Indies dominate Costa Book Award winners

Indies dominate Costa Book Award winners

Indies dominate the Costa Book Awards 2020 category winners, with two Faber & Faber authors among the victors—Natasha Farrant and Ingrid Persaud—along with Monique Roffey, Lee Lawrence, and the late Eavan Boland.

Category winners, each of whom will receive £5,000, were selected from 708 entries and revealed on 4th January on BBC Radio 4's “Front Row”. One of the titles will be named Costa Book of the Year on 26th January, winning £30,000.

Writer and artist Ingrid Persaud has won the First Novel Award for Love After Love (Faber), a story tracing the life of a Trinidadian family over two decades which judges said was "teeming with life” and “full of unforgettable characters".

Faber's second win came for literary scout and writer Natasha Farrant, who scooped the Children’s Book Award for Voyage of the Sparrowhawk. Her book follows an epic voyage from England to France in the aftermath of the First World War and was described by judges as “a purely joyful read”.

Monique Roffey won the Novel category for her seventh book, The Mermaid of Black Conch: A Love Story (Peepal Tree). The book is a dark love story between a fisherman and a mermaid torn from the sea based on a Neo-Taino legend which the judges called “a story of rare imagination” and “a glorious myth”.

Lee Lawrence, a social entrepreneur, took the Biography Award for his debut work The Louder I Will Sing: A Story of Racism, Riots and Redemption (Sphere). The memoir, which deals with his fight for justice after the police shooting of his mother Cherry Groce, a catalyst for the Brixton riots, has been described by rapper and author Akala as “the story of arguably one of the most important, yet least known, events in modern British history” and by the judges as “a terrific story”.

Irish poet Eavan Boland, who passed away in April 2020, won the Poetry Award with her final collection The Historians (Carcanet), described by judges as “an extraordinary book” with “‘some of the finest lines of poetry written this century”.

Jill McDonald, c.e.o. of Costa Coffee, said: “Five outstanding books and five very worthy Award winners – what a wonderful way to start the year.  The Costa Book Awards are all about recognising great writing and a good read and we’re very proud to be announcing such a brilliant collection of books for readers to explore and enjoy.”

The prize, open to authors resident in the UK and Ireland, has this year reduced publisher contributions to PR and marketing costs for the category winners and the overall Book of the Year, by 50%.

An overall winner will be selected by a panel of judges chaired by historian, author and broadcaster Professor Suzannah Lipscomb and featuring category judges Jill Dawson, Sadie Jones, Horatio Clare, Zaffar Kunial and Patrice Lawrence. They will be joined by actor and writer Stephen Mangan, television and radio presenter Angellica Bell and presenter and book vlogger Simon Savidge. The Book of the Year will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony hosted by presenter and broadcaster Penny Smith on 26th January.

Last year's Costa Book of the Year was The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero who Infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather.

The winner of the Costa Short Story Award is voted for by the general public and will also be announced at the awards ceremony. Voting is open until 8th January, until which time the identity of the three shortlisted authors will remain anonymous.