Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver has been named Hay Festival Book of the Year 2023 after hundreds of book lovers nominated their favourite titles of the year online.
An epic tale of love, loss, and everything in between, Demon Copperhead follows the story of Demon, a young boy born to a teenage mother in the southern Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, at the heart of the modern opioid crisis. A reimagining of Dickens’ David Copperfield, the novel charts Demon’s journey to adulthood and efforts to transcend the challenges around him.
Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Demon Copperhead is the ninth novel from Barbara Kingsolver, the global prize-winning and bestselling author whose other works include Unsheltered, Flight Behaviour, The Lacuna and The Poisonwood Bible, as well as books of poetry, essays and creative non-fiction. She has been translated into more than 30 languages and has earned literary awards and a devoted readership at home and abroad.
Hay Festival CEO Julie Finch said: “At the end of every year, we ask our Hay Festival audience which books they couldn’t put down. The resulting nominations are a varied and engaging snapshot of the year’s most impactful fiction, non-fiction and poetry. A bestseller at our spring event, Demon Copperhead was shared again and again by readers. We are delighted to celebrate it as our Book of the Year.”
Listen again to Kingsolver’s Hay Festival 2023 event on Demon Copperhead on Hay Player now here. Past winners of the Hay Festival Book of the Year have been Bonnie Garmus’ Lessons in Chemistry (2022), Deborah Levy’s Real Estate (2021), Dara McAnulty’s Diary of a Young Naturalist (2020), Hallie Rubenhold’s The Five (2019), Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s Inventing Ourselves (2018) and Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane’s The Lost Words (2017).
The announcement comes on the eve of Hay Festival Winter Weekend, which is back for a year-end wonderland of in-person events, 23–26 November, in multiple venues across Hay-on-Wye, Wales.
Over four days, more than 70 acclaimed writers and performers take part in 60-plus events, launching the best new fiction and non-fiction, offering creative solutions to some of the biggest challenges of our time, and spreading festive joy in conversations, candle-lit storytelling, comedy, music, and workshops.
Now in its 24th year, events will take place in a new 350-seater marquee in the grounds of Hay Castle, tripling the event’s previous capacity. Additional events will take place in the Castle’s Clore Learning Space, plus venues around town, including St Mary’s Church and The Poetry Bookshop.
For audiences unable to attend in person, the Festival’s commitment to digital accessibility will also continue with selected sessions available to live-stream remotely with an Online Festival Pass.
More intimate than the spring edition, Hay Festival Winter Weekend sees the Welsh booktown’s independent shops, cafés and attractions offer a warm welcome to Festivalgoers within the stunning surrounds of the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park.
Hay Festival Winter Weekend has received funding from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
PROGRAMME IN DEPTH
The best new fiction takes centre-stage in the programme with the Booker Prize 2023 shortlisted authors sharing their work in an exclusive event, including Sarah Bernstein (Study for Obedience), Jonathan Escoffery (If I Survive You), Paul Harding (This Other Eden), Paul Lynch (Prophet Song), Chetna Maroo (Western Lane), and Paul Murray (The Bee Sting), chaired by Gaby Wood.
Hay Festival President Stephen Fry launches his new book Mythos: The Illustrated Story. Writers including Sebastian Faulks (The Seventh Son), Louis de Bernières (Light Over Liskeard), Kim Sherwood (Double or Nothing) and Ava Glass (The Traitor) launch new novels, while Miranda Aldhouse-Green joins Daniel Morden for an afternoon of Enchanted Wales: Myth and Magic in Welsh Storytelling and poet Nii Ayikwei Parkes performs from his new novel Azúcar.
Inspiring life stories mark the changing seasons with hope as actor Hugh Bonneville presents his memoir Playing Under the Piano, farmer Helen Rebanks talks The Farmer's Wife, journalist Louise Minchin offers Fearless, cyclist Lee Craigie shares Other Ways to Win, sailor Suzanne Heywood talks Wavewalker and Welsh former international rugby union referee Nigel Owens discusses The Final Whistle.
With the UK election on the horizon for 2024, Wales today and the role of Britain in the wider world comes into focus in conversations with politicians Chris Bryant (Code of Conduct) and Lisa Nandy (All In); journalists James O'Brien (How They Broke Britain), John Crace (Depraved New World), Jennifer Nadel (How Compassion can Transform our Politics, Economy and Society), Gavin Esler (Britain Is Better Than This) and Afua Hirsch (Decolonising the Body); and geographers Tim Marshall (The Future of Geography) and Danny Dorling (Shattered Nation).
Hay Festival 2023 Thinkers in Residence – curator Will Gompertz, Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates and historian David Olusoga – take stock of the role of festivals today and share their bold visions for the future, while biologist Lewis Dartnell offers Being Human: How our Biology Shaped World History and historian James Holland launches The Savage Storm: The Battle for Italy 1943.
The natural world is explored and celebrated in conversations with gardener Naomi Slade (RHS The Winter Garden), wildlife cameraman Hamza Yassin (Be a Birder), and broadcaster Kate Humble (Where the Hearth Is), while classicist Adam Nicolson shares How to Be: Life Lessons From the Early Greeks.
There’s much seasonal joy and laughter to be enjoyed with lexicographers Susie Dent (Roots of Happiness) and Sarah Ogilvie (The Dictionary People), comedian Matt Lucas (The Boy Who Slept Through Christmas), chef Gelf Anderson (River Cottage Great Roasts), wine writer Oz Clarke (Oz Clarke's Story of Wine), a new set from comedian Reginald D Hunter, and music with Father Richard Williams offering an atmospheric performance of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
At Hay Castle, audiences can enjoy full-day writing and book-art workshops, drop-in crafting sessions for families, and a special panel discussion around their current Dark Skies exhibition.
Extra sparkle to live events comes from the town’s Market Square as Hamza Yassin turns on the Christmas lights, Friday 24 November, in what has become an annual Winter Weekend highlight.
After another transformative 12 months at Hay Festival HQ, CEO Julie Finch invites the public to share their visions for the Festival’s future in an open forum event to kick off the weekend programme.