Wellcome Book Prize 2019: Our Shadow Panel Winner Is…


The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay and Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein

This year there was no clear favourite among the shadow panel. Two of us picked one book as our favourite, two picked another, and a third picked yet another book! However, by each person assigning each book a point value from 1 to 6, we were able to decide based on the one that got the most points in total. (Though there was only 1 point separating our first place from our runner-up!)


Here’s what the shadow panel have to say about our pick:


Annabel: “I was glad to have read this book. It was an easy read despite its oft grim subject matter, fascinating and very sympathetic too.”


Clare: “The structure of the book reveals the many layers and contradictions of Sandra gradually … even though it’s one of the least objective biographies I’ve read in a very long time, it is also one of the most memorable and fascinating.”


Laura:The Trauma Cleaner is a book it will be difficult to forget in a hurry. … Krasnostein is rightly impressed by Sandra’s resilience, and, in telling her story, she makes the right choice, I think, to remain as a largely invisible presence.”


Paul: Pankhurst is one remarkable lady, even after a horrendous childhood and working in the prostitution trade, she has an amazing amount of empathy for all of her clients. … if you want to have a no-holds-barred look at a part of society that almost everyone will be unaware of then this is one to read.”


Rebecca: “I guarantee you’ve never read a biography quite like this one. … It’s part journalistic exposé and part ‘love letter’; it’s part true crime and part ordinary life story. It considers gender, mental health, addiction, trauma and death. It’s also simply a terrific read that should draw in lots of people who wouldn’t normally pick up nonfiction.”



Photo by Annabel Gaskell.

On Wednesday, at an evening ceremony at the Wellcome Collection, we will find out which book the official judges have chosen as the winner of the 10th anniversary prize. I have no idea who it will be!

Who are you rooting for?

13 responses

  1. Great post Rebecca 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yay! I hope your prediction is correct.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ooh, very good choice! (My heart is with Amateur, but The Trauma Cleaner really is an unforgettable book.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s really hard to call it this year. I think this could win, but I could also easily see Amateur or Murmur winning. With a novelist chairing the panel this year, I feel like a novel might be more likely to win.


      1. Very possible – it does seem a remarkably strong shortlist!


    2. Hmm, more like half and half 😉


      1. Am I allowed to ask which book was your runner-up?


      2. Sure! It was Amateur at one point behind.


  4. This has been very interesting and I love your careful points-based system: very sensible!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know how we would have arrived at a decision otherwise. The last two years there was a fairly clear shadow panel winner, but not this time.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. And you can add that book to your list of books with weird cleaning gloves on the covers!


    1. Yep, that was top of the list 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. […] cleaning for Sandra, doing for her subject what she has done for others. The Trauma Cleaner was our shadow panel winner, and I think it has a good chance of taking the actual […]


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