An “unflinchingly honest” account of domestic abuse in a female relationship has won a £30,000 book prize.
Carmen Maria Machado scooped the Rathbones Folio Prize for her memoir In The Dream House.
The book traces the writer’s relationship with a “charismatic but volatile woman”.
Judges said the author “breaks down the idea of what the memoir form can do and be and approaches a subject for which literary treatment has been extremely rare”.
Machado, 34, from Pennsylvania in the US, said: “I hope this book gives readers language and context for either experiences they have had, or experiences people they know or love have had, adding a level of nuance to conversations around things like domestic violence, queerness, and sexual violence.”
Poet Roger Robinson, who is the head judge for the prize, said the memoir has a “constant tension as to what might be revealed next, like a veritable house of horror ride.”
He said: “Carmen Maria Machado documents, in great detail, the descent of lives into obsessiveness, possession and, eventually, abuse amongst the queer community in which this is not often documented in literature.
“This already makes this book substantial. But it is its challenging of memoir form that is even more impressive.
“Machado breaks it down into short, sharp vignettes, written in impeccable prose, and mixes up the timeline.”
Fellow judge, writer and broadcaster Sinead Gleeson said: “Machado explores queerness, domestic violence and bodies in a multi-genre masterpiece, told in taut, stunning prose.”
The book won the prize from an international shortlist, covering novels, auto-fiction, poetry, and poetry with photography.