Picked from a shortlist that featured the most female authors in the prize’s history, the winners of the Costa Book Awards were announced earlier this month. Tonight, Sebastian Barry scooped the overall prize for Days Without End, his moving depiction of a gay relationship that blossoms during the founding of modern America – making him the only writer to have won the prestigious award twice. We give you the lowdown on this and the other category winners, so all you need to do is decide which one you’re going to read first…
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
Winner: Novel Award and Costa Book of the Year
Irish author Sebastian Barry is no stranger to the Costa award: in 2008, The Secret Scripture was also the Costa Book of the Year. Days Without End follows the fortunes of Thomas McNulty, who crosses the Atlantic to start a new life away from a famine-ravaged Ireland. What he encounters in the US is a country in the throes of a violent rebirth. In its exploration of love (McNulty embarks on a relationship with a fellow soldier) and national identity amidst the horrors of war, this is a novel that manages to be both epic and intimate.
Falling Awake by Alice Oswald
Winner: Poetry Award
After studying Classics at Oxford, Alice Oswald trained and worked as a gardener. This fascination with the natural world has weaved its way into her poetry ever since, and her latest collection is no exception. Inspired by the West Country landscape where Oswald lives, the poems are peppered with blackbirds, water nymphs and foxes as well as mythical characters and goddesses of the seasons. Falling Awake explores what it means to be human with a luminous and precise lyricism that demands to be read aloud.
The Bombs That Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan
Winner: Best Children’s Book
Brian Conaghan’s rise from obscurity to Costa winner didn’t begin well: when he started writing fiction in his early thirties, he accumulated 27 rejection letters before finding an agent and publisher. Now he’s reaping the rewards of his perseverance, bagging the prize for best children’s book with his third novel. The Bombs That Brought Us Together tells the story of 14-year-old Charlie Law. His life is shaken up when bombs begin to fall on his home town and he meets Pav, a refugee from the Old Country, who he most definitely shouldn’t be friends with. Aimed at young teenagers, it’s a funny and thought-provoking dystopian tale.
Dadland: A Journey Into Uncharted Territory by Keggie Carew
Winner: Biography Award
Keggie Carew’s extraordinary book is a heartbreaking love letter to her father – a journey into both the past of an eccentric war hero, and the unreachable parts of a dementia-ravaged mind. A former WW2 spy, Tom Carew was always an exotic, mischievous figure to his daughter. But as her father’s memory begins to fail him, Keggie realises that she must capture his story and set it down on paper before it’s lost forever. The result is a gripping account of wartime exploits and a moving exploration of familial love.
The Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
Winner: First Novel Award
Critics have hailed Spufford’s first novel as a dazzling and joyous tale of comic twists and turns, and the author as a bold new voice. It opens in 1746 in New York with the arrival of the mysterious Mr Smith, fresh off the boat from London with an order for a thousand pounds in his pocket that he wishes to cash. As he navigates his way through the city and ingratiates himself with high society, gradually the puzzle at the heart of the book reveals itself.