Costa Book Of the Year – Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

Irish playwright and author Sebastian Barry is celebrating this week, having been presented with the Costa Book of the Year award for his latest novel Days Without End. Since being established in 1971, the Costa Awards have been one of the country’s most well-respected and prestigious literary prizes. Barry is the first person to be given the award twice, having previously won it in 2008 for his novel The Secret Scripture. Barry says that his son coming out as gay was a crucial factor in him writing the story, which is set in the 1850s and has a gay love story at its centre. In their citation, the judges called it “A miracle of a book – both epic and intimate – that manages to create spaces for safety in the noise and the chaos of history.” Days Without End – along with many of Barry’s other works – can be found on our extensive catalogue.

days-without-endThomas McNulty, aged barely seventeen and having fled the Great Famine in Ireland, signs up for the U.S. Army in the 1850s. With his brother in arms, John Cole, Thomas goes on to fight in the Indian Wars–against the Sioux and the Yurok–and, ultimately, the Civil War. Orphans of terrible hardships themselves, the men find these days to be vivid and alive, despite the horrors they see and are complicit in.
Moving from the plains of Wyoming to Tennessee, Sebastian Barry’s latest work is a masterpiece of atmosphere and language. An intensely poignant story of two men and the makeshift family they create with a young Sioux girl, Winona, Days Without End is a fresh and haunting portrait of the most fateful years in American history and is a novel never to be forgotten.

seb-barry-a-long-long-waySet at the onset of World War One, ‘A Long Long Way’ evokes the camaraderie and humour of Willie Dunne and his regiment, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, but also the divided loyalties that many Irish soldiers felt. It also explores and dramatizes the events of the Easter Rising within Ireland.

seb-temporary-gentlemanJack McNulty is a temporary gentleman, an Irishman whose commission in the British army in the Second World War was never permanent. In 1957, sitting in his lodgings in Accra, he urgently sets out to write his story. He feels he cannot take one step further, or even hardly a breath, without looking back at all that has befallen him. He is an ordinary man, both petty and heroic, but he has seen extraordinary things. He has worked and wandered around the world – as a soldier, an engineer, a UN observer – trying to follow his childhood ambition to better himself.

The other shortlisted books – This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell, The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry and The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain are also available to borrow from Leeds Libraries.

#FF Poem of the Week

The whole & rain-domed universe

Helicopters by Colette Bryce

Over time, you picture them

after dark, in searches
focusing on streets and houses
close above the churches
or balancing
on narrow wands of light.
And find so much depends upon
the way you choose
to look at them:
high in the night
their minor flares confused
among the stars, there
almost beautiful.
Or from way back
over the map
from where they might resemble
a business of flies
around the head wound of an animal.

The whole & rain-domed universe by Colette Bryce – shortlisted for the Costa poetry award

‘The Whole & Rain-domed Universe’ is Colette Bryce’s much-anticipated follow-up to ‘Self-Portrait in the Dark.’ The book presents the reader with an extraordinarily clear-eyed, vivid and sometimes disturbing account of growing up in Derry during the Troubles, with many ghosts both raised and laid to rest

 

Book programmes on TV and radio

An officer and a spyRobert Harris, author and chair of the Costa Book Awards judging panel, has said that the BBC should show more programmes about books. What do you think?

He said. “In the 1970s, when this prize was launched, there were two books programmes on British television: The Book Programme with Robert Robertson and Read All About It with Melvyn Bragg. If I remember rightly, The Book Programme was on BBC Two and Melvyn Bragg was on BBC One. Imagine that: a books programme on BBC One! Both were running at the same time when we only had three channels. We now have 300 channels but we don’t have any dedicated books programmes. It’s a serious point. I do wish the BBC would fulfil that bit of its charter remit and give books what they used to, because there’s nowhere to go. Is it too much to ask?”

Robert Harris is a best-selling author himself, as well as being a former journalist with the BBC. His books include-Fatherland, Pompeii, The Ghost and Archangel which was adapted as a BBC drama starring Daniel Craig.

 

He also made a joke about rival Man Booker Prize, saying that the Costa was “not a prize for books that people think they ought to read, but for books that people want to read. Some winners of other literary prizes are books that “the public don’t quite get…This is a book that I think everyone will like. The judges’ brief is to select a well-written, enjoyable book that they would strongly recommend anyone to read. It’s not the Booker Prize, it has its own particular stamp. It goes for good quality writing.”

The BBC say they have programmes like Radio 4’s ‘A Good Read’ and BBC Four’s The Secret Life of Books, run the BBC National Short Story Award, and introduce millions to new books through adaptations like Wolf Hall, the Casual Vacancy and Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime.