Polari Prize: The Origins of Iris by Beth Lewis

What is the Polari Prize?

The Polari Prize is the UK’s only LGBTQ+ book prize. This year, I was delighted to be contacted to be offered books from the shortlist to review. There is a childrens and YA category as well as a first book prize along with the main prize. Founded in 2011, this year is the award’s eleventh year. Founded by author and activist Paul Burston, the awards celebrate LGBTQ+ books, fiction and non-fiction. This year, the awards will take place at the British Library on the 15th November.

The Origins of Iris

Iris is escaping. She doesn’t want Claude to find her. All we know from chapter one is that she has packed light, she trusts no one and is using the bus to hide her escape. As we read on, we get a glimpse of the life before Claude, before the troubles started, before there was a need to run away.

“She turned. Saw me staring. Stared back.”

Like Address Book, Beth has used language so powerfully, so succinctly, there is an effortlessness to reading this. It seems that this is a real theme of this year’s Polari Prize shortlisted books.

The cover of The Origins of Iris by Beth Lewis

Interesting structure

From the skimming that I have done, it seems that Beth Lewis has employed a structure that bounces back and forth. I have no doubt that this is done seamlessly and that the story builds towards a crescendo. There are hints of another woman, from before, that has clearly impacted Iris’ life today.

bus on snow covered road
Photo by Abdullah Almutairi on Pexels.com

Would I read more?

Because of timings and editing work, I simply don’t have time to review, in depth, all of the books on the shortlist. Maybe, in time, I will but by reading a short section, I thought I would be able to ask myself if I would want to read more of this book.

The author has built intrigue from the very beginning. I had intended to read the first chapter, but ended up reading the second and now I want to read more!

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Published by Nick Taylor | Editor & Proofreader

Editor and proofreader specialising in LGBTQ+ writing, both fiction and non-fiction.

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