizel Niven.

Last year’s winner was Maggie O’Farrell for her eighth novel Hamnet.

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