Barnes, Clarke and host of debuts make Costa shortlists

Barnes, Clarke and host of debuts make Costa shortlists

Susanna Clarke, Julian Barnes and Meg Rosoff are joined by 10 debut authors in the shortlists for this year's Costa Book Awards.

The annual awards, open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland, span 20 titles across five categories.

Shortlisted in the Novel category is Clarke with her first novel in 16 years: Piranesi (Bloomsbury). She is joined by Trinidadian-born writer and co-founder of Writers Rebel, Monique Roffey, for The Mermaid of Black Conch: A Love Story (Peepal Tree), alongside author and campaigner Tim Finch with Peace Talks (Bloomsbury). Denise Mina, whose prolific crime writing has earned her a place in Crime Writers’ Association Hall of Fame, also makes the list with The Less Dead (Harvill Secker).

In the First Novel category, Northern Irish author Michelle Gallen's “highly original” small-town portrait of the Troubles Big Girl, Small Town (John Murray) is up against Sairish Hussain's British Muslim family saga The Family Tree (HQ). They are joined by two writers from fine art backgrounds in Trinidadian-born, award-winning short story writer Ingrid Persaud with Love After Love (Faber) and US-born nurse-turned-lecturer Karen Raney's All the Water in the World (Two Roads).

For Biography,  campaigner  Lee Lawrence, son of Brixton gun victim Cherry Groce, is shortlisted for The Louder I Will Sing (Sphere) alongside palliative care specialist  Dr Rachel Clarke's Dear Life (Little, Brown). Also nominated are Ghost Town: A Liverpool Shadow Play (Little Toller), a “stunningly beautiful’” ode to the city by TV writer  Jeff Young , and The Man in the Red Coat (Jonathan Cape), a "richly elegant" study of the life and times of Belle Epoque society doctor and pioneering gynaecologist, Samuel Pozzi, by Julian Barnes. 

The Historians (Carcanet), the final collection from Irish poet  Eavan Boland  becomes the third posthumous collection to be shortlisted for th e Poetry category. Boland is joined on the list by two new voices:  Rachel Long  and  Martha Sprackland, with their “daring” and “spellbinding” debut collections My Darling from the Lions (Picador) and Citadel (Pavilion Poetry). Caroline Bird, an official poet of the 2012 London Olympics, also makes the list with The Air Year (Carcanet).

Rosoff racks up her fourth nomination in the Children's Book category with coming-of-age novel The Great Godden (Bloomsbury). Also getting the nod is  children’s writer and literary scout Natasha Farrant for her 12th book Voyage of the Sparrowhawk (Faber). They are joined by two debut authors Darren Charlton,  who works in the voluntary sector for a homeless organisation,  with Wranglestone (Little Tiger); and primary school teacher Jenny Pearson,  whose shortlisted book The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates (Usborne) was acquired following an eight-way auction.  

Judges on this year’s panels included Debbie James of Kibworth Books in Leicester, Leah Wilkins of Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham and Iain Rushworth of W H Smith Travel, as well as authors Horatio Clare, Jill Dawson, Sadie Jones and Patrice Lawrence, Poorna Bell, broadcaster and historian Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, poet Zaffar Kunial and blogger and YouTuber Eric Karl Anderson. 

Jill McDonald, c.e.o. of Costa Coffee, said: “These lists represent everything the Costa Book Awards celebrate — here are 20 brilliant books to read, enjoy, recommend and share. Thank you to the judges for their time and dedication in producing such outstanding lists in this most unusual year. And congratulations to the authors who have made it onto the shortlists from such an enormous number of entries. There is truly something for everyone here.” 

Winners in the five categories, who each receive £5,000, will be announced on 4th January 2021. The overall winner of the 2020 Costa Book of the Year will receive £30,000 and be announced at a virtual ceremony on 26th January 2021.