Entertainment & Arts

Costa Book Awards: Three previous winners nominated for best novel

Sebastian Barry, Maggie O'Farrell and Rose Tremain Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sebastian Barry, Maggie O'Farrell and Rose Tremain have all won the prize before

Three former winners of the Costa Novel Award have been shortlisted again for this year's prize.

Maggie O'Farrell, Rose Tremain and Sebastian Barry will compete for the prize at the Costa Book Awards, formerly known as the Whitbread Awards.

Sarah Perry has also been nominated in the category for her novel The Essex Serpent.

Singer Kate Tempest leads the all-female shortlist in the poetry category.

There are five categories in the annual Costa Book Awards - for novel, first novel, poetry, biography and children's book.

The winners in each of the five categories will receive £5,000 before one overall winner is declared the Costa Book of the Year.

The author of the winning book receives a further £25,000 prize money.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kit De Waal is nominated in the debut novel category

In the best novel category, Barry is nominated for Days Without End, while O'Farrell gets a nod for This Must Be the Place and Tremain is recognised for The Gustav Sonata.

O'Farrell, who has now been nominated three times and won the prize in 2010 for The Hand that First Held Mine, told the BBC: "It's amazing - it's such a lovely phone call to get. Every time feels different because every book feels so different.

"I don't mind what happens in the ultimate decision. It's just so nice to be invited along to the party."

Her book tells the story of a reclusive actress and was inspired by seeing a "very, very famous" woman in a Soho cafe being besieged by paparazzi.

"I remember looking at her and thinking I couldn't live that life - I would fake my own death and run away," she said. "As I left, I was crossing the road and I thought - 'that's a good idea for a novel'."

O'Farrell is now writing her first non-fiction book.

"It's a bit of a new direction for me," she said. "I'm still not sure if I'll be able to pull it off. But it was just an idea I had, almost metabolising things that have happened in my life."

'Miraculous warm wind'

Set against the backdrop of mid-nineteenth century America during the Indian wars and the Civil War, Barry's Days Without End is about two men and the fate they have been dealt.

Speaking about the feeling of being nominated again, Barry said: "It's that slightly miraculous warm wind that goes through you, making you 12 years old again, it's absolutely lovely."

Last week, sculptor Helen Marten described art prizes as flawed and pledged to share the prize money she received from winning the Hepworth award with her fellow nominees.

But, speaking to the BBC, Barry said such prizes still have value in literature.

"It's possibly different in the art world... but without prizes it's very difficult to progress within the constrained economics of a book, and that's why they have this huge importance," he said.

"The Costa prize is not brutally commercial in any way, it is trying to celebrate the most enjoyable books of the year."

Tremain said she was "delighted" to join her fellow nominees on the shortlist.

"This is a wonderfully invigorating literary prize, giving us a menu of crazy variety in its the final shortlist," she said. "But as chair of the judges in 2013, I know that, on the night, the categories fade away and the winner is just clearly and squarely 'the book we all loved best'."

Tremain's The Gustav Sonata, set in a fictional Swiss town, follows the friendship between Gustav and his Jewish friend Anton from their childhood through to the 21st century.

She described her novel as the "small Americano" on the list, adding: "Most British punters go for lattes and cappuccinos - but who knows?"

Perry's The Essex Serpent is set in 1893 in the author's home county and centres on Cora Seaborne, a widow who goes on the hunt for a mythical Essex creature.

Image caption Kate Tempest is nominated for her first poetry collection

Mercury-nominated artist Tempest's collection Let Them Eat Chaos faces competition from Melissa Lee-Houghton's Sunshine, Alice Oswald's Falling Awake and Denise Riley's Say Something Back.

The category for debut novel sees nods for Susan Beale's The Good Guy, Kit de Waal for My Name is Leon, Guinevere Glasfurd's The Words in My Hand and Golden Hill by Francis Spufford.

Nominees in the biography category include Sylvia Patterson's I'm Not with the Band: A Writer's Life Lost in Music and The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar - which was also recently shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize.

Other nominees in the category are Keggie Carew for Dadland: A Journey into Uncharted Territory and John Guy for Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years.

In the children's book category, nods are given to Brian Conaghan for The Bombs That Brought Us Together, Patrice Lawrence for Orangeboy, Francesca Simon for The Monstrous Child and Ross Welford for Time Travelling with a Hamster.

The winners will be announced on 3 January 2017.

Last year's overall Costa winner was Frances Hardinge for her children's book Victorian murder mystery The Lie Tree.

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