#Costawinner ‘The Shock of the Fall’

image-mediumDebut novelist and ex mental health nurse Nathan Filer, who now lectures in creative writing, has beaten Kate Atkinson to the overall Costa  prize with ‘The Shock of the Fall’.  He is the fifth debut novelist to win. The book was 11/2 only fourth favourite to win, a way behind Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life at 11/8.

He wins £30,000 for the prize, known as the Whitbread until 2005. Now in its 42nd year, it aims to reward enjoyability. The judges, who were reported to be ‘not quite unanimous,’ were chaired by Rose Tremain and included

Natascha McElhone, Pointless expert Richard Osman, singer Sharleen Spiteri, and authors and writers Gerard Woodward, Emma Kennedy, Anne de Courcy, Matthew Cain and John Burnside.

 The book is narrated by Bristol boy Matthew from the age of five to his early 20s and is a gripping account of his descent into schizophrenic illness following the death of his younger brother. It is told when he is at school, when he is smoking too much marijuana in a grotty flat and from the psychiatric wards he ends up in. ‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’ .

Costa Book Awards 2013 – Poetry shortlist


image-medium (50)Drysalter by Michael Symmons Roberts  Michael Symmons Roberts’s sixth – and most ambitious – collection to date takes its name from the ancient trade in powders, chemicals, salts and dyes, paints and cures. These poems offer a similarly potent and sensory multiplicity, unified through the formal constraint of 150 poems of 15 lines. Like the medieval psalters echoed in its title, this collection contains both the sacred and profane. Here are hymns of praise and lamentation, songs of wonder and despair, journeying effortlessly through physical and metaphysical landscapes, from financial markets and urban sprawl to deserts and dark nights of the soul. Michael Symmons Roberts has published five collections of poetry, including Corpus, which won the 2004 Whitbread Poetry Award. He has also published two novels, Patrick’s Alphabet and Breath, and a non-fiction book Edgelands (with Paul Farley). He is a frequent collaborator with the composer James MacMillan and as a radio writer and documentary film-maker has won Sony, Sandford St Martin and Clarion Awards. Judges: “He combines philosophical depth with a lightness of touch.”

Dante: The Divine Comedy by Clive James   The Divine Comedy is the precursor of modern literature, and this translation—decades in the making—gives the entire epic as a single, coherent and compulsively readable lyric poem. In his introductory essay, James says that the twin secrets of Dante are texture and impetus. All the packed detail must be there, but the thing must move. It should go from start to finish with an unflagging rhythm. In the original, the basic form is the terza rima, a measure hard to write in English without showing the strain of reaching once too often for a rhyme. In this translation, the basic form is the quatrain. The result, uncannily, is the same easy-seeming flow, a wonderful momentum that propels the reader along the pilgrim’s path from Hell to Heaven, from despair to revelation. Clive James was born in Sydney in 1939. He is the author of more than thirty books. As well as his collections of verse and his five volumes of autobiography, he has published collections of literary criticism, television criticism, travel writing and novels. He appeared regularly for both the BBC and ITV as a television presenter and performer during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1992 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia, in 2003 he was awarded the Philip Hodgins memorial medal for literature and he was honoured with a CBE in the Queen’s last New Year Honours list. Judges: “A towering achievement that will stand the test of time.”

Division Street by Helen Mort 
From the clash between striking miners and police to the delicate conflicts in personal relationships, Helen Mort’s stunning debut is marked by distance and division. Named for a street in Sheffield, this is a collection that cherishes specificity: the particularity of names; the reflections the world throws back at us; the precise moment of a realisation. Distinctive and assured, these poems show how, at the site of conflict, a moment of reconciliation can be born. Helen Mort was born in Sheffield in 1985, and grew up in nearby Chesterfield. Five-times-winner of the Foyle Young Poets Award, she received an Eric Gregory Award in 2007 and won the Manchester Young Writer Prize in 2008. In 2010, she was Poet-in-Residence at the Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere. She lives in Derbyshire. Judges: “Wonderful meeting of lyrical poetry, political engagement and a powerful sense of place.”

Hill of Doors by Robin Robertson 
Charged with strangeness and beauty, Hill of Doors is a haunted and haunting book, where each successive poem seems a shape conjured from the shadows, and where the uncanny is made physically present. The collection sees the return of some familiar members of the Robertson company – including Strindberg and the shape-shifter Dionysus. Four loose retellings of stories of the Greek god form pillars for the book, alongside four short Ovid versions. Threaded through these are a series of pieces about the poet’s childhood on the north-east coast, his fascination with the sea and the islands of Scotland. Robin Robertson is from the north-east coast of Scotland. His four previous collections have received a number of honours including the E M Forster Award and various Forward Prizes. His last collection, The Wrecking Light, was shortlisted for the 2010 Costa Poetry Award and the T S Eliot Prize. Judges: “Passionate and powerful interweaving of personal and mythic sustained across the form of a collection.”

From Penguins to why writers drink

image-medium (48)Why is it that some of the greatest works of literature have been produced by writers in the grip of alcoholism, an addiction that cost them personal happiness and caused harm to those who loved them? This is discussed in one of the non fiction nominees up for a Costa award.

Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence and Emperor Penguins by Gavin Francis 
Gavin Francis fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition when he spent fourteen months as the base-camp doctor at Halley, a profoundly isolated British research station on the Caird Coast of Antarctica. Antarctica offered a year of unparalleled silence and solitude, with a few distractions and very little human history, but also a rare opportunity to live among emperor penguins, the only species truly at home in the Arctic. Following the penguins throughout the year – from a summer of perpetual sunshine to months of winter darkness – Gavin Francis explores a world of great beauty conjured from the simplest of elements, the hardship of living at 50 degrees centigrade below zero and the unexpected comfort that the penguin community brings. Gavin Francis was born in 1975 and brought up in Fife, Scotland. After qualifying from medical school in Edinburgh he spent ten years travelling, visiting all seven continents. He has worked in Africa and India, made several trips to the Arctic, and crossed Eurasia and Australasia by motorcycle. His first book, True North, was published in 2008. He has lectured widely and his essays have appeared in the Guardian, Granta and The London Review of Books. He lives in Edinburgh.
Judges: “A mesmerising account told in crystalline prose, of fourteen months spent in the silent vastness
of the last unknown continent.”

Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz by Thomas Harding 
Hanns Alexander was the son of a prosperous German family who fled Berlin for London in the 1930s. Rudolf Höss was a farmer and soldier who rose through the ranks of the SS to become the Kommandant of Auschwitz Concentration Camp, where he oversaw the
deaths of over a million men, women and children. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the first British War Crimes Investigation Team is assembled to hunt down the senior Nazi officials responsible for the greatest atrocities the world has ever seen. Lieutenant Hanns Alexander is one of the lead investigators, Rudolf Höss his most elusive target. Thomas Harding is a journalist who has written for the Sunday Times, Financial Times and the Guardian, among other publications. He co-founded a television station in Oxford, England, and for many years was an award-winning publisher of a newspaper in West Virginia. He lives in Hampshire, England. Judges: “A beautifully-balanced double biography, admirably measured but also gripping in its telling, which offers a fresh perspective on a much-examined subject.”

The Pike: Gabriele D’Annunzio, Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War by Lucy Hughes-Hallett 
In September 1919 Gabriele D’Annunzio, successful poet, dramatist and occasional politician with an innate flair for the melodramatic, declared himself the Commandante of the city of Fiume in modern day Croatia. He intended to establish the utopian modern state upon his muddled fascist and artistic ideals and create a social paradigm for the rest of the world. It was a fittingly dramatic pinnacle to a career that had been essentially theatrical. Lucy Hughes-Hallett is the author of Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams and Distortions which was published in 1990 to wide acclaim, and Heroes: Saviours, Traitors and Supermen, published in 2004, which garnered similar praise. Cleopatra won the Fawcett Prize and the Emily Toth Award. Lucy Hughes-Hallett reviews for the Sunday Times. She lives in London.
Judges: “A classic, meticulously researched biography, told with a twist, and riveting in its historical sweep.”

The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink by Olivia Laing 
Why is it that some of the greatest works of literature have been produced by writers in the grip of alcoholism, an addiction that cost them personal happiness and caused harm to those who loved them? In The Trip to Echo Spring, Olivia Laing takes a journey
across America to examine the link between creativity and alcohol through the work and lives of six extraordinary writers – F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever and Raymond Carver, all of whom were alcoholics. It is also a personal journey for Olivia, wanting to make sense of alcoholism – a disease that had affected her own family. Olivia Laing’s first book, To the River, was a book of the year in the Evening Standard, Independent and Financial Times and was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Dolman Travel Book of the Year. Olivia is the former Deputy Books Editor of the Observer and writes for a variety of publications, including the Observer, New Statesman, Guardian and Times Literary Supplement. She’s a 2011 MacDowell Fellow, and has received awards from the Arts Council, The Society of Authors and the Authors’ Foundation.
Judges: “An enthralling meld of memoir, travelogue, literary biography and personal journey, which sends you eagerly back to the work of six troubled but brilliant US writers.”