I like the way the Costa Book Awards highlight a wide range of literature by awarding prizes in five difference categories: novel, first novel, poetry, biography and children’s books. Debut authors must love this prize as must children’s book authors who have got to be the most under-celebrated group of writers out there (with the obvious exception of David Walliams).
The Costa Prize is not a highbrow sort of prize and you probably won’t find books like Eimear McBride’s impenetrable A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing on their list, but that doesn’t mean they don’t select excellent books.
Costa Novel Award
How to be both by Ali Smith. Almost universally praised by critics, Ali Smith’s latest is not exactly a surprise winner. Two stories, one about a renaissance painter, the other about a young girl mourning the death of her mother, converge. I must be one of the few who found this book contrived and un-engaging. Perhaps I should try again…
Costa First Novel Award
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey. A refreshingly original heroine, a 90 year-old dement woman, tries to solve a mystery. Sounds intriguing. Very well reviewed.
Costa Biography Award
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
This book beat the brilliant Do No Harm by Henry Marsh. I’ve heard so many people rave about H is for Hawk that I’m getting close to picking it up despite its slightly bizarre theme: a woman trains a falcon to get over the death of her father. Then again, a book written by a ceramicist about his uncle’s collection of Japanese figurines The Hare With Amber Eyes, turned out to be one of my favourite books a few years ago…
Costa Poetry Award
My Family and Other Superheroes by Jonathan Edwards. Film stars and superheroes show up in this collection of poetry. Wales must have one very happy debut school teacher/poet.
Costa Children’s Book Award
Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders is a First World War adaptation of E Nesbitt’s Five Children and It. Described as a ‘modern masterpiece’ this book was under the Christmas tree at my house this year.
Now the judges have the unenviable task of choosing an overall winner from these five books. We shall know who on the 27th January.