Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sebastian Barry Wins 2008 Costa Book of the Year

Irish author Sebastian Barry has won the 2008 Costa Book of the Year award for The Secret Scripture, a moving account of one woman's stolen life and her journey to reclaim the past. The announcement was made last night at an awards ceremony in London. The Costa Book Awards recognize the most enjoyable books of the last year by writers based in the UK and Ireland. Originally established as the Whitbread Award in 1971, Costa took over sponsorship of this prestigious and popular book prize in 2006.

Barry, the bookmaker's odds-on favorite, won against one of the most acclaimed collections of finalists in the Book Awards history, beating 91 year-old author Diana Athill for her memoir Somewhere Towards the End, bestselling first-time novelist Sadie Jones for The Outcast, poet and writer Adam Foulds for The Broken Word and popular children's writer Michelle Magorian for Just Henry, to win the overall prize and a check for £25,000.

Matthew Parris, chair of the final judges, said: "Sebastian Barry has created one of the great narrative voices in contemporary fiction in The Secret Scripture. It is a book of great brilliance, powerfully and beautifully written." The Secret Scripture, published by Faber and Faber (published in the US by Viking), is the ninth novel to take the overall prize. A. L. Kennedy was the last author to win the Book of the Year with a novel, taking the prize in 2007 for Day. Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won eight times by a novel, four times by a first novel, five times by a biography, five times by a collection of poetry and once by a children's book. Novels named Book of the Year in previous years include Small Island, by Andrea Levy; The Tenderness of Wolves, by Stef Penny; The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, by Mark Haddon.

Here's something I didn't know: Costa, the sponsor of this award, is now officially the largest and fastest growing coffee shop chain in the UK. The chain was founded by brothers Sergio and Bruno Costa in 1971. Hmmmm. I kind of wish I still didn't know that.

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