Jessica Andrews wins The Portico Prize for her book Saltwater

Jessica Andrews grew up in Sunderland, like the protagonist in her novel.
Jessica Andrews grew up in Sunderland, like the protagonist in her novel.
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Jessica Andrews has won The £10,000 Portico Prize for Literature – dubbed ‘the Booker of the North’ – for her debut novel Saltwater.

The Portico is the UK’s only award for outstanding literature that best evokes the spirit of the North and the announcement was made last night at a ceremony at the Portico Library in Manchester.

Ms Andrews was one of six authors on a shortlist that included three writers from Yorkshire – Ray Robinson for his novel The Mating Habit of Stags, Adelle Stripe for her debut novel Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile, inspired by the short, creative and turbulent life of Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar, and her husband – and former Portico Prize winner –Benjamin Myers.

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Saltwater is an exploration of the complexities of mother-daughter relationships and the challenges of shifting class identity, and Ms Andrews, who grew up in Sunderland, has been praised by critics for a novel that has been described as “authentic” and “full of optimism”.

Simon Savidge, the chairman of Judges for the prize, 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.”

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The Portico Prize was established in 1985 and last awarded in 2015.

Previous winners and shortlisted authors include Anthony Burgess, Val McDermid, Sarah Hall, A.S. Byatt, Hilary Mantel and Poet Laureate Simon Armitage.