Orcadian writer Amy Liptrot up for award for addiction memoir

Amy Liptrot whose book The Outrun has been  short listed for the Wellcome Book Prize 2016.  Picture: PA
Amy Liptrot whose book The Outrun has been short listed for the Wellcome Book Prize 2016. Picture: PA
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A SCOTTISH writer’s moving memoir of her battle with a drink dependency and her efforts to recover at on a remote Orcadian island is in the running for one of Britain’s leading literary honours.

The Outrun charts Amy Liptrot’s hedonistic lifestyle in London, her descent into alcoholism and the effect a decision to move back north has on her life.

Now her debut book has won her a place on the six-strong shortlist for the Wellcome Prize, which is dedicated to new work tackling medicine, health or illness issues.

The award, the winner of which will be announced next month, was plunged into controversy when Baroness Joan Bakewell, the chair of the judging panel, was forced to apologise for claiming a rise in eating disorders among young people was a sign of “narcissism.” She said “off-the-cuff” comments in an interview were “not thought through”.

Amy Liptrot, who grew up on a sheep farm in Orkney, has been shortlisted for the prize just two months after publishing The Outrun, which largely charts events in her life from around three years ago.

Ms Liptrot, who has written for magazines, journals and blogs, said news of the award nomination had come just days before the fifth anniversary of when she last had a drink.

She said: “I’m delighted and perhaps a little bit embarrassed that I’m on the shortlist. My book is so personal and I’ve been a bit taken aback by the amount of interest there has been in it.

“The book is partly about getting sober, but the writing of the book itself kind of motivated me to stay sober. Things like this nomination will really help me, as it’s ongoing.”

Other contenders for the £30,000 prize include The Last Act Of Love, Cathy Rentzenbrink’s memoir of the aftermath of a car accident which left her teenage brother critically injured. It’s All In Your Head, by neurologist Suzanne O’Sullivan, explores the world of psychosomatic illness, while Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes traces the evolving definition of autism.

Two short-listed fiction works in contention are Alex Pheby’s Playthings, an original take on the memoirs of Daniel Paul Schreber, whose autobiographical account of mental illness influenced psychoanalysis, and Signs For Lost Children, by Sarah Moss, which follows newly-married couple Tom and Ally in Victorian England as they are separated for six months.