Jewish author Sarah Moss has been shortlisted for this year’s £30,000 Wellcome Book Prize.
The writer has been for The Tidal Zone, which tells the story of a family’s dealings with the NHS as they come to terms with their daughter’s unexplained illness.
This is the third consecutive year that Professor Moss, who as well as writing fiction and non-fiction teaches creative writing at the University of Warwick, has been shortlisted, having been in the running in 2016 for Signs for Lost Children and in 2015 for Bodies of Light.
She said she was “really pleased” to be in the running again for the prize, which recognises works of fiction and non-fiction that deal with health, medicine and illness. Her novel, praised by the judges as “stunning and different”, is one of only two works of fiction among the six on the shortlist.
“I think a lot of novelists are interested in people at points of crisis,” the 41-year-old, who was born in Glasgow and raised in Manchester, said. “We tend to be in medical contexts at those moments. I thought this book was mildly dystopian when I was writing it, but it became realistic as time went by.
“I was thinking about a country sliding to the right and about the disintegration of the welfare state, but I thought I was writing it a little ahead of what was happening today. But then what was happening caught up.”
Professor Moss added that one of the strands of the book dealt with being half-Jewish, as she is, and “the strangeness of that”. Her father's family were Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe who settled in the United States.
Broadcaster Gemma Cairney, who is on the judging panel, praised The Tidal Zone for posing “big questions about life, mortality, recovery, parenthood and love as the Goldschmidt family anxiously surround their teenage daughter Miriam in hospital.”
She added: “With intelligent characterisation and quiet observations, harsh notes on reality, Moss creates a moving and poetic investigation of modern family life at a time of personal tragedy.”
Leading Scottish crime writer Val McDermid, chair of this year’s judging panel, said the shortlisted books offer “insight into what it means to be human. Together they form a mosaic that illuminates our relationship with health and medicine.”
The winner will be announced on April 24 at Wellcome Collection in central London.