Helen Dunmore posthumously wins Costa Book of the Year

Ali Inside the waveWe are so pleased that Inside the Wave by the late Helen Dunmore has been named winner of the 2017 Costa Book of the Year. The collection, Dunmore’s tenth, explores the borderline between the living and the dead – the underworld and the human living world – and the exquisitely intense being of both, and includes her final poem, ‘Hold out your arms’, written shortly before her death in June 2017, aged 64.

The announcement was made on Tuesday evening at an awards ceremony held at Quaglino’s in central London where Dunmore’s son, Patrick Charnley, accepted a cheque for £30,000, from Dominic Paul, Managing Director of Costa.

Ali Days withoutInside the Wave, published by Bloodaxe Books, is the eighth collection of poetry to take the overall prize. Poetry has a strong record in the Costa Book Awards, often winning the overall prize several times in a row. Most recently, Christopher Reid won in 2009 with A Scattering, followed by Jo Shapcott with Of Mutability a year later in 2010. The 2016 Costa Book of the Year was Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, the first novelist ever to win the Book of the Year twice.

Ali in the days of rainInside the Wave beat the bookmakers’ favourite, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by bestselling debut novelist Gail Honeyman, In the Days of Rain by author and academic Rebecca Stott, Reservoir 13 by novelist Jon McGregor and The Explorer by children’s author Katherine Rundell for to win the overall prize and a cheque for £30,000 at the awards ceremony.

 

Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won twelve times by a novel, five times by a first novel, six times by a biography, eight times by a collection of poetry and twice by a children’s book.

To see our previous blog post following Helen Dunmore’s death, with links to her books, please click here.

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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.

H is for Hawk wins the Costa book of the year

H is for hawkHelen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk has won the Costa book of the year award worth  £30,000. The biography had already won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction in November.

‘In real life, goshawks resemble sparrowhawks the way leopards resemble housecats. Bigger, yes, and also bulkier, bloodier, deadlier, scarier, and much, much harder to see. Birds of deep woodland, not gardens, they’re the birdwatchers’ dark grail.’

As a child Helen Macdonald was determined to become a falconer. She learned the arcane terminology and read all the classic books, including T.H. White’s tortured masterpiece, ‘The Goshawk’, which describes White’s struggle to train a hawk as a spiritual contest. When her father dies and she is knocked sideways by grief, she becomes obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk. She buys Mabel on a Scottish quayside and takes her home to Cambridge. This book is a record of a spiritual journey – an unflinchingly honest account of Macdonald’s struggle with grief during the difficult process of the hawk’s taming and her own untaming.

Novelist Robert Harris, chair of the judging panel, said: “It was brilliantly written, muscular prose and staring at grief with the unblinking eye of a hawk. It was a very clever, accomplished bit of writing that wove everything together. H is for Hawk has already had great success and has been acknowledged as a modern classic,” Mr Harris said. Several of the judges “felt very passionately it was a book that haunted them and they would never forget it”.