Pearl-booker Longlist 2023

Hughes, Siân
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By (author) Hughes, Siân
Short description/annotation

A contemporary pastoral novel about a young girl trying to understand the disappearance of her beloved mother.


Marianne is eight years old when her mother goes missing. Left behind with her baby brother and grieving father in a ramshackle house on the edge of a small village, she clings to the fragmented memories of her mother’s love; the smell of fresh herbs, the games they played, and the songs and stories of her childhood. 

As time passes, Marianne struggles to adjust, fixated on her mother’s disappearance and the secrets she’s sure her father is keeping from her. Discovering a medieval poem called Pearl and trusting in its promise of consolation, Marianne sets out to make a visual illustration of it, a task that she returns to over and over but somehow never manages to complete. 

Tormented by an unmarked gravestone in an abandoned chapel and the tidal pull of the river, her childhood home begins to crumble as the past leads her down a path of self-destruction. But can art heal Marianne? And will her own future as a mother help her find peace?

Review quote

An interview with author Siân Hughes: ‘the heart of the mystery is this dangerous ground of motherhood’ – Lucy Writers Platform

Biographical note

Siân Hughes is a writer who grew up a small village Cheshire where the story of Pearl is set. Returning to live in the village after her mother’s death, she borrowed from the medieval poem Pearl to write a story set in an old house she used to cycle past every day as a child.  

Her first collection of poetry The Missing (Salt, 2009) was a Poetry Society Recommendation, longlisted for The Guardian first book of the year, shortlisted for the Felix Dennis and the Aldeburgh Prize and won the Seamus Heaney award. The collection included the elegy The Send-Off which won the Arvon International poetry prize in 2006. 

Siân lives in Cheshire with her son. Pearl is her first novel. 


‘Siân Hughes’s voice moves us because she manages the difficult art of putting wit to the service of strong feeling—a rare achievement.’ - Hugo Williams, winner of T. S. Eliot Prize and Queen''s Gold Medal for Poetry


‘Haunting, compelling, beautifully written; translates mythic and literary undercurrents into a modern setting’ - Bernard O’Donoghue


‘An utterly gripping psychological mystery.’ - Maureen Freely


''A ghost story, a folk story, a story of loss and familial haunting, Sian Hughes'' Pearl is an enchanting and eerie exploration of how a child lays down the bones of an ancient past - a medieval poem - as a means of recuperating the voice of lost loved ones. A story about how we tell stories in the face of yawning gaps and deep sorrow.'' - Sally Bayley


‘It’s a beautiful, searching novel from start to finish – vividly told and movingly elegiac in its unfolding understanding of the psychology of loss. A terrific achievement.’ - Jane Draycott, who translated the medieval poem Pearl

More Information
Date Of Publication May 11, 2023
EAN 9781911648529
Contributors Hughes, Siân
Publisher The Indigo Press
Languages English
Country of Publication United Kingdom
Width 129 mm
Height 198 mm
Thickness 17 mm
Product Forms Paperback / Softback
Availability in Stores Sin El-Fil, ABC Dbayeh, Metro Mall, Hamra, ABC Verdun, ABC Achrafieh, Global
Weight 0.250000
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