The late author Helen Dunmore is shortlisted for a Costa Award along with Jon McGregor, Kamila Shamsie and Sarah Winman with almost half of the titles coming from independent publishers in a strong year for women writers.
McGregor is shortlisted for the Novel Award for Reservoir 13, published by HarperCollins imprint Fourth Estate, which follows the disappearance of a teenage girl on holiday. Stef Penney is up for Under a Pole Star (Quercus), exploring an exploration of the Greenland Coast, along with Shamsie’s Man Booker-longlisted Home Fire, published by Bloomsbury Circus, while Winman is shortlisted for Tinman, published by Headline’s imprint Tinder Press, deemed by the judges to be “a tender and deeply moving exploration of love and grief”.
Two of the titles vying for the First Novel shortlist come from indie presses: Xan Brooks is up for his 1920’s novel, The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times, published by Salt, while Rebecca F John’s “extraordinary” The Haunting of Henry Twist, published by Serpent’s Tail, featuring a ghostly stranger who appears after a tragic accident, has also made the cut. They are joined by Gail Honeyman’s highly successful debut, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (HarperCollins), about modern-day lonlieness, and Karl Geary for Montpelier Parade, exploring chance encounters, published by PRH imprint Harvill Secker.
The Biography category is dominated by titles published by PRH and HarperCollins. Fragile Lives: A Heart Surgeon’s Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Table (HarperCollins), builds on author Stephen Westaby’s 35-year medical career, featured alongside In The Days of Rain (Fourth Estate Estate) by academic and novelist Rebecca Stott, exploring her family’s connection with a fundamentalist Christian sect. Meanwhile PRH imprint Chatto & Windus boasts two titles: Xiaolu Guo’s Once Upon a Time in the East: A Story of Growing Up, about the author’s life spanning south China, Britain and Europe, with A Bold and Dangerous Family: The Rossellis and the Fight Against Mussolini also shortlisted by Caroline Moorehead, described by the judges as "‘a dazzling story of family heroism in a time of fascist rule".
Chatto & Windus is also represented on the Poetry Award shortlist with Kayo Chingonyi’s exploration of race, identity and masculinity, Kumukanda, which is competing against Dunmore’s Inside the Wave (Bloodaxe Books), which contains the writer’s final poem written days before she died, in June. Belfast's inaugural Poet Laureate Sinéad Morrissey is shortlisted for her sixth collection, On Balance (Carcanet), alongside nature-themed Useful Verses (Picador) by wild food forage Richard Osmond.
Fourteen of the authors are women, including an all-female Children’s Book Award category, which is also entirely dominated by independent publishers. Lissa Evans, Sarah Crossan, Katherine Rundell and Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author of the bestselling The Girl of Ink & Stars (Chicken House) are all nominated. Bloomsbury features twice with Crossan’s Moonrise, described as “exceptional, compelling book for our time” by the judges, and Rundell’s Amazonian rainforest-themed The Explorer. Evans is nominated for Wed Wabbit (David Fickling Books), labelled a “deeply original riot of a novel that will delight children and adults alike” by the judging panel, and Hargrave is in the running for The Island at the End of Everything (Chicken House) about a girl banished to an orphanage.
Hargrave is one of the judges on the poetry category with other panelists including presenter and journalist Sophie Raworth, authors Freya North, Piers Torday, Lucy Atkins, Simon Garfield along with poet Moniza Alvi and book blogger and vlogger Simon Savidge.
Winners in the five categories, who each receive £5,000, will be announced on Tuesday 2nd January 2018. The overall winner will receive £30,000 and will be announced at the Costa Book Awards ceremony in central London on 30th January. Last year Irish novelist Sebastian Barry won the overall award for a second time for his novel Days Without End (Faber & Faber).
This year the prize attracted 620 entries. To be eligible, the books must have been first published in the UK or Ireland between 1st November 2016 and 31st October 2017 and their authors resident in the UK for the previous three years.
Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won 12 times by a novel, five times by a first novel, six times by a biography, seven times by a collection of poetry and twice by a children’s book.
“These shortlists are a showcase of everything the Costa Book Awards celebrate: terrific books with broad appeal that will be enjoyed by readers of all tastes,” said Dominic Paul, m.d of Costa. “The category judges have done a fantastic job in selecting these 20 brilliant, exciting books."
The winner of the Costa Short Story Award, voted for by the public, will also be announced at the ceremony. The shortlisted three stories for the Costa Short Story Award, now in its sixth year, will be revealed on the Costa Book Awards website, www.costabookawards.com, later this month.