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Irish author Paul Murray wins top gong at inaugural Nero Book Awards

Irish author Paul Murray has been awarded the top £30,000 prize at the inaugural Nero Book Awards.

The Dublin-born writer won the book of the year gong for his fourth novel The Bee Sting, which follows an Irish family facing financial and emotional troubles following the 2008 banking crisis.

He was selected for the overall Nero Gold prize after he was one of four authors who came out on top in their individual category, each previously receiving £5,000, with Murray winning in the fiction category.

Murray was announced as the winner during a ceremony held in London on Thursday by award-winning author Bernardine Evaristo.

Evaristo, who was chairwoman of the judges, said about Murray’s book: “This is a wonderfully ambitious and entrancing novel about a family imploding against a background of Ireland’s economic and social crisis of the late noughties.

“Suspenseful and linguistically astonishing, The Bee Sting is written with great wit and humanity, with a cast of complex characters who are held back by their past, mired in the present and longing for a different future.

“Paul Murray is a supremely gifted storyteller as we learn of unspoken secrets and desires in difficult and sometimes dangerous situations, in a rich, multi-layered novel that is both epic and intimate in scale.”

She hailed the novel as “fiction of the finest calibre” and said the judges were are unanimous in choosing it as the first book of the year for the Nero Book Awards.

Set in rural Ireland in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, The Bee Sting is described as “funny and tragic in equal measure”.

It follows a middle-class Irish family as the Irish banking crisis takes its toll on the family finances.

Murray penned the 650-page novel during the pandemic and it has since been shortlisted for a number of awards, including the 2023 Booker Prize but he was beaten by fellow Irish writer Paul Lynch who won with Prophet Song.

It also won the An Post Irish Book Awards book of the year gong last year.

To claim the overall Nero Gold prize, he saw off tough competition from his fellow category winners including Scottish comedian Fern Brady, who won in the non-fiction section for her memoir Strong Female Character, which details her experience being diagnosed with autism.

The winner of the children’s fiction category was Newcastle-based writer Beth Lincoln for murder mystery The Swifts, illustrated by Claire Powell.

Northern Irish author Michael Magee won the debut fiction prize for Close To Home, which details the story of a young man who comes home to Belfast after university and has to grapple with the aftermath of an assault he commits at a party.

The awards, launched by high street coffee chain Caffe Nero in 2023, celebrates the craft of writing and the four category winners were chosen by judges who selected books from the UK and Ireland over the last 12 months.