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Ruth Gilligan wins the 2021 RSL Ondaatje Prize for The Butchers

11th May 2021

The Royal Society of Literature (RSL) has announced Ruth Gilligan as the winner of the 2021 RSL Ondaatje Prize for The Butchers, a literary thriller set in the Irish borderlands during the 1996 BSE crisis.

An annual prize of £10,000, the RSL Ondaatje Prize is awarded to an outstanding work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry that best evokes the spirit of a place.

Ruth Gilligan said:

‘I am just elated – and still totally shocked – to have won the 2021 RSL Ondaatje Prize. I am a sucker for books with a strong sense of place, so I have long been a huge fan of the prize, but after a year of isolation and confinement, it feels more pertinent than ever to be celebrating the transportive power of reading. There were some absolute crackers on the shortlist, so I am truly honoured that the judges chose The Butchers. A million thanks; this really means an awful lot.’

Chair of 2021 Judges Lola Young, Baroness Young of Hornsey, said:

‘Our winning title is about a moment in time, in a particular place. It’s been described in many different terms: Literary thriller, coming-of-age story, historical fiction, an account of superstition and the supernatural, but it doesn’t matter how it’s categorised – it’s a page-turning, roller coaster of a read. The humour works – we need relief from repressed emotional lives, and the slaughter of cows – and it lures us into recalling the recent past at a moment when ‘crisis’ was constantly on the lips of politicians and pundits alike – just like today.’

Watch the announcement video here: 

Read the press release for more information.