Costa has revealed its shortlists for the 2015 Costa Book Awards, featuring 12 women and eight men, with authors spanning an age range of 27–68 across its five award categories: novel, first novel, biography, poetry and children’s.
This year marks the 44th year of the Book Awards, which attracted 638 entries in total. On this year’s judging panels (three per category) were authors such as Matt Haig, Louise Doughty and Martyn Bedford, poet and children’s author Julia Copus and biographer and broadcaster Penny Junor.
Kate Atkinson, who scooped the Costa Novel Award last year for Life After Life, as well as in 1995 for Behind the Scenes at the Museum, when it was sponsored by Whitbread, made the shortlist for her latest “ambitious” novel A God in Ruins (Doubleday), earning her the chance to become a three-time winner of the award. She joins Dublin-born Anne Enright on the shortlist for her “masterful portrait of a fractured family”, The Green Road; Patrick Gale for A Place Called Winter (Tinder Press), about Gale’s real life “Cowboy” great-grandfather banished to Canada; and columnist Melissa Harrison for her second novel At Hawthorn Time (Bloomsbury), whose modern pastoral was described by the judges as “moving, atmospheric, quietly compelling and at times, heartbreaking.”
Meanwhile, Kate Hamer's The Girl in the Red Coat has been chosen from 116 entries to be shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award. The book was fiercely promoted by the publishers earlier this year, with 20,000 sample chapters handed out across London train stations back in February. Also shortlisted is Sara Baum, already the winner of the 2015 Hennessy New Irish Writing Award, for her debut Spill Simmer Falter Wither (Windmill Books), first published by Tramp Press; and Tasha Kavanagh, a creative writing graduate from UEA and a film editor of 10 years, for Things We Have in Common (Canongate). A novel about teenage obsession and isolation, it was described by the judges, comprised of journalist Hannah Beckerman, Psychologies Magazine deputy editor Lauren Hadden and writer Matt Haig, as “an exceptionally assured debut with a captivating voice”. Rounding off the shortlist is Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney, published by John Murray. Originally published by small Yorkshire press Tartarus Press that printed only 300 copies, John Murray’s editorial director, Mark Richards, plucked it from obscurity for it to not only secure a film deal but become one of the best-reviewed debuts this year, with fans including Stephen King calling it “an amazing piece of fiction”.
Up for best biography is the "sparkling account" from Robert Douglas-Fairhurst The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland (Harvill Secker); The House by the Lake by Thomas Harding (William Heinemann) described as "an unforgettable and touching account of life in Germany throughout the turbulent 20th century"; John Aubrey: My Own Life by Ruth Scurr (Chatto & Windus) for its "hugely original take"; and, finally, an "extraordinary book" The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt, The Lost Hero of Science by New York Times bestselling author Andrea Wulf, also published by John Murray.
Costa's poetry category saw "raw and urgent" poems from Andrew McMillan gracing the shortlist for Physical (Jonathan Cape), a work which is only the second book of poetry to have ever been shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. It competes with The Observances by Kate Miller (Carcanet), described as "painterly, sensuous and sonically vibrant”; from Faber & Faber, 40 Sonnets by Don Paterson, whose execution it was claimed was with "the skill of a master sorcerer"; and Talking Dead by Neil Rollinson (Jonathan Cape) who recently received a Cholmondeley Award from the Society of Authors.
Last but not least, the shortlist for the 2015 Costa Children’s Book Award, which saw the highest number of entries (149) - judged by writer Martyn Bedford, head of children’s buying for Waterstones Melissa Cox and reviewer Andrea Reece - includes a Victorian melodrama and novel inspired by a former Costa winner, Maggot Moon: Hayley Long's Sophie Someone (Hot Key Books); The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Children’s Books) about a tree that feeds off whispered lies and bears fruit that reveals hidden secrets; An Island of Our Own by Sally Nicholls (Scholastic), described as "a very modern book which has the feel of a classic as well as heaps of heart”; and Jessica’s Ghost by Andrew Norriss (David Fickling Books) about a very unsual friendship.
Winners in the five categories, who each receive £5,000, will be announced on Monday 4th January 2016. The overall winner of the 2015 Costa Book of the Year will receive £30,000 and will be selected and announced at the Costa Book Awards ceremony in central London on Tuesday 26th January 2016.
To be eligible for the 2015 Costa Book Awards, books must have been first published in the UK or Ireland between 1st November 2014 and 31st October 2015 and their authors resident in the UK for the previous three years. The full shortlist can be seen as below.
2015 Costa Novel Award shortlist
Kate Atkinson for A God in Ruins (Doubleday)
Anne Enright The Green Road (Jonathan Cape)
Patrick Gale for A Place Called Winter (Tinder Press)
Melissa Harrison for At Hawthorn Time (Bloomsbury)
2015 Costa First Novel Award shortlist
Sara Baume for Spill Simmer Falter Wither (Windmill Books)
Kate Hamer for The Girl in the Red Coat (Faber & Faber)
Andrew Michael Hurley for The Loney (John Murray)
Tasha Kavanagh for Things We Have in Common (Canongate)
2015 Costa Biography Award shortlist
Robert Douglas-Fairhurst for The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland (Harvill Secker)
Thomas Harding for The House by the Lake (William Heinemann)
Ruth Scurr for John Aubrey: My Own Life (Chatto & Windus)
Andrea Wulf for The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science (John Murray)
2015 Costa Poetry Award shortlist
Andrew McMillan for Physical (Jonathan Cape)
Kate Miller for The Observances (Carcanet)
Don Paterson for 40 Sonnets (Faber & Faber)
Neil Rollinson for Talking Dead (Jonathan Cape)
2015 Costa Children’s Book Award shortlist
Frances Hardinge for The Lie Tree (Macmillan Children’s Books)
Hayley Long for Sophie Someone (Hot Key Books)
Sally Nicholls for An Island of Our Own (Scholastic)
Andrew Norriss for Jessica’s Ghost (David Fickling Books)