Solomon wins Wellcome Book Prize

Solomon wins Wellcome Book Prize

Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree: A Dozen Kinds of Love (Chatto & Windus) has won this year’s Wellcome Book Prize.

Chair of judges Sir Andrew Motion, announcing the win earlier this evening (29th April), described the book – about parents who learn to deal with exceptional children - as “truly outstanding” and said it was an “exceptionally distinguished winner: startlingly intelligent, generously compassionate, memorably insightful, and courageous”.

The Wellcome Book Prize, worth £30 000, aims to recognise and celebrate the best new work of fiction or non-fiction released each year centred on medicine and health. Also shortlisted for this year's award were Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things (Bloomsbury); Wounded: From Battlefield to Blighty by Emily Mayhew (The Bodley Head); Inconvenient People by Sarah Wise (The Bodley Head); The Origin of Life by Adam Rutherford (Viking); and Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks (Picador).

Motion said: "Solomon has already been widely praised for his depth of research, his writerly flair and his range of address - and all these things are indeed remarkable: the book took him 10 years to write, and the benefits of his patience and thoughtfulness are evident everywhere.

“But its greatest strength, perhaps, is to combine proper scholarly objectivity with a sense of intimate connection - and to do so in ways that allow for the creation of distinct categories and clear conclusions, while at the same time admitting contradictions and exceptions.”

Solomon said: "There sometimes seems to be an opposition between the social progress that allows us to accept the range of human difference and the medical progress that allows us to cure and eliminate many such differences. My book is about the extraordinary stories of love and compassion that unfold around this duality. For such work to be recognised by a prize that is specifically focused on medicine and health indicates the increasing openness to the nuanced questions of what constitutes health, and what the appropriate parameters are for medicine.”

Solomon said he accepted the prize on behalf of the families he interviewed for the book. “The backdrop to the book, woven through its chapters, is my own experience as a child who was miserable about being gay and as an adult who has found joy with my husband and our children,” he continued.

“For this award to come so soon after the UK has passed gay marriage is especially cheering; my husband and I first celebrated our civil partnership in the UK in 2007, and we are overjoyed, as are so many other people enmeshed in love, to be able to assume that beautiful word for our relationship. That, like this prize, marks a more tolerant, kinder world. This is a rapturous day for me."

Ken Arnold, head of public programmes at the Wellcome Collection called Far From the Tree a “game-changing book, altering forever our understanding of how we relate to those around us, near and far”.

Jonathan Ruppin, web editor at Foyles, said: “Of all the shortlisted books, this was perhaps the one with the broadest appeal: parent-child relationships are both uniquely individual and also almost universally grounded in a bond that will endure more trauma than any other.”

The judging panel for the Wellcome Book Prize 2014 consisted of former poet laureate Motion; writer and cultural commentator Lisa Appignanesi; novelist, film-maker and Head of Literature at the Southbank Centre James Runcie; medical journalist and television presenter Michael Mosley; and Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman.

Far From the Tree also won the Green Carnation Prize, which celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender literature, in 2013.