Sara Collins (pictured) has won the Costa First Novel Award for her gothic romance, The Confessions of Frannie Langton (Viking), in a stellar year for début authors after three out of the five award categories were won by first-time writers. Meanwhile, Jonathan Coe triumphed as the winner of the Costa Novel Award for his Brexit novel Middle England (Penguin).
After facing stiff competition from books including Candy Carty Williams' Queenie (Trapeze), former lawyer Collins scooped the First Novel Award for her novel about the love affair of a Jamaican maid and her French mistress in 19th-century London. The panel of judges, comprising writers Clare Mackintosh and Mahsuda Snaith and bookseller Will Smith, branded it "the full package".
Fellow début authors joining Collins as category award winners are Hong Kong-born poet and editor Mary Jean Chan, who wins the Costa Poetry Award for her début collection Flèche (Faber & Faber), judged "a staggeringly beautiful mix of the personal and political", and Jasbinder Bilan, who, rising to the top of a category that included Malorie Blackman's Crossfire, claimed the Costa Children’s Book Award for Asha & the Spirit Bird, a "gorgeous" adventure story set in India, inspired by her relationship with her grandmother.
Middle England is the third book in Coe's trilogy following The Rotters’ Club and The Closed Circle. It was described by the judges including novelist John Boyne as "the perfect novel for now".
Journalist and former war reporter Jack Fairweather collected the Costa Biography Award for The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero who Infiltrated Auschwitz (WH Allen). Drawing on only recently declassified files, it tells the story of Witold Pileck, an underground operative who accepted a mission to go to Auschwitz to report on Nazi atrocities and build a secret resistance army there.
The Costa Book Awards were established in 1971 as a celebration and promotion of "some of the most enjoyable" books. Each of the category award winners receives £5,000 and the ultimate Book of the Year winner will receive £30,000, with an awards ceremony due to take place in central London on 28th January 2020. Last year the 2018 Costa Book of the Year was The Cut Out Girl by Oxford University Professor Bart van Es.
Middle England, which published in November 2018, has already sold 91,242 copies through Nielsen BookScan. Since publishing in the UK in April 2019 (after Katy Loftus pre-empted UK rights the evening before a nine-way auction), The Confessions of Frannie Langton has sold 34,682 copies. The Volunteer, published in March 2019, has sold 9,405 copies; Asha & the Spirit Bird, published in February 2019, has sold 3,644 copies; and Flèche (Faber & Faber), published in July 2019, has sold 956 copies.