Costa Book Awards 2017 Shortlist (Novel category)

22 Nov 2017

Judging the Costa Book Awards has been a demanding, exciting and at times slightly nerve-wracking experience. I’m delighted to have played a part in shortlisting these four wonderful novels (see dog-eared, coffee stained books in picture below) and finally to be able to press them into peoples’ hands.

Here’s a bit about each one, and why we chose them from 170 entries

 

Shortlist for the 2017 Costa Novel Award

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Judges

Lucy Atkins                   Author and Critic

Freya North                   Author

Wayne Winstone           Owner, Winstone’s Bookshops

 

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (4th Estate)

Why we loved it: ‘An extraordinary novel – poetic, haunting and hypnotic’.

A teenage girl has gone missing in the English hills, police set up roadblocks and a crowd of reporters descends on the village. But life must go on   – cows are milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured and these timeless rhythms become a force far greater than any isolated tragedy.

Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney (Quercus)

Why we loved it: ‘A novel of huge scope with a tremendous sense of period and place.’

Flora Mackie is twelve when she first crosses the Arctic Circle on her father’s whaling ship. Now she’s returning to the frozen seas as the head of her own expedition. In this remote frozen land she encounters Jakob de Beyn, raised in Manhattan, and part of a rival expedition. What follows is a powerful love story but also an exploration of science, geography, feminism and humanity.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (Bloomsbury Circus)

Why we loved it:  ‘A brave and important book that explores themes that feel both urgent and timeless.’

Isma worries about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister, and their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared to follow the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew.  When Aneeka becomes involved with Eamonn the charming son of a powerful British Muslim politician the two families’ fates are devastatingly entwined. A forceful retelling of the ancient story of Antigone. 

Tin Man by Sarah Winman (Tinder Press)

Why we loved it:  ‘A tender and deeply moving exploration of love and grief written with deceptive simplicity.’

Two Oxford city boys, Ellis and Michael, are inseparable in adolescence but when they become men life takes them in different directions. Ellis works at the Cowley car plant, smoothing out dents; Michael heads to London. Then Ellis falls in love with Annie, and for a while, the old friends are brought back together again.

Sarah Winman grew up in Essex and now lives in London.  She attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and was an actor for 30 years in theatre, TV and film. She has written three novels including When God Was a Rabbit.

 

 

Judging the Costa Book Awards

8 Nov 2017

costa book awards logoSince May this year I have been reading novels for the Costa Book Awards. I’m judging the ‘Novel’ category so there are authors whose work I’ve read before, but also quite a few who are new to me – and some authors I’ve always meant to read and haven’t, until now. It has been an eye-opening experience. One thing that’s struck me is the large number of historical novels (and a few futuristic ones too, it has to be said). Is this always the case? It’s not something you tend to notice unless you have a stack of fifty books to read on your office floor. The better historical novels, I’ve noticed, are less about escaping into the past, and more about reframing the uncertainties and horrors of what’s happening in the world today. Let’s just say I’ve read more than one reworking of a Greek tragedy.

This week is the most exciting bit. I’m just finishing reading the other judges’ selections (my two fellow judges chose three books each). This Friday we’ll meet in London to discuss those, along with my own selections. It’s going to be a delight to finally meet the other judges and discuss these books – and to choose a final shortlist from them. I’ll report back soon.

The Book that Changed My Life

2 Apr 2014

Sept 1978 Mum's dictionary publishedLast week I was asked to write a piece about The Book That Changed My Life. I wracked my brains for ages – thinking of things like Jane Eyre or Rebel Pony  – yes really – a book I read repeatedly as a child – the book that got me hooked on reading.

But then I realised that there is only one book that I can honestly say changed my life. It’s the book that made me believe I could be a writer. It’s the first place I saw my name in print. It’s been sitting on the shelves of every home I’ve ever lived in – so much part of the furniture that I don’t even notice it any more. I wouldn’t dream of reading it for pleasure. But I treasure it.

It’s The Collins Robert bilingual dictionary – written, painstakingly, over years and years, by my mum.  The first edition was published 1978 (see her proud pic, left).  I used to have to fight my way through index cards, stacks of paper, shelves and shelves of dictionaries to say hello to her when I got back from school each day. The family joke is that when The Dictionary was finally published, I was dim enough to be genuinely confused, since I thought ‘The Dictionary’ was a place in our house (‘mum’s at The Dictionary again’ or …’where’s mum?’ ‘The Dictonary’).

Here’s why it changed my life:  Novelicious post