The Polari Prize is the UK and Ireland’s only dedicated LGBTQ+ book prize, founded by author and activist, Paul Burston.

Returning to the British Library for the winner’s ceremony, Jon Ransom and Julia Armfield were this evening announced as the winners of the 2023 Polari Prizes.

Ransom took home the Polari First Book Prize for his mesmerising tale of grief and love, The Whale Tattoo and Julia Armfield received the Polari Book Prize for her hypnotic and haunting deep-sea romance, Our Wives Under the Sea which LoveReading reviewer Maureen Stapleton called a spooky tale of what happens to a scientist when she returns from the bottom of the ocean irrevocably changed, and leaves the woman who loves her. It triumphed against work by renowned authors including Edward Enninful and Douglas Stuart. In her spellbinding novel, Armfield reckons with love, loss and what life there is in the deep, deep sea.

The Whale Tattoo is a powerful debut from Jon Ransom that explores grief, love and forgiveness. Written with incredible skill and sensitivity, it’s a potent novel that draws readers to Norfolk and introduces them to the characters that call for Joe Gunner, the protagonist, to return home.

The Polari Prizes are the UK’s only awards celebrating literature exploring the LGBTQ+ experience. This year, both winning titles explore complex landscapes and elusive narratives that ask the reader to imagine all possibilities, build new stories and inspire hope; expanding on what LGBTQ+ literature can be.

Adam Zmith, judge of the Polari First Book Prize and last year’s winner, said: “Jon Ransom’s novel is suffused with salt air and gay longing. It transported me to a life that is not my own, and yet one where I recognised myself, too. Ransom conjures up gorgeously evocative images for his hostile locations and finds love and energy there.”

Joelle Taylor, judge of the Polari Book Prize and last year’s winner, said: “While each of the shortlisted works is a dynamic addition to the LGBT+ literary canon, Our Wives Under the Sea opens up what we believe is possible from queer writing. It is a strange, speculative, poetic and thrilling novel – a heart turner as much as a page turner.”

Paul Burston, founder and chair of judges for both categories, said: “In their different ways, both of this year’s winning books expand our understanding of what LGBTQ+ literature can and should be. These are novels which entertain, seduce and provoke thought. They take us out of ourselves and invite us to explore other worlds. They’re also books full of promise. I can’t wait to see what this year’s winning writers do next.”