The Costa Novels. Have you read them?

image-medium (54)Shortlist for the 2013 Costa Novel Award. And the Judges are!  Clemency Burton-Hill Broadcaster and Author, Eithne Farry Reviewer, Critic and Author; Books Editor, Marie Claire , Gerard Woodward Author and Professor of Fiction at Bath Spa University

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson  – This novel’s been rated 48 times by Leeds Libraries readers and gets a 4 star rating
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath. During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale. What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact, an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to? Kate Atkinson won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year prize with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and has been a critically-acclaimed international author ever since. Her four most recent bestsellers featured the former detective Jackson Brodie: Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News? and Started Early, Took My Dog. She was appointed MBE in the 2001 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Judges: “Daring, inventive, this is a feat of breathtaking imagination.”

Unexpected Lessons in Love by Bernardine Bishop  Rated 5 star by one reader 
After a chance meeting in a doctor’s waiting-room, Cecilia Banks and Helen Gatehouse have become firm friends with a shared interest: both have been diagnosed with cancer. Whilst the two women contemplate their own mortality, they’re also facing different challenges; Cecilia’s war correspondent son Ian has unexpectedly fathered a child, Cephas, and calls on his mother to care for the baby, whilst a letter from an old acquaintance reminds Helen of a past that can no longer be ignored. As events unfold and the truth is revealed, Cecilia and Helen are united by their experiences not only of illness but of love, honesty and motherhood. The great-granddaughter of the poet Alice Meynell, Bernardine Bishop was the youngest witness in the Lady Chatterley trial in 1960. After writing two early novels, she taught in a London comprehensive school for ten years and then went on to have a distinguished career as a psychotherapist, during which she brought up her two sons. Cancer forced her retirement in 2010 and she returned to her first love, fiction, completing unexpected Lessons in Love and two further novels, Hidden Knowledge and The Street, before her death in July, 2013. Bernardine’s last two novels will be published posthumously. Judges: “An unflinching, darkly funny story of love, obsession and illness that is unexpected in every way.”

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell  It’s July 1976. In London, it hasn’t rained for months, gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he’s going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn’t come back. The search for Robert brings Gretta’s children – two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce – back home, each with different ideas as to where their father might have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share. Maggie O`Farrell is the author of five previous novels: After You’d Gone; My Lover’s Lover; The Distance Between Us, which won a Somerset Maugham Award; The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox; and The Hand That First Held Mine, which won the 2010 Costa Novel Award. She lives in Edinburgh. Judges: “Once again, O’Farrell has created characters you fall in love with in a story that is a delicious and unputdownable read.”

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld  Another one that gets a 5 star!
Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed British island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It’s just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be. But something is coming for the sheep – every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags. It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake’s unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, in a landscape of different colour and sound, a story held in the scars that stripe her back. Evie Wyld is the author of one previous novel, After the Fire, A Still Small Voice, which was shortlisted for the Impac Prize, the Orange Award for New Writers and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. In 2011, she was named by the BBC as one of the twelve best new British novelists and in 2013, she was named as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists. She lives in Peckham, London, where she runs the Review Bookshop. Judges: “Tough, compelling, surprising and beautifully written – this book packs a real punch.”