Last week, the shortlists for the Costa Book Awards were announced. The Costa Book Awards is one of the UK's most prestigious and popular literary prizes and recognizes some of the most enjoyable books of the year, written by authors based in the UK and Ireland. Uniquely, the prize has five categories - First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children's Book - with one of the five winning books selected as the overall Costa Book of the Year. It is the only prize which places children’s books alongside adult books in this way.
In the Novel category, there are nominees:
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
After signing up for the US army in the 1850s, aged barely seventeen,Thomas McNulty and his brother-in-arms, John Cole, go on to fight in the Indian wars and, ultimately, the Civil War. Having fled terrible hardships themselves, they find these days to be vivid and filled with wonder, despite the horrors they both witness and are complicit in. Their lives are further enriched and endangered when a young Indian girl crosses their path, and the possibility of lasting happiness emerges, if only they can survive.
This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell
Meet Daniel Sullivan, a man with a complicated life. A New Yorker living in thewilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive ex-film star given to shooting at anyone who ventures up their driveway. He is also about to find out something about a woman he lost touch with twenty years ago, and this discovery will send him off-course, far away from wife and home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Set in Victorian London and an Essex village in the 1890s, The Essex Serpent has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way. They are Cora Seaborne, and Will Ransome. Cora is a well-to-do London widow who moves to the Essex parish of Aldwinter, and Will is the local vicar. They meet as their village is engulfed by rumours that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist, is enthralled, convinced the beast may be a real undiscovered species. But Will sees his parishioners' agitation as a moral panic, a deviation from true faith. Although they can agree on absolutely nothing, as the seasons turn around them in this quiet corner of England, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart.
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain
What is the difference between friendship and love? Or between neutrality and commitment? Gustav Perle grows up in a small town in 'neutral' Switzerland, where the horrors of the Second World War seem a distant echo. But Gustav's father has mysteriously died, and his adored mother Emilie is strangely cold and indifferent to him. Gustav's childhood is spent in lonely isolation, his only toy a tin train with painted passengers staring blankly from the carriage windows. As time goes on, an intense friendship with a boy of his own age, Anton Zwiebel, begins to define Gustav's life. Jewish and mercurial, a talented pianist tortured by nerves when he has to play in public, Anton fails to understand how deeply and irrevocably his life and Gustav's are entwined.
For the nominees in all categories, go to http://www.costa.co.uk/media/448129/2016-shortlist-combined.pdf.