The Costa Award Shortlist was released last night and here are the entries in the First Novel and Novel categories. Click the images to read more on GoodReads.
First Novel Award Shortlist
Katherine has given up trying to be happy. Thirty, stuck in a job and a town she hates, her mounting cynicism and vicious wit repel the people she wants to attract, and attract the people she knows she should repel. Her ex Daniel, meanwhile, isn’t sure that he loves his new girlfriend Angelica. But somehow not telling her he loves her has become synonymous with telling her that he doesn’t love her, meaning that he has to tell her he loves her just to maintain the status quo. When their former friend Nathan returns from a stint in a psychiatric ward – to find that his mother has transformed herself into bestselling author and Twitter superstar ‘MotherCourage’ – Katherine, Daniel and Nathan decide to meet to heal old wounds and reaffirm their friendship. But will a reunion end well? Almost certainly not.
Judges: “A hilarious and breathtakingly well-written satire from a major new talent.”
In 1989, the year of news, as London bakes through the hottest summer anyone can remember, one family is embroiled in its own private cataclysm. Phillip Prys has been silenced by a sudden, massive stroke. As his girlish third wife, Shirin, pads through their faded rooms, dignified in the face of bustling Myfanwy, back to manage her former husband’s care, their adolescent children, Jake and Celia, seek refuge in drugs and food. Enter Struan. Built like a heron, fresh from Scotland, he is thrust – quite literally – into the bosom of the family, as Phillip’s seventeen-year-old nurse. He’s had experience of death, but not of London. Hampstead is a foreign country, with foreign food and foreign customs. But he finds that it also has a strange kind of magic. Under the influence of each Prys in turn, his life begins to alter in ways he could never have imagined. And so, in the meantime, do theirs.
Judges: “A gorgeous slice of a 1980s summer, stuffed with unconventional characters who stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.”
The Shock of the Fall tells the story of Matthew and Simon, two brothers who are separated yet united by a tragic accident. Exploring themes of loss, grief and mental illness, this extraordinary novel transports the reader directly into the mind of Matthew and his slow descent into madness as he confronts his role in the boyhood death of his older brother ten years ago.
Judges: “An exhilarating journey into the human mind that will leave you uplifted and transformed.”
To Arjan Banga, returning to the Black Country after the unexpected death of his father, his family’s corner shop represents everything he has tried to leave behind – a lethargic pace of life, insular rituals and ways of thinking. But when his mother insists on keeping the shop open, he finds himself being dragged back from London, forced into big decisions about his imminent marriage and uncovering the history of his broken family – the elopement and mixed-race marriage of his aunt Surinder, and the betrayals and loyalties, loves and regrets that have played out in the shop over more than fifty years.
Judges: “Fresh, funny and thought-provoking – an epic tale of family life with characters that bounce off the page.”
Novel Award Shortlist
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath. During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale. What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact, an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?
Judges: “Daring, inventive, this is a feat of breathtaking imagination.”
After a chance meeting in a doctor’s waiting-room, Cecilia Banks and Helen Gatehouse have become firm friends with a shared interest: both have been diagnosed with cancer. Whilst the two women contemplate their own mortality, they’re also facing different challenges; Cecilia’s war correspondent son Ian has unexpectedly fathered a child, Cephas, and calls on his mother to care for the baby, whilst a letter from an old acquaintance reminds Helen of a past that can no longer be ignored. As events unfold and the truth is revealed, Cecilia and Helen are united by their experiences not only of illness but of love, honesty and motherhood.
Judges: “An unflinching, darkly funny story of love, obsession and illness that is unexpected in every way.”
It’s July 1976. In London, it hasn’t rained for months, gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he’s going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn’t come back. The search for Robert brings Gretta’s children – two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce – back home, each with different ideas as to where their father might have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share.
Judges: “Once again, O’Farrell has created characters you fall in love with in a story that is a delicious and unputdownable read.”
Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed British island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It’s just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be. But something is coming for the sheep – every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags. It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake’s unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, in a landscape of different colour and sound, a story held in the scars that stripe her back.
Judges: “Tough, compelling, surprising and beautifully written – this book packs a real punch.”