Scotland’s National Book Awards: Ely Percy's coming-of-age novel Duck Feet named Scotland's Book of the Year
A high school coming-of-age novel set in the west of Scotland and written in the Scots vernacular has been crowned the country’s book of the year.
Duck Feet by Ely Percy, who had to learn to read and write again after suffering a brain injury at the age of 14, was named overall winner at Scotland’s National Book Awards.
Set in Percy’s native Renfrewshire, it was named best fiction book, as well as “Scotland’s Book of the Year” at the Saltire Society’s awards online ceremony on Saturday.
The event saw the poet, editor and critic Douglas Dunn – another Renfrewshire writer – honoured with a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to Scottish literature.
Percy’s book follows 12-year-old Kirsty Campbell and her friends as they navigate life from first to sixth year.
Described as “a celebration of youth in an ever-changing world”, Percy’s novel uses humour to tackle hard-hitting subjects such as drugs, bullying, sexuality and teenage pregnancy.
Percy, whose debut novel Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz was published in 2019, had previously written a memoir recalling the impact of the teenage accident which “destroyed” childhood memories.
Percy started writing some of the stories in Duck Feet, which was shortlisted for best book in the Scottish Language Awards earlier this year, in 2004.
Percy’s publishers, Monstrous Regiment hailed Duck Feet as “a relatable and accessible portrait of figuring out who you are, plunging into the currents of life, and most of all, finding hope”.
One review of Duck Feet described Percy’s book as “a labour of love, a crackling coming of age, and a warm, witty celebration of working class life and culture in the west of Scotland”.
The book awards judges said of Percy’s winning novel: “Duck Feet is a rare thing in contemporary literature - a novel with heart and humour which is also a feat of language and style.
"A micro landscape of teenage-hood painted masterfully in Scots it nonetheless speaks to the universal.
"It enchanted the judging panel and we have no doubt it will enchant the world.”Percy had been up against David F Ross’s There’s Only One Danny Garvey, Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain, Jenni Fagan’s Luckenbooth and Kirstin Innes’s Scabby Queen for the best fiction book award.
In an interview this year, Percy said of Duck Feet: “I’m from Renfrew and I grew up in the same street that Kirsty did. I just picked where I knew and I thought I want to write about our town and where I come from and the people that I knew because I was not seeing them reflected in literature.”
Dunn said of his honour: “Old, or older writers, don’t anticipate prizes or awards. They tend to believe they’re for younger writers, or those in mid-career. Which is as it should be. So this award is, for me, a very pleasant surprise.”
Roddy Muray won the best debut prize for his comedy memoir Bleak, which charted his upbringing on the Isle of Lewis, and his time studying in Aberdeen and Glasgow, where he founded a punk band with Peter Capaldi.
A Tomb With a View, Peter Ross’s exploration of “the stories and glories of graveyards,” was named best non-fiction book, while Daisy Lafarge won the best poetry book award for Life Without Air.