Ali Smith and Helen Macdonald are among the winners of this year’s Costa Book Awards, adding to the existing trophy haul for their books.
The awards, announced this evening (5th January) on BBC Radio 4’s “Front Row”, also saw wins for Kate Saunders, Jonathan Edwards, and Emma Healey.
Smith won the Costa Novel Award category for her sixth novel How to be Both (Hamish Hamilton), which was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize and which won the 2014 Goldsmiths Prize and the Literary Book of the Year award at the Saltire Literary Awards.
The judges for the award – author Elizabeth Buchan, writer Bernardine Evaristo and head of buying at Foyles, Jasper Sutcliffe – said of Smith and How to be Both: “Deploying her conceit of different beginnings and endings with consummate ease and daring, Ali Smith has pulled off a truly dazzling and inventive story.”
The author’s win comes less than a week after she was made a CBE in the New Year Honours. It is the second time Smith has won the Costa Novel Award – the first was for The Accidental (Penguin) in 2005, when the awards were sponsored by Whitbread.
Macdonald’s H is for Hawk (Jonathan Cape) won the Costa Biography Award. The book, about Macdonald’s quest to train a goshawk following the death of her father, won the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2014. In The Bookseller’s round-up of books of the year features (12th December), H is for Hawk was picked as a book of the year 12 times. It was an editor’s choice in the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian’s Stephen Moss crowned it his nature book of the year.
Award judges Paul Laity, non-fiction books editor at the Guardian, author and freelance journalist Wendy Moore, and Sheila O’Reilly, owner of Dulwich Books, called the memoir “a unique and beautiful book with a searing emotional honesty, and descriptive language that is unparalleled in modern literature.”
The Costa First Novel Award went to Healey’s debut Elizabeth is Missing (Penguin), about an old woman named Maud whose friend Elizabeth disappears. Elizabeth is Missing was described as an “outstanding debut” by the judging panel of Joanne Finney, books editor at Good Housekeeping; Joe Haddow, producer, Radio 2 Book Club; and writer Maggie O’Farrell. They said: “Not only is it gripping, but it shows incredible flair and unusual skill. A very special book.”
English teacher Edwards won the Costa Poetry Award for his debut collection My Family and Other Superheroes, published by independent literary publisher Seren, which specialises in English-language writing from Wales.
The judging panel for the award – independent bookseller Anna Dreda, and poets Charlotte Runcie and Owen Sheers – said: “We haven’t had as much fun reading a poetry collection in ages. Joyous, brilliant and moving - this is a poet to celebrate.”
The Costa Children’s Book Award went to Kate Saunders for Five Children on the Western Front (Faber & Faber), a sequel to E Nesbit’s Five Children and It.
The award was judged by the Daily Telegraph’s deputy literary editor Lorna Bradbury, freelance reading development and children’s book consultant Jake Hope, and author Jonathan Stroud. They said: “This profoundly moving and magical story tackles the biggest themes – love, family and friendship – set against the horrors of WWI. Kate Saunders’ astounding achievement is to have created a modern masterpiece that captures the spirit of a much-loved classic.”
The five winners, who each receive £5,000, will now go on to compete for the 2014 Costa Book of the Year award, decided on by a panel chaired by Robert Harris.
Christopher Rogers, m.d. of Costa, said: “What a fantastic collection of books. The Costa Book Awards are all about recognising great writing and a good read and this year’s winners are, as always, superb examples of this.”
The winner of the Costa Book of the Year will be announced on Tuesday 27th January.
The winner of the Costa Short Story Award – voted for by the general public and now in its third year - will also be announced on Tuesday 27th January. Voting is open on the Costa Book Awards website until Friday 16th January.
The 2013 Costa Book of the Year was The Shock of the Fall (Borough Press) by debut novelist Nathan Filer.