Emily Perkins 'incredibly grateful' to win top prize at 2024 Ockham NZ Book Awards with Lioness

Author Emily Perkins was overjoyed and "completely shocked" after winning top honours at the 2024 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards' fiction prize on Wednesday evening. 

She claimed the $65,000 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at an awards ceremony Auckland for her novel Lioness - a tale of class, privilege and female rage.

"I'm completely shocked! I'm deeply surprised and incredibly grateful, yeah, it's wonderful," Perkins told Newshub.

"There are such amazing books shortlisted and published this year."

Other big winners at the national awards include Damon Salesa for An Indigenous Ocean: Pacific Essays (general non-fiction), Gregory O'Brien for Don Binney: Flight Path (illustrated non-fiction) and Grace Yee for Chinese Fish (poetry). 

Lioness won the top prize from a shortlist that also included 2013 Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton's Birnam Wood, Pip Adam's Audition and Stephen Daisley's A Better Place. 

"Lioness is the story of a woman who is facing a kind of mid-life reckoning," Perkins told Newshub.

"She's married to an older, wealthy guy and he starts to be investigated for some past business dealings that are a bit shady. So, she's got to consider the nature of her marriage, the nature of love and complicity. 

"And at the same time she's been drawn to her downstairs neighbour who has got this sort of enticing, kind of wild way of approaching womanhood which is quite different, risky and challenging." 

Perkins also won the award in 2009 with Novel About My Wife.