Jessica Andrews has won The Portico Prize for Literature – the UK’s only award for outstanding literature that best evokes the spirit of the North. She takes home the £10,000 prize for her debut novel Saltwater. The announcement was made at an evening ceremony at the Portico Library in Manchester.
Saltwater, published by Sceptre, is a story of self-discovery by a girl from Sunderland who heads to university in London, taking her northern roots with her. Lucy’s transition to a new life is more overwhelming than she ever expected. As she works long shifts to make ends meet and navigates chaotic parties from East London warehouses to South Kensington mansions, she still feels like an outsider among her fellow students. When things come to a head at her graduation, she takes off for Ireland, to seeks solace in her late grandfather’s cottage and the wild landscape that surrounds it, wondering if she can piece together who she really is. Saltwater is an exploration of the complexities of mother-daughter relationships and the challenges of shifting class identity. The Sunday Times described it as ‘raw, intimate and authentic’. Like her protagonist, Jessica grew up in Sunderland.
Commenting on behalf of the jury, Simon Savidge, Chair of Judges said: “Saltwater shows the ‘spirit of the North’ is diverse and multifaceted. The North is not just around us, or a particular location to visit – but a place within us. It’s something we take with us when we set out to find our space in the world and when we spread Northern stoicism, joy, grit, humour and hope wherever we go. Saltwater celebrates all this in a powerful, provocative and poignant tale.”
Lynne Allan, Chair of The Portico Library adds: “The Portico Prize aims to shine a spotlight on the very best writing about the North and the voices that deserve to be heard. We are more than proud to award this year’s prize to Jessica Andrews whose remarkable debut is full of optimism. It is a tender tribute to women across generations and an important exploration of women’s lives today.”