10 May Costa Book of the Year
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The Costa Book Awards are a series of literary awards given to books by authors based in Great Britain and Ireland. The awards are given both for high literary merit but also for works that are enjoyable reading and whose aim is to convey the enjoyment of reading to the widest possible audience. Award winners in five books categories (best novel, best first novel, children’s book, poetry & biography) are chosen from shortlists and one of them is then named Costa Book of the Year.
Days Without End – Sebastian Barry
After signing up for the US army in the 1850s, barely seventeen, Thomas McNulty and his brother-in-arms, John Cole, fight in the Indian Wars and the Civil War. Having both fled terrible hardships, their days are now vivid and filled with wonder, despite the horrors they both see and are complicit in. But when a young Indian girl crosses their path, Thomas and John must decide on the best way of life for them all in the face of dangerous odds.
The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge
Faith’s father has been found dead under mysterious circumstances, and as she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered. The girl realizes that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father’s murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as her tales spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter…
H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald
As a child, Helen Macdonald was determined to become a falconer, learning the arcane terminology and reading all the classic books. Years later, when her father died and she was struck deeply by grief, she became obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk. She bought Mabel for £800 on a Scottish quayside and took her home to Cambridge, ready to embark on the long, strange business of trying to train this wildest of animals. H is for Hawk is an unflinchingly honest account of Macdonald’s struggle with grief during the difficult process of the hawk’s taming and her own untaming. This is a book about memory, nature and nation, and how it might be possible to reconcile death with life and love.
The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer
‘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.
Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel
By 1535 Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith’s son, is far from his humble origins. Chief Minister to Henry VIII, his fortunes have risen with those of Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife, for whose sake Henry has broken with Rome and created his own church. But Henry’s actions have forced England into dangerous isolation, and Anne has failed to do what she promised: bear a son to secure the Tudor line. When Henry visits Wolf Hall, Cromwell watches as Henry falls in love with the silent, plain Jane Seymour. The minister sees what is at stake: not just the king’s pleasure, but the safety of the nation. As he eases a way through the sexual politics of the court, its miasma of gossip, he must negotiate a ‘truth’ that will satisfy Henry and secure his own career. But neither minister nor king will emerge undamaged from the bloody theatre of Anne’s final days.
Pure – Andrew Miller
A year of bones, of grave-dirt, relentless work. Of mummified corpses and chanting priests. A year of rape, suicide, sudden death. Of friendship too. Of desire. Of love… a year unlike any other he has lived. Deep in the heart of Paris, its oldest cemetery is, by 1785, overflowing, tainting the very breath of those who live nearby. Into their midst comes Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young, provincial engineer charged by the king with demolishing it. At first Baratte sees this as a chance to clear the burden of history, a fitting task for a modern man of reason. But before long, he begins to suspect that the destruction of the cemetery might be a prelude to his own.
Of Mutability – Jo Shapcott
In Of Mutability, Shapcott is found writing at her most memorable and bold. In a series of poems that explore the nature of change – in the body and the natural world, and in the shifting relationships between people – these poems look freshly but squarely at mortality. By turns grave and playful, arresting and witty, the poems in Of Mutability celebrate each waking moment as though it might be the last, and in so doing restore wonder to the to the smallest of encounters.
The Secret Scripture – Sebastian Barry
Nearing her one-hundredth birthday, Roseanne McNulty faces an uncertain future, as the Roscommon Regional Mental hospital where she’s spent the best part of her adult life prepares for closure. Over the weeks leading up to this upheaval, she talks often with her psychiatrist Dr. Grene, and their relationship intensifies and complicates. Told through their respective journals, the story that emerges is at once shocking and deeply beautiful. Refracted through the haze of memory and retelling, Roseanne’s story becomes an alternative, secret history of Ireland’s changing character and the story of a life blighted by terrible mistreatment and ignorance, and yet marked still by love and passion and hope.
Day – A. L. Kennedy
Alfred Day wanted his war. In its turmoil he found his proper purpose as the tail-gunner in a Lancaster bomber; he found the wild, dark fellowship of his crew, and – most extraordinary of all – he found Joyce, a woman to love. But that’s all gone now – the war took it away. Maybe it took him, too. Now in 1949, employed as an extra in a war film that echoes his real experience, Day begins to recall what he would rather forget…
The Tenderness of Wolves – Stef Penney
1867, Canada: as winter tightens its grip on the isolated settlement of Dove River, a man is brutally murdered and a 17-year old boy disappears. Tracks leaving the dead man’s cabin head north towards the forest and the tundra beyond. In the wake of such violence, people are drawn to the township – journalists, Hudson’s Bay Company men, trappers, traders – but do they want to solve the crime or exploit it? One-by-one the assembled searchers set out from Dove River, pursuing the tracks across a desolate landscape home only to wild animals, madmen and fugitives, variously seeking a murderer, a son, two sisters missing for 17 years, a Native American culture, and a fortune in stolen furs before the snows settle and cover the tracks of the past for good.
Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Matisse: 1909-1954 – Hilary Spurling
In this astounding book Hilary Spurling’s fascinating exploration of Matisse’s world uncovers the secret life of the artist, whose paintings shocked and infuriated his contemporaries while paving the way for modern art. This beautifully presented second volume tells the story of Matisse’s growing artistic maturity and the relationship between his life and art from 1909 to 1954, his glory years.
Small Island – Andrea Levy
It is 1948, and England is recovering from a war. But at 21 Nevern Street, London, the conflict has only just begun. Queenie Bligh’s neighbours do not approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers, but Queenie doesn’t know when her husband will return, or if he will come back at all. What else can she do? Gilbert Joseph was one of the several thousand Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight against Hitler. Returning to England as a civilian he finds himself treated very differently. It’s desperation that makes him remember a wartime friendship with Queenie and knock at her door. Gilbert’s wife Hortense, too, had longed to leave Jamaica and start a better life in England. But when she joins him she is shocked to find London shabby, decrepit, and far from the golden city of her dreams. Even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was…
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a murder mystery novel like no other. The detective, and narrator, is Christopher Boone. Christopher is fifteen and has Asperger’s Syndrome. He knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings. He loves lists, patterns and the truth. He hates the colours yellow and brown and being touched. He has never gone further than the end of the road on his own, but when he finds a neighbour’s dog murdered he sets out on a terrifying journey which will turn his whole world upside down.
The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman
Will and Lyra, whose fates are bound together by powers beyond their own worlds, have been violently separated. But they must find each other, for ahead of them lies the greatest war that has ever been – and a journey to a dark place from which no one has ever returned…The third volume in Philip Pullman’s incredible His Dark Materials trilogy.
English Passengers – Matthew Kneale
In 1857 when Captain Illiam Quillian Kewley and his band of rum smugglers from the Isle of Man have most of their contraband confiscated by British Customs, they are forced to put their ship up for charter. The only takers are two eccentric Englishmen who want to embark for the other side of the globe. The Reverend Geoffrey Wilson believes the Garden of Eden was on the island of Tasmania. His traveling partner, Dr. Thomas Potter, unbeknownst to Wilson, is developing a sinister thesis about the races of men. Meanwhile, an aboriginal in Tasmania named Peevay recounts his people’s struggles against the invading British, a story that begins in 1824, moves into the present with approach of the English passengers in 1857, and extends into the future in 1870. These characters and many others come together in a storm of voices that vividly bring a past age to life.
Birthday Letters – Ted Hughes
The poems in Birthday Letters are addressed (with just two exceptions) to Plath, and were written over a period of more than twenty-five years, the first a few years after her suicide in 1963. Some are love letters, others haunted recollections and ruminations. In them, Hughes recalls his and Plath’s time together, drawing on the powerful imagery of his work–animal, vegetable, mythological–as well as on Plath’s famous verse. Countless books have discussed the subject of this intense relationship from a necessary distance, but this volume–at last–offers us Hughes’s own account. Moreover, it is a truly remarkable collection of pems in its own right.
Tales from Ovid – Ted Hughes
When it was published in 1997, Tales from Ovid was immediately recognized as a classic in its own right, as the best rering of Ovid in generations, and as a major book in Ted Hughes’s oeuvre. The Metamorphoses of Ovid stands with the works of Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Milton as a classic of world poetry; Hughes translated twenty-four of its stories with great power and directness. The result is the liveliest twentieth-century version of the classic, at once a delight for the Latinist and an appealing introduction to Ovid for the general reader.
The Spirit Level – Seamus Heaney
The poems in The Spirit Level keep discovering the possibilities of ‘a new beginning’ in all kinds of subjects and circumstances. What is at stake, in poem after poem, is the chance of buoyancy and balance, physical, spiritual and political. Private memories, classical scenes, humble domestic objects – a whitewash brush, a sofa, a swing – are endowed with talismanic significance, while friends and relatives are invoked for their promise and steadfastness. Throughout the collection, Heaney addresses his concerns, which inevitably include the political situation in his native Northern Ireland, in a poetry that never ceases to be fluid, alert and completely truthful.
Behind the Scenes at the Museum – Kate Atkinson
Ruby Lennox was conceived grudgingly by Bunty and born while her father, George, was in the Dog and Hare in Doncaster telling a woman in an emerald dress and a D-cup that he wasn’t married. Bunty had never wanted to marry George, but here she was, stuck in a flat above the pet shop in an ancient street beneath York Minster, with sensible and sardonic Patrica aged five, greedy cross-patch Gillian who refused to be ignored, and Ruby…Ruby tells the story of The Family, from the day at the end of the nineteenth century when a travelling French photographer catches frail beautiful Alice and her children, like flowers in amber, to the startling, witty, and memorable events of Ruby’s own life.
Felicia’s Journey – AUTHOR
‘You’re beautiful,’ Johnny told her. So, full of hope, seventeen-year-old Felicia crosses the Irish Sea to England to find her lover and tell him she is pregnant. Desperately searching for Johnny in the bleak post-industrial Midlands, she is instead found by Mr Hilditch, a strange and lonely man, a collector and befriender of homeless young girls…
Theory of War – Joan Brady
The story of a young boy sold into white slavery in post-Civil War America, who suffers at the hands of a cruel master. He escapes to a new life as a railroadman, then an itinerant preacher, but within him lies the need for revenge against his former master’s son – the object of an enduring hatred.
Available from: Amazon.co.uk
Swing Hammer Swing! – Jeff Torrington
From the infamous Glasgow slum, the Gorbals, Tam Clay chronicles a week in his life, in the last days before the demolishers move in. Intersecting friends, old-timers and eccentrics, navigating his pregnant wife, frisky bedfellows and debt collectors, Tam stumbles through a derelict world on an odyssey of self-discovery.
A Life of Picasso Volume One : 1881-1906 – John Richardson
From 1950 to 1962, John Richardson lived near Picasso in France and was a friend of the artist. With a view to writing a biography, the acclaimed art historian kept a diary of their meetings. After Picasso’s death, his widow Jacqueline collaborated in the preparation of this work, giving Richardson access to Picasso’s studio and papers. Volume one of this extraordinary biography establishes the complexity of Picasso’s Spanish roots; his aversion to his native Malaga; and, his passion for Barcelona and Catalan ‘modernisme’. Richardson introduces new material on the artist’s early training in religious art; re-examines old legends to provide fresh insights into the artistic failures of Picasso’s father as an impetus to his sons’ triumphs; and, includes portraits of Apollinaire, Max Jacob and Gertrude Stein, who made up ‘The Picasso Gang’ in Paris during the ‘Blue’ and ‘Rose’ periods.
A Life of Picasso Volume Two : 1907-1917: The Painter of Modern Life – John Richardson
John Richardson draws on the same combination of lively writing, critical astuteness, exhaustive research, and personal experience which made a bestseller out of the first volume and vividly recreates the artist’s life and work during the crucial decade of 1907-17 – a period during which Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque invented Cubism and to that extent engendered modernism. Richardson has had unique access to untapped sources and unpublished material. By harnessing biography to art history, he has managed to crack the code of cubism more successfully than any of his predecessors. And by bringing a fresh light to bear on the artist’s often too sensationalised private life, he has succeeded in coming up with a totally new view of this paradoxical man of his paradoxical work. Never before has Picasso’s prodigious technique, his incisive vision and not least his sardonic humour been analysed with such clarity.
A Life of Picasso Volume Three : 1917-1932: The Triumphant Years – John Richardson
Drawing on exhaustive research from interviews and unpublished archival material, John Richardson has produced the long-awaited third volume of the definitive biography, full of original, groundbreaking new insights into Picasso’s life and work. His lively and incisive analysis of the work meshes seamlessly with the rich and detailed narrative of this complex and sensual life. The Triumphant Years reveals Picasso at the height of his powers, producing not only the costumes and sets for such Diaghilev Ballets Russes productions as Parade and Tricorne but some of his most important sculpture and paintings. These are tumultuous years, Picasso torn between marital respectability with Olga, the Russian ballerina who was his first wife, and the erotic passion of his mistress, Marie-Therese. This extraordinary biography ends with the completion of a dramatic series of drawings of the crucifixion. From then on the horrors of war would replace any private horrors, leading ultimately to Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica.
Hopeful Monsters – Nicholas Mosley
A sweeping, comprehensive epic, Hopeful Monsters tells the story of the love affair between Max, an English student of physics and biology, and Eleanor, a German Jewess and political radical. Together and apart, Max and Eleanor participate in the great political and intellectual movements which shape the twentieth century, taking them from Cambridge and Berlin to the Spanish Civil War, Russia, the Sahara, and finally to Los Alamos to witness the first nuclear test.
The Comforts of Madness – Paul Sayer
The Comforts of Madness is the unspoken monologue of Peter, a 33-year-old catatonic psychiatric patient, who is selected for an intense and controversial process of rehabilitation.
Under the Eye of the Clock – Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan s injuries at birth left him severely disabled and handicapped; he was entirely paralyzed and unable to communicate, but he had so much to say and was burning to express his innermost thoughts and ideas and share them with the world. Nolan s autobiography told in the third person through a narrator named Joseph Meehan is an astonishingly lyrical and inspired work, filled with powerful description and touching moments of triumph, sadness, anger, and above all disarming wit. Nolan s story has a touching and breathtaking intensity, whether recounting his battle with local authorities to attend an ordinary school, going on a normal vacation, or his ultimate triumph of finally being able to share the insight and whimsy of his inner world.
An Artist of the Floating World – Kazuo Ishiguro
It is 1948. Japan is rebuilding her cities after the calamity of World War Two, her people putting defeat behind them and looking to the future. The celebrated artist, Masuji Ono, fills his days attending to his garden, his house repairs, his two grown daughters and his grandson; his evenings drinking with old associates in quiet lantern-lit bars. His should be a tranquil retirement. But as his memories continually return to the past – to a life and career deeply touched by the rise of Japanese militarism – a dark shadow begins to grow over his serenity.