Kit de Waal wins £13k Irish Book of the Year

Kit de Waal wins £13k Irish Book of the Year

Kit de Waal has won the €15,000 (£13,100) Kerry Group Irish Book of the Year for her "heartfelt and far-sighted" fiction work My Name is Leon (Viking).

The novel, which tells the story of a mixed-race nine-year-old boy who enters the care system when his mother is unable to look after him, was praised by the judges for being a "a heartfelt, far-sighted and humane book, shot through with understated grief, necessary humour and a masterly point of view, rendering detail with nuance and accuracy".

The book was chosen by fellow authors A L Kennedy and Neel Mukherjee from a shortlist that included Mike McCormack’s Goldsmiths Prize-winning Solar Bones (Tramp Press), Neil Hegarty’s Inch Levels (Head of Zeus), The Wonder by Emma Donoghue (Picador) and Conor O’Callaghan’s Nothing on Earth (Doubleday Ireland).

The audiobook version of My Name is Leon is voiced by Lenny Henry, who has also optioned it for television. De Waal used some of her advance from her publisher Penguin to set up the Kit de Waal Creative Writing Fellowship at Birkbeck College in London to help improve working-class representation in the arts. My Name is Leon is also shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize.

Meanwhile, the John B Keane Lifetime Achievement Award, in association with Mercier Press, was presented to poet Brendan Kennelly in recognition of his "outstanding" contribution to literature, and the €5,000 (£4,360) Pigott Poetry Prize was awarded to Vona Groarke for her Selected Poems.