2013 Costa Book of the Year

The 2013 Costa Book of the Year Award goes to The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer who wins the overall prize and a cheque for £30,000.

The Shock of the FallFollowing the judging, Rose Tremain CBE, chair of the final judges, said: “This book stood out in a very good list. The voice in which the author has chosen to tell his story is perfectly aligned with the subject matter and very well sustained to the end.”  She continued, “The book is exceptionally moving without being sentimental – we’re very much hoping there will be more from this writer.”  Costa Press Release

‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’ There are books you can’t stop reading, which keep you up all night. There are books which let us into the hidden parts of life and make them vividly real. There are books which, because of the sheer skill with which every word is chosen, linger in your mind for days. The Shock of the Fall is all of these books. The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man’s descent into mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction. (more on GoodReads)



2013 Costa Book Award Winners

Costa First Novel Award Winner: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

The Shock of the Fall

What it’s about:  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.

What the judges said:  “It’s hard to believe this is a first novel – it’s so good it will make you feel a better person.”

Costa Novel Award Winner:  Life After Life by Kate AtkinsonLife After Life

What it’s about:  Life After Life…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?

What the judges said:  “Astonishing – this book does everything you could ask for in a work of fiction and so much more.”


2013 Costa Awards Shortlist

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

IdiopathyIdiopathy by Sam Byers

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.”

Meeting the English by Kate ClanchyMeeting the English

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 (Special edition)The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

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.”

Marriage Material by Sathnam SangheraMarriage Material

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

Life After LifeLife After Life by Kate Atkinson

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.”

Unexpected Lessons in Love by Bernardine BishopUnexpected Lessons in Love

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.”

Instructions for a HeatwaveInstructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

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.”

All the Birds, Singing by Evie WyldAll the Birds, Singing

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.”


2010 Costa Book Awards

The 2010 Costa Book Award Winners:

Costa Novel Award

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell

Judges: “A book of grand themes and intimate moments. This gripping novel is the one we’d unreservedly recommend.”

Publishers’ Weekly Review:

O’Farrell (The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox ) interweaves two seemingly unconnected stories—that of Lexie Sinclair, living in post-WWII London, and Elina Vilkuna, a denizen of present-day London. Lexie is a rebellious 21-year-old, and when she meets handsome and sophisticated Innes Kent, she realizes he’s the one who can help her find the adventure and excitement she craves. Their affair coincides with her moving up in the ranks at the magazine he edits, but a tragedy changes Lexie’s life forever. Fifty-odd years later, Elina, a painter, faces her own struggles: she recently had a son with her boyfriend, Ted, and, after a rough child-birth, Ted and Elina struggle to recalibrate their relationship as it evolves into parenthood. While O’Farrell brings Lexie to life, she does not achieve the same with Elina and Ted, who come across as just another bland couple facing the challenges of having a child. The two plots are, naturally, connected, but the contemporary plot doesn’t really get moving until too late in the book. If the contemporary storyline was developed half as well as the historical plot, this would be a wonderful book. As it is, it feels lighter than it should.

Costa First Novel Award

Witness the Night by Kishwar Desai

Judges: “We were thrilled and exhilarated by this stunning debut. Just like her feisty main character, Desai has fearlessly blown the lid on the problems that simmer under the surface of modern- day India.”

Fantastic Fiction:

In a small town in the heart of India, a young girl is found tied to a bed inside a townhouse where thirteen people lie dead. The girl is alive, but she has been beaten and abused. She is held in the local prison, awaiting interrogation for the murders she is believed by the local people to have committed. Visiting social worker Simran attempts to break through the girl’s mute trance to find out what happened that terrible night. As she uncovers more and more, Simran realises that she is caught in the middle of a terrifying reality, where the unwanted female offspring of families are routinely disposed of. Brilliantly atmospheric, hauntingly real, this is a major debut from an exciting new author.




2010 Costa Book Award Shortlist

The 2010 Costa Book Awards Shortlist

Costa First Novel Award

Witness the Night by Kishwar Desai

In a small town in the heart of India, a young girl, barely alive, is found in a sprawling home where thirteen people lie dead.  The girl has been beaten and abused.  She is held in the local prison, awaiting interrogation for the murders that the local police believe she has committed.  But an unconventional visiting social worker, Simran Singh, is convinced of her innocence and attempts to break through the girl’s mute trance to find out what happened that terrible night.  As she slowly uncovers the truth, Simran realises that she is caught in the middle of a terrifying reality where the unwanted female offspring of families are routinely disposed of.   Kishwar Desai lives in London with her husband, Lord (Meghnad) Desai. She has written a non-fiction book, Darleeingji, and has previously worked in journalism and TV.

Judges: “Kishwar Desai pulls off a remarkable trick, transplanting a country house murder to modern day India in a book that’s not afraid to tackle serious themes.”

Coconut Unlimited by Nikesh Shukla

It’s Harrow in the 1990s, and Amit, Anand and Nishant are stuck. Their peers think they’re a bunch of try-hard darkies, acting street and pretending to be cool, while their community thinks they’re rich toffs, a long way from the ‘real’ Asians in Southall. So, to keep it real, they form legendary hip-hop band ‘Coconut Unlimited’. Pity they can’t rap…  From struggling to find records in the suburbs and rehearsing on rubbish equipment, to evading the clutches of disapproving parents and real life drug-dealing gangsters, Coconut Unlimited documents every teenage boy’s dream and the motivations behind it: being in a band to look pretty cool – oh, and to get girls…  Nikesh Shukla is an author, filmmaker and poet. His writing has featured on BBC-2, BBC Radio 1 and 4 and the BBC Asian Network and he’s currently working on a sit-com for Channel 4. His film, The Great Identity Swindle, co-directed with Videowallah, won best short film at the Satyajit Ray Foundation Awards in 2009. He is married and lives in London.

Judges: “A laugh-out-loud, toe-curlingly funny, coming-of-age book from a brilliant young British talent. By the end, you’ll feel ‘down with the kids’.”

The Temple-Goers by Aatish Taseer

A young man returns home to Delhi after several years abroad and resumes his place among the city’s cosmopolitan elite – a world of fashion designers, media moguls and the idle rich.  But everything around him has changed – new roads, new restaurants, new money, new crime – everything, that is, except for the people, who are the same, only maybe slightly worse.  Then he meets Aakash, a charismatic and unpredictable young man on the make, who introduces him to the squalid underside of this sprawling city.  When Aakash is arrested for murder, the two of them are suddenly swept up in a politically sensitive investigation that exposes the true corruption at the heart of this new and ruthless society.  Aatish Taseer was born in Delhi in 1980. He has written for various publications including Time Magazine and the Sunday Times. He has also written a travel memoir, Stranger to History: a Son’s Journey through Islamic Lands (2009), an investigation into his troubled family history and estranged father, and a highly acclaimed translation: Manto: Selected Stories. He lives in London and Delhi.

Judges: “We loved Aatish Taseer’s audacious and disturbing multi-layered story of modern Delhi.”

Not Quite White by Simon Thirsk

The young Jon Bull is sent be Westminster to Wales’s last remaining Welsh-speaking town to see why all attempts to bring it into the twenty-first century have failed. Waiting for him is the beautiful but embittered Gwalia…..  Not Quite White explores the complex tensions generated when English colonialism meets Welsh nationalism. A passionate defence of cultural and political identity, and a considered plea for tolerance, it is also a sustained attack on the forces of small-town bigotry and corruption. Above all, it is an acknowledgement of the subtleties and ambiguities that exist in even the most entrenched attitudes.  Simon Thirsk is Chairman and a founder director of Bloodaxe Books. He has worked as a journalist, lecturer and charity co-ordinator and has an Honours Degree in Philosophy. His TV drama’s Small Zones and No, I’m Not Afraid were both broadcast on BBC-2. Thirsk was born in Brentford, Middlesex, but now lives in Bala, North Wales and is a fluent Welsh speaker.

Judges: “We all found this romantic culture clash novel a delight, endlessly funny and constantly surprising.”


Costa Novel Award

Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty

When two police officers knock on Laura’s door, her life changes forever. Her nine-year-old daughter Betty has been hit by a car and killed, and Laura is left both devastated and desperate for revenge against the man responsible for Betty’s death.  Laura’s grief re-opens old wounds and she is thrown back to the story of her passionate love affair with Betty’s father David, their marriage and his subsequent affair with another woman. Haunted by her past, and driven to breaking point by her desire for retribution, Laura discovers the lengths she is willing to go to for love.  Louise Doughty is the author of five novels and one non-fiction book, A Novel in a Year, based on her hugely popular Daily Telegraph column. Doughty also writes radio plays and journalism and broadcasts regularly for BBC Radio 4, as well as teaching for the Faber Academy. She lives in London.

Judges: “A raw, compelling story told with savage beauty.  Difficult to read but impossible to put down.”

The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale

On its way to the Galapagos Islands, a light aircraft ditches into the sea. As the water floods through the cabin, zoologist Daniel Kennedy faces an impossible choice – should he save himself, or Nancy, the woman he loves?  In a parallel narrative, it is 1917 and Daniel’s great-grandfather Andrew is preparing to go over the top at Passchendaele. He, too, will have his courage tested, and must live with the moral consequences of his actions. Back in London, the atheistic Daniel is wrestling with something his ‘cold philosophy’ cannot explain – something unearthly he thought he saw while swimming for help in the Pacific. But before he can make sense of it, the past must collapse into the present, and both he and Andrew must prove themselves capable of altruism, and deserving of forgiveness.  Nigel Farndale is the author of Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Biography Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Other published work includes a collection of his award-winning interviews – with Hillary Clinton, Paul McCartney and Stephen Hawking, amongst others. He lives on the Hampshire-Sussex border with his wife and their three children.

Judges: “A novel of remarkable ambition that reads like a thriller. Strange, unforgettable and morally courageous.”

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell

Fresh out of university and in disgrace, Lexie Sinclair is waiting for life to begin. When the bohemian, sophisticated Innes Kent turns up by chance on her doorstep in rural Devon, she realises that she can wait no longer, and leaves for London. There, at the heart of the 1950s Soho art scene, Lexie carves out a new life for herself with Innes at her side.   In the present day, Elina and Ted are reeling from the difficult birth of their first child. As Elina struggles to reconcile the demands of motherhood with her sense of herself as an artist, Ted is disturbed by memories of his own childhood – memories that don’t tally with his parents’ version of events.  As Ted begins to search for answers, so an extraordinary portrait of two women is revealed. Separated by fifty years, Lexie and Elina are connected in ways that neither of them could ever have expected?  Maggie O’Farrell is the author of four previous novels, After You’d Gone, My Lover’s Lover, The Distance Between Us, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, and The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. She lives in Edinburgh with her partner and their two children.

Judges: “A powerful story full of dynamic characters, crafted with panache and lyricism.”

Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

Ruprecht Van Doren is an overweight genius whose hobbies include very difficult maths and the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Daniel ‘Skippy’ Juster is his roommate.  In the grand old Dublin institution that is Seabrook College for Boys, nobody pays either of them much attention.  But when Skippy falls for Lori, the Frisbee-playing Siren from the girls’ school next door, suddenly all kinds of people take an interest – including Carl, part-time drug-dealer and official school psychopath.  While his teachers battle over modernisation and Ruprecht attempts to open a portal into a parallel universe, Skippy, in the name of love, is heading for a showdown – in the form of a fatal doughnut-eating race that only one person will survive. This unlikely tragedy will explode Seabrook’s century-old complacency and bring all kinds of secrets into the light.  Paul Murray was born in 1975 and lives in Dublin.  His first novel, An Evening of Long Goodbyes, was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award in 2003 and was nominated for the Kerry Irish Fiction Award. Skippy Dies was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010.

Judges: “Profound, challenging and shocking – a generous romp with a tender heart.  Murray does a tremendous job of penetrating the adolescent psyche.”



2009 Costa Book of the Year Winner

The 2009 Costa Book of the Year was awarded to Christopher Reid for his poetry collection; A Scattering.

A Scattering is said to be a poetic tribute to Reid’s late wife, Lucinda Gane who passed in 2005.

The Costa Book Awards Press Release had this to say about the award winner’s work:

“Following the judging, Josephine Hart, chair of the final judges, said: “Out of a personal tragedy, Christopher Reid has written a masterwork which has universal power. Austere, beautiful and moving – we all felt this was a book we would want everyone to read. Packed full of unforgettable lines – A Scattering is a remarkable piece.”

For more information please read the full press release on the Costa Book Awards website:


2009 Costa Book Award Shortlist & Winners

The shortlist for the 2009 Costa Novel & First Novel Awards was released in November 2009 and is as follows:

Costa Award: First Novel Category Shortlist

· The Finest Type of English Womanhood by Rachel Heath

· John the Revelator by Peter Murphy

· Beauty by Raphael Selbourne

· The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw

Costa Award: Novel Category Shortlist

· Family Album by Penelope Lively

· Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

· The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson

· Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

The 2009 Costa Awards Category Winners were announced in January of this year and are as follows:

2009 Costa Novel Award Winner

Colm Toibin Brooklyn

Judges: “Poised, quiet and incrementally shattering – we all loved this book and can’t praise it highly enough.”

2009 Costa First Novel Award Winner

Raphael Selbourne Beauty

Judges: “Pitch perfect on every level – we loved this book.”

Keep on the look-out for the Costa Awards’ Overall Winner to be announced shortly.